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on 17 October 2000
The Mountains of Majipoor is a rather short story for a novel. It is readable and entertaining enough but it lacks depth even if you regard this story as a novella. This story is about Prince Harpirias, who because falls out with someone powerful at Castle Mount, is transferred to a dead-end desk job. That is until one day he is asked to lead an expedition to negotiate the release of some scientists captured by a lost tribe who dwell in the very cold mountain range in Zimroel. This is Harpirias' redemption because if he is successful he would likely be able to return to Castle Mount.
What I liked about this story was the two main characters: Harpirias and the Shapeshifter, Korinaam. Despite his position, Prince Harpirias strikes me a person who rather laze around in unearned comfort than to work hard to justify his title. And yet, when forced into tricky situations Harpirias proves himself as quick thinking, able and intelligent. Like Lord Valentine (in the book Lord Valentine's Castle), Harpirias is also a pacifist, more willing to negotiate the release of hostages when he could have easily overpowered the primitive tribe. And Korinaam is your nightmare of a translator. He is supposed to be Harpirias' translator, but he not only translates, but also edits, adds and deletes Harpirias' words during negotiations! There is never any doubt that King Toikella, king of the primitive tribe, would finally release the hostages, but Robert Silverberg manages to make us feel frustrated that King Toikella seemed to be taking his own sweet time about it. King Toikella appeared more fascinated with Harpirias and wants his company as long as possible. This is much to Harpirias' annoyance because he is uncertain if his negotiations are going anywhere. And with Korinaam's translation, Harpirias can never be sure! It is easy for Harpirias' frustration to rub off you.
Unfortunately, the good points of this story are developed at the sacrifice of other aspects. The character of King Toikella is strangely underdeveloped; in fact, no one in the primitive tribe seemed important in this story. I also didn't learn much about the primitive tribe either. They were just some tribe with some odd culture. Period. The primitive tribe's ancient enemies were also too mysterious.
Though this story has several very good ideas, they were not developed deeply enough. Consequently, I did feel as if I was reading an outline or proposal of what would otherwise be an excellent novel. The Mountains of Majipoor should be a good read while you are travelling on a plane or train. Just don't expect a master class story.
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on 4 November 2003
When I read 'Lord Valentine's Castle I was nine years old and befell enamoured with the book. So, I collected the complete Majipoor series. But reading 'Mountains of Majipoor' was a turning point. The delicate, subtle style and philosophical insights that are the finest quality of Mr. Silverberg's writing are vanquished and replaced by mere action. However, I still think that Majipoor deserves the readers' attention.
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