Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, August 8, 2014

1962: Next Stop the Stars (Silverberg, Robert)

Hasty pulp without inspiration or skill (1/5)

Dear God. That cover!
My exposure to Robert Silverberg’s work hasn’t been limited, but it has been hugely underwhelming. I’ve read four of his novels—the best of which was Hawksbill Station (3/5)—and four pieces of his short fiction—the best being “Flies” (5/5) from Dangerous Visions.

Joachim has mentioned to me that Silverberg’s pulp “is rather bad”. But desperate to be exposed to something great by Silverberg, I keep dabbling in his work. It’s unfortunate that I found Next Stop the Stars and The Seed of Earth (1962) for cheap, cheap at a library book sale—both early pulp. His recent work doesn’t satisfy anything in me (namely the novel The Alien Years [1998]), his middle-years don’t interest me (like The World Inside [1971], for example) and now I know that his earliest stuff is even worse.

All—count them, all five—have a fault which makes the story eye-rolling, tiresome or banal.

Hasty: With the exception of “Warm Man”, the other four stories feel hastily slapped together, like the scattered pieces of a number of jigsaw puzzles glued together. There isn’t any coherence.

Random Incidents: With the exception of “Blaze of Glory”, the other stories start or feature an unexplained phenomenon. In “Slaves of the Star Giants” and “The Songs of Summer”, each protagonist drops from the ether into mysterious circumstances. “Hopper” and “Warm Man” offer no catalyst for the source of tension: respectively, the out-of-the-blue invention of the time machine and the man’s calming powers (the conclusion and its revelation are unsatisfying).

Testosterone: “Slaves of the Star Giants” oozes testosterone from the numerous fight scenes, the man’s eagerness for war, and him thirst for power. “The Songs of Summer” is similar, where the Chester Dugan wants to rule the people, the women, and the entire world. “Blaze of Glory” features of unreasonable man who uses his bitter words and/or fists before using his brain.


Slaves of the Star Giants (1957, novella) – 2/5 – Lloyd Harkins is mysteriously transported from his earthly engineering job to a familiar forested landscape populated by 50-foot alien giants and 15-foot robots. One giant picks him up and places him in a human community who speak English 2,000 years in Earth’s future after a devastating war. The tribal headsman outcasts him, then Lloyd meets a mutant named the Watcher. Soon, he realizes that he may be a pawn in a greater game. 56 pages

The Songs of Summer (1956, shortstory) – 2/5 – Walking in the summer Singing event, which brings together isolated families from around the area, Kennon entertains thoughts of a young girl’s promise… when he happens upon a man from 1956. Taken to the Singing event, Chester Dugan upsets the bucolic scene with his “civility”. Soon, his civilized ideas are being reluctantly accomplished and he fancies himself future emperor of the 35th century, unless resistance surfaces. 28 pages

Hopper (1956, novelette) – 2/5 – Joseph Quellen is the CrimeSec of the Appalachia, a future east coast expansion of New York with a population of 200 million. His position allows him to have a private room but even this privacy isn’t enough, so he takes an instant “stat” to his secret home in tropical Africa. Meanwhile at work, a case arises: a fellow named Lanoy has invented a time machine and has been sending the unemployed forever back in time for work. 27 pages

Blaze of Glory (1957, shortstory) – 2/5 – History sees Murchison as a brave, self-sacrificing man, but the crew of the transport ship Felicific know better. He had a reputation of being aggressive, stubborn and solitary, yet his technical knowledge was unparalleled. When the eight-man land of Shaula II, Murchison finds himself agitated by one of the meek aliens in his cabin, who he pummels. Returning to Earth, the ship experience a problem—a perfect time to test his resolve. 18 pages

Warm Man (1957, shortstory) – 2/5 – Davis Hallinan arrived unexpectedly and unannounced, according to the tight-knit community of New Brewster. The cordial Mrs. Moncrieff invites him to a social event where he makes the rounds speaking to everyone. Though Davis says nothing about himself, everyone feels completely at ease when talking with him; secret emotions and pent up unease all drift away. The next few days sees Davis pale and weak, as if his body had been poisoned. 15 pages

1 comment:

  1. Not surprised... Pick up a collection of his 60s and later short fiction. So much better. I suspect I would have given this collection a similar rating.