Strange places

mount everest

One April afternoon in 1978 the author Robert Silverberg heard what he called “the old familiar voice in my head whispering things to me.” Rushing into his office he reports scribbling this on the back of an envelope:

“The scene is a giant planet-sized city — an urban Big Planet, population of billions, a grand gaudy romantic canvas. The city is divided into vast subcities, each with its own characteristic tone. The novel is joyous and huge — no sense of dystopia.

“The book must be fun. Picaresque characters. Strange places – but all light, delightful, rafish [sic] …”

This was the germ of his idea for Lord Valentine’s Castle (1980), leading in time to a series of science fantasy novels set on the giant planet of Majipoor. I’ve already reviewed Kingdoms of the Wall (1993), a sort of prequel in all but name, and Tales of Majipoor (2013), a collection of novellas and short stories (aka ‘novelettes’); and am now planning a reread of the novels and of another, earlier short story collection called Majipoor Chronicles (1995). My reviews, I hope, will give a flavour of what I find attractive about the series for those who aren’t yet acquainted with it and, for those who do have that familiarity, perhaps provide a somewhat oblique view of why some of the entries in the sequence work better than others.

Just as an introduction, let’s look at some of the qualities Silverberg enumerates for what turned out to be the first Majipoor novel:

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