EPS Review #97 - Downward to the Earth

by Robert Silverberg, Gollancz 2004(1977), 213pp.

I got this book, from the "SF Masterworks" series, for £3, and did not expect a lot from it, with the cover showing aliens that look almost exactly like elephants. The elephants are a race called nildoror, who share their planet with giant ape-like sulidoror: pretty goofy SF names. But the book is well done. The planet Belzagor was an earth colony, then was abandoned after galactic colonialism fell out of fashion. A former administrator named Gundersen is going back on his own dime to see the place again, with vague desires for atonement and understanding. He is embarrassed by the small set of tourists who accompany him, and tries to go native, as far as that is possible. A few humans have remained behind after Independence, and have gone to seed, some spectacularly. I enjoyed the scene with Gundersen's ex-lover and her garden of dangerous flowers (Silverberg apparently made lots of money from a pornography sideline!). The author is asking whether an advanced culture can exist without writing or technology, and the elephant analogy is intentional. Of course, there is an only-slightly-surprising mystical ending that answers in the affirmative. This is workmanlike mainstream SciFi and I would read more by Silverberg. And there is indeed lots more... The Majipoor stories seem popular - has anyone read them?

Mark wrote: Get back to work. You have lost it one week off work and reading elephantile SiFi !!

Sean wrote: Matthew tells me you should try reading The Book of Skulls.