In an Earth far into the future, the human race has reverted to a rigid Guild system where every citizen is classified according to function and mandated to strictly abide by the Guild’s set of rules. Those who are Guildless are not considered men; they are at the lowest rung of the social ladder and shunned by all. In this universe of specialized citizens, genetic engineering had been done to those who needed special attributes; Fliers had wings and Watchers had the ability to use their minds to scan the outer space for invaders. When a Flier, a Watcher, and a Guildless man decide to travel together, they witness the end of an era as the invasion of enemies from the stars begins.
This Hugo-award winning novella, “Nightwings,” is only one of the five award contenders included in this new collection of Robert Silverberg’s stories. Full of lyricism and melancholic descriptions of the Earth as it was and the Earth as it had been, “Nightwings” had captivated readers when it was first published in the late 1960s and continues to captivate new readers until the present. Those who have read it could not easily forget the images and the emotions evoked by the characters that Silverberg so expertly created.
The other stories in this collection—nominated for a Hugo, a Nebula, and Locus awards—highlight the author’s mastery of the language and his capacity to engage the reader fully in worlds of his own making. We get to see the irony of the characters’ experiences in “When We Went to See the End of the World,” sympathize and feel proud of the time traveler in “House of Bones,” and quietly applaud the gumption and cleverness of the young girl in “Amanda and the Alien.”
Like “Nightwings,” the story “Beauty in the Night” also haunts with its brutal portrayal of a child’s life at a time when the aliens arrived and took over the Earth. Rich in detail and waxing lyrical at some point, it is a quintessential Silverberg story—full of drama of human failures and yet replete as well with instances of great courage that enable the people in his worlds to transcend their fate.