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Phases of the Moon: Stories of Six Decades [Paperback]

Robert Silverberg

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best science fiction writers of all time.... 22 Mar 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors. He is also one of the most honored in the history of science fiction, having won 5 Hugos and 5 Nebula awards during his fifty year career. He's probably written nearly one hundred science fiction books, but this collection of short stories is a great place to start.

The introductions in this book are quite amusing and informative, describing his relationships with such figures as Frederik Pohl (who played an important role in his career). But beware! A few of these introductions contain spoilers for the stories that follow. I would suggest that you read the story first, and then the introduction.

The stories from the 1950s are good, but it's in the 60s that Silverberg really hits his stride. The classic story To See the Invisible Man (adapted for an episode of The Twilight Zone in the 1980s) is as fresh as if it had been written yesterday. One of the stories from the 1960s, Flies, is somewhat unpleasant, although it contains important philosophical themes. I think it could be skipped.

You might start out your reading with Sundance, which is considered by many to be among the top ten or twenty science fiction short stories of all time. Other equally great classics include the novellas Nightwings, Born with the Dead, and Sailing to Byzantium.

This book is a bargain at the price, giving you 600 pages of great science fiction. More information about the author can be found at [...] and there's an Yahoo online chat group at theworldsofrobertsilverberg where once in a while the author himself drops by.

If you like science fiction at all (and even if you don't) you owe it to yourself to buy this fine collection by one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does humanity, pushed to the limits of perfection, find satisfaction? Not really. 22 Oct 2006
By W. Haskell - Published on Amazon.com
Silverberg hits his stride around the mid-'60s and themes eventually emerge. "Flies" is about a man granted a measure of omnipotence and the not-so-nice results. In "Passengers" an alien occupation takes the form of intermittent takeovers of human bodies wherein the aliens usually party hard with their borrowed vessels (kind of the ultimate drunken blackout). Soon there's the repeated trope of human attainment of immortality in "Sailing to Byzantium", "Born with the Dead", "Capricorn Games", etc. These stories concern people out at the limits of human power, or sometimes powerlessness.

Where does this stuff fit in in the universe of sci-fi works? Well, to use a very basic taxonomy: Telepathy and time travel? Check. Aliens? Quite a few, but around the margins and rarely as characters. Spaceships? As needed. But robots? Computers? Not so much. It's more about yearning and transcendence than about technology or society or especially plausible futures. For all the themes of human perfectability, the point of view is usually that of a confused, overwhelmed, and/or manipulated protagonist, and in the end most here is about the feelings of smallness and inadequacy, or the limitedness of human existence. However, there is definitely a lot of feeling-- you may get a little misty when the wistful melancholy of loss and uncertainty really hits. Lovers in these stories have very romantic barriers to overcome. There's vivid language and often very vivid, dazzling settings (the "ancient" cities of "Nightwings", "Saling to Byzantium", etc.)-- you can tell Silverberg worked hard! (Especially since he mentions it a lot in the introductions.)

So it's a decent soft-headed mystery-of-man's-place-in-the-universe sort of science fiction. Not as deep as it might seem, but often very unique, heartfelt, and well-written. If you can humor the occasional over-seriousness, quite entertaining. And actually there are a few good lighter yarns. I had never read any Silverberg before, but this volume feels pretty comprehensive-- a good place to start and to end too, probably. I'd guess it would be most suitable for harder-core crate-digging sci-fi fans. I suppose I am one, but I found it worthwhile.
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