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The Book of Skulls Paperback – 31 Jan 2006
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|Paperback, 31 Jan 2006||
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From 1967 to 1972, Robert Silverberg had a burst of extraordinary creativity during which he wrote most of his finest novels. The Book of Skulls (1972) is one of these. Following the cryptic manuscript which provides the title, four young men cross America in search of a forgotten Shangri-La in the cactus-ridden desert north of Phoenix, Arizona--a monastery whose adepts hold the keys of immortality and supposedly follow a tradition handed down since Atlantis.
Candidates for eternal life must present themselves at the "Skullhouse" as a foursome. The brothers are happy to provide training in their secrets (including tantric sex)--but there's a price. The Ninth Mystery in the Book of Skulls states: "Two of thee we undertake to admit to our fold. Two must go into darkness". One of those four college students must willingly commit suicide. One is fated to be murdered by his own friends.
The narrative shuttles between their viewpoints, each distinct and sharply characterised. Rich, handsome, upper-class Timothy doesn't believe in immortality and is just going along with the gag. Eli the Jewish intellectual believes passionately. Ned, who is openly gay, has his own agenda involving Oliver, a Midwestern farm boy with tortured depths who says the Skullhouse is his only hope. Each in turn undergoes an ordeal of dreadful self-knowledge, after which the impossible choice of who wins and who loses seems natural, even inevitable.
Though only marginally SF, The Book of Skulls is a fine, scarifying novel of character. Unforgettable. --David Langford -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
"[This] is Robert Silverberg at his very best, and when [he's] at his best, no one is better."
-George R.R. Martin
"This is, simply put, one of my favorite nightmare novels."
-Harlan Ellison, author of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
"Flawlessly written . . . as close to poetic beauty as any contemporary science fiction novel I've ever read."
-James Blish, Hugo Award--winning author of A Case of Conscience"
"The Book of Skulls is a revelation-it was a masterpiece when I first read it, and remains a masterpiece to this day."
-Greg Bear, New York Times bestselling author of Darwin's Radio
"Silverberg is a master writer in any genre-and now you're going to find out why they call them 'thrillers.' "
-John Shirley, author of Demons
"Where Silverberg goes today, science fiction will follow tomorrow."
[This] is Robert Silverberg at his very best, and when [he s] at his best, no one is better.
George R.R. Martin
This is, simply put, one of my favorite nightmare novels.
Harlan Ellison, author of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
Flawlessly written . . . as close to poetic beauty as any contemporary science fiction novel I ve ever read.
James Blish, Hugo Award winning author of A Case of Conscience"
The Book of Skulls is a revelation it was a masterpiece when I first read it, and remains a masterpiece to this day.
Greg Bear, New York Times bestselling author of Darwin s Radio
Silverberg is a master writer in any genre and now you re going to find out why they call them thrillers.
John Shirley, author of Demons
Where Silverberg goes today, science fiction will follow tomorrow.
Top customer reviews
Don't get me wrong, no doubt the vast majority of people will find this a good read, as proven by the amount of five star ratings on Amazon. But, for me the book was dull and at the end fairly predictable with no real shocks at the outcome.
The plot is fairly straight forward. Four students (Maybe straight out of the A-Z of stereotypes, I don't know!) discover the existence of a religious sect in Arizona which offers the chance of immortality. But you know there is going to be a catch don't you! The catch here is that for the chance of immortality you have to arrive in groups of four and then two of the four must die in order for the surviving two to become immortal.
The first part of the book is dominated by the drive to Arizona and we find out what is making each of the students pursue this outlandish search and also discover that really, they are not a likeable bunch of people. Each has their own selfish motive and as the book changes perspective from each student from chapter to chapter you start to understand how shallow they are, in my opinion. But hey, this is eternal life, who wouldn't be plotting things in their own head.
The remaining part deals with their time with the cult and the training and teaching they are given to prepare them for the final challenge of who will do what. At this point the book limps along with shock revelations coming out about each student before climaxing with the (Not so)shocking end! And I must add by this point, frankly, for me they could all drop down dead!
This is a short, well written novel at 220 pages and the story is told alternately from the point of view of each of the students. The most interesting part of the novel for me was when they had to confess something they'd done to each other as part of the initiation.
I did enjoy reading it even though there are no big twists in the story, not sure if true SF fans would enjoy it though.
With the right balance of wit, erudition, humour, and earnestness, Silverberg pulls it off. The House of Skulls exists: that is made plausible enough. And a proper dose of irony prevents this immortal-life-and-death mystery, with its Aztec and ancient symbology and mumbo jumbo, from ever veering into ridicule. Anyway, The Book of Skulls, though classified as science fiction, is actually a piece of social and private commentary. The point is in the relationship between the four students: an East Coast wasp scion, the overachieving son of poor Kansas farmers, a young Jewish New York philologist, and a flippant, gay, aspiring poet. Silverberg's desert classic is both extremely funny and penetrating, written with brio and truthfully told - and the trick of having all four main protagonists as narrators works especially well.
More than that, The Book of Skulls does not shrink from broader subjects: friendship, trust, mortality, atonement. In this sense, it belongs to a 1960s and 70s sci-fi tradition prepared to take on big themes. Think Stranger in a Strange Land, or some of Philip K Dick's novels. This is a metaphysical work. And it has a refreshing vitality, an optimism one fails to find in nowadays equivalents. It dares to be about something, unlike the shrivelled dystopias being churned out by more current authors, the meagre servings that are McCarthy's The Road, say. The Book of Skulls is not quite on a par with Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, but almost.
Most recent customer reviews
Not one of my favourites from the S.F Masterworks collection, but still a very good read.Published 7 months ago by James M.
A clever idea but spoiled by too many obscenities, a Neanderthal attitude towards women, and prejudice about gays and Jews. Not his best book.Published 8 months ago by Bakelite
Robert Silverberg is one of the best writers ever. This book is proof of that.Published 15 months ago by Simon Bartolo
Written when Silverberg was at his most proficcient. Its a fascinating tale for the search for immortality and is rightly considered a SF masterworkPublished on 30 Oct. 2014 by Usul
The premise of this novel intrigued me, but I could not identify with any of the main characters and so I lost interest along the way.Published on 23 July 2014 by S. C. Flynn
This book follows the journey of four college students seeking immortality. The narrative switches between the point of view of each of the boys seamlessly. Read morePublished on 23 Oct. 2010 by HeecheeRendezvous