Monday, September 15, 2003

Silverberg's Roma Eterna Falls Flat

by Robert Silverberg

"This series of well-made short stories brings us into a different future via the early death of Islam (Mohammed is murdered by a canny spy before he can begin his work), a bureaucratic rule of terror (Robespierre and the Spanish inquisition echoing through the administrative precision of a bean-counting consul) and the gunning down of the final imperial family (the Romanovs, writ Roman). This deliberate recasting of events from our timeline into Silverberg's fictitious one demonstrates that history doesn't simply repeat, but is doomed to enact very specific scenarios - a curious conceit. This narrative strategy provides a sound base for some interesting tourism, but the distancing effect of written history causes the drama to fall unfortunately flat."

Actually, I'm not surprised at this assessment. Several years ago I read "A Hero of the Empire" by Robert Silverberg and I never found it compelling enough to want to read another of his novels. In fact it sort of broke off rather than ended and left me wondering what was the purpose of the work.
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