(iBooks, $15.95, 624 pages, trade paperback; published in October 2004.)
At age 21, Robert Silverberg was voted Most Promising New Author at the 1956 Hugo Awards. He went on to contribute more than 400 stories and 80 novels to the science-fiction canon. In 2004, he was named Grandmaster by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Phases of the Moon, which celebrates his fiftieth anniversary as a published writer, chronologically charts the development of Silverberg's career; its contents include 23 stories spanning the 1950s to the 2000s interspersed with brief essays by the author that serve not only to contextualize the stories but also to provide an informal, and often wry, personal history of science fiction by a figure central to its development.
As early as the 1950s, Silverberg, emerging from the tradition of pulp science fiction, embraced all the traditional tropes of the genre -- space exploration, alien contact, time travel, social speculation -- while enriching his tales with uncommon psychological complexity and emotional intensity.
It was in the following decade that Silverberg's talent fully blossomed. His 1960s stories boldly challenged conventional genre subject matters, plunged deeper in the tangled psyches of his protagonists, and successfully experimented with form and structure. He continued to write such innovative and finely crafted stories until the mid-1970s, at which point he temporarily "retired".
He returned in the early 1980s, newly invigorated, with stories that displayed less youthful urgency but showcased a broader emotional palate that brought to his work a poignant mythic resonance. Since 1990, Silverberg's output has dwindled considerably, and these occasional latter tales are less memorable than the hundreds of outstanding stories he wrote in his long-lasting prime, from the late 1950s to the late 1980s.
Phases of the Moon documents one of the most significant careers in the history of science fiction, presenting some of the genre's finest stories.
Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction
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© Claude Lalumière 26 September 2004, 3 September 2005