I started reading this book on a whim- I'd never read anything by Robert Silverberg before, and I was at a loose end one day. I was used to reading science fiction and fantasy, and thought I had seen most of the standard plots/styles by now. This was something quite fresh; the basic plot is very simple, which gives the author more space to create the world in which the characters live. But the way in which the tale progesses is somehow more involving and interesting than I had expected. Robert Silverberg's style really lends itself to the subject matter (understanding your place in the world,and striving towards a distant goal).
I find long, stodgy, expositions terribly irritating, and thankfully Mr Silverberg has mostly spared us this; instead the world is just described as the characters see it, as if everything is both strange (the main character has lost his memory at the start of the book) and entirely ordinary.
The characters themselves are pleasingly realistic (although, looking through the eyes of a 21st century culture, there is distinct evidence of racial stereotyping). They don't make arbitrary decisions to further the plot; nor are they 'good' or 'evil'. The dialogue is clean and colloquial.
The world is, weirdly, somewhere that you can really imagine yourself living. It seems somehow more real than most fantasy realms; maybe I was just in a particularly credulous mood when I first read it, but I could almost see the landscapes as they were described. If this were a real place being described, I'd want to visit; as it is, I find myself feeling almost homesick for an imaginary land!
I'd suggest that anyone who wants to read this book give themselves a good two hours to get stuck into the story; breaking off early on is likely to leave you confused when you come back to it. All in all, I would highly recommend Lord Valentine's Castle to anyone who has the stamina for a book of this length.
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