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on 29 February 2004
The fours stars are given bearing in mind a comparison to Silverberg's other work. A superb and versatile SF writer, Robert Silverberg's 'Downward to Earth' isn't in the same league as classics such as 'Down the Line', 'Tower of Glass',and the SF Masterworks series' own 'The Book of Skulls'. It's still a pretty good read, though, and if you liked any of the above it serves as a pleasant enough time-waster.
There are plenty of swipes at the history of colonialism as Gunderson returns to what he knew when it was under earth rule as 'Holman's World'. It's now know as Belzagor and the dominant life-form appears to be the Nildoror, who, apart from a few subtle differences, resemble elephants. The book becomes reminiscent of 'Heart of Darkness' as Gunderson embarks on a journey in search of various humans who decided to stay after control of the planet was given back to the natives, among them an enigmatic individual named 'Kurtz'.
The author keeps things going with his usual skill and the denouement is worth the wait. From a lesser or unknown author this would probably merit five starts but it's Grade 'B' Silverberg
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on 20 November 2005
Holman's World, now known as Belzagor, a planet occupied by not one but two intelligent races, was once Edmund Gundersen's home. He was a Company man, having a career and a life there, ten years previously. Why has he returned? Because he is haunted by his time there. He knows that he must embark upon a journey of discovery, not only to uncover this planet's great secret, but to be part of it, fully and completely. And embark upon it he does, at great risk....
Robert Silverberg proves what a fertile imagination he has in this powerful and moving SF novel.
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on 2 September 2015
I am quite new to SF genre ,so I thought that the masterworks were a good place where to start. I picked up this title just because I liked the cover and the story seemed interesting, little I knew of the author, but now I can say ....shame on me for not knowing R Silverberg before........this book literally took me on journey hand in hand with the main character, and what a magical journey has been....I was totally engrossed , absolutely loved everything and I couldnt believe this book was written 45 years ago! Robert Silverberg has now a all new section in my bookshelf and judging from the long list of books on his name it will be quite a large one......
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on 23 November 2014
Silverberg at his very best. Great novel - kept me hooked from start to finish. Some people have labelled it as the sci-fi version of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". Not at all. I've read "Heart of Darkness" - awful novel. So disjointed. Can't understand what the fuss is all about. "Downward to the Earth" is a complete story, and keeps your interest going all the way. The main character is realistic and one which I completely related to. The aliens are a fantastic idea, as is the whole planet on which the novel takes place. Read this if you love good sic-fi. For me it rates as one of the best all-time sci-fi novels.
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on 17 July 2009
If you share my usual distaste for aliens and can't put it on hold, you should skip this. Otherwise, dive in.

The formula is the same as Dan Simmon's SF award-magnet "Hyperion (Gollancz S.F.)", but "Downward to the Earth" came first and is superior in my opinion. It's a quest through a wondrous alien landscape, based somewhat on a classic (Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"); the aim of the quest is some kind of transcendental atonement; the journey and its recollections provide back story, colour and mystery.

The jungle world that the hero travels through is intoxicating, strange and sensual, and while everything that occurs on it is ludicrous, it all somehow works. I found myself drawn in by the dreamlike, druggy unreality of this book and, in that hazy context, could believe in the character's compulsion to see the elephantine natives participate in their "rebirthing" ceremony, his fear to take part in it himself, his resolution to do so regardless. I wasn't even put off by realising early on what the nature of this mystery was likely to be, as I'm sure that Silverberg expects us to guess what the hero is in for before the hero sees it himself. There is no anticlimax, only inevitability; we still share our man's triumph when he completes his quest to become both a true expression of himself and something more than human.
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on 30 April 2013
I enjoyed this book and it was nothing like I expected, which is rare. I have been reading the Silverberg classics recently and so far they have all been good. This one has ideas that in other hands might just feel silly, but they don't. The book never feels like hard work, but till manages to paint a detailed picture of what is going on and the setting. My favourite Silverberg is still man in the maze, which I highly recommend. But this is worth a read for a sci-fi fan who likes books that don't follow stereotypical space ships, hi tech and standard alien ideas.
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on 28 October 2005
DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH is Robert Silverberg's mythical masterpeice of mankind's awakening. Citing Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Silverberg breaks the conventions of science fiction and creates an intelligent, somber tale of one man's jounrey into his own heart of darkness. Beautifully written and completely engrossing, Downward to the Earth is a novel of endless wonder and amazement.
***** out of *****
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on 4 June 2008
This is absolutely one of the best sci-fi novels ever. It's riveting stuff which takes 'Heart of Darkness' to an (in my opinion) even higher level, looking at the true meaning of being human. It's one of the few novels I've read that I genuinely found difficult to put down and it has stayed with me for a long time. Don't hesitate.
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on 13 December 2009
This is an amazing book. It's a page turning adventure, but also a great character portrayal of a man who is racist but doesn't know it, and manages to redeem himself. There's also some poignant comments on the human race and isolated human souls.
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on 30 September 2015
Pleased with my book.
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