Monday, May 9, 2016

Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg (1982)

Like Lord Valentine's Castle before this, I'm listening to an audio version of Majipoor Chronicles.  And really enjoying it.    Majipoor Chronicles is essentially a grouping of short stories set on and during various time periods of the lush and large world Robert Silverberg created.  Some of the stories were previously published.  They are all loosely connected by the character of Hissune, who we first met in LVC as a sassy street urchin (are there any other kinds in literature?) who meets Lord Valentine in the Labyrinth.  Silverberg has (conveniently) created a Register of Souls, that contains "memory readings" that one can access, essentially living someone's life, seeing events through their eyes.  I think various other authors have used this literary device, albeit in various forms)  including if I remember correctly J.K. Rowling.  This conceit could be considering somewhat lame, although perhaps Silverberg was the first to apply it.  The convenience of this device, however, is far overshadowed by the stories, some of them quite superior pieces of the science fiction / fantasy blend that Silverberg is really a master of writing.  LVC is that kind of mash-up (Anne McCaffrey's Pern does this quite well too), and some of these stories are little gems.

Each section is read by a different narrator, which has made this audio book a real treat.  Almost all the readers are outstanding, and even the not-so-outstanding ones are still quite good.  What sucks is I can't tell who narrates what!

"Thesme and the Ghayrog"  The first story is one of the best; you don't even really need any prior knowledge of Majipoor to dive in.  I think this short story made me weary of the Thesme's you run into throughout your life:  self absorbed, overly serious, tiresomely assured of their martyred status in society. The narrator of this one was excellent, by the way.

"The Time of the Burning"  A neither good nor bad story, but interesting.  Perhaps a commentary on Vietnam or other more recent wars.

"In the Fifth Year of the Voyage"  An adventure tale at its heart, this was good.

"Calintane Explains"  This was one of my favorite stories when I first read it, and it's still good. Arioc's solution to maintaing power while still beating off the mind-numbing and soul-stealing burden of beauracracy is the kind of story only science fiction can tell.

"The Desert of Stolen Dreams" So very, very long.  There is nothing more dull than hearing other people tell you their dreams; that's all this is, one long novella (novelette?) of Dekkeret's nightmares.  The bits in between the dreams were interesting though; I imagine actually reading this (and being able to skim the bits you don't like) as opposed to having to listen to is easier to manage; I must admit I fast forwarded a few times.

"The Soul Painter and the Shapeshifter"  I loved the narrator of this story, which made the story extra interesting.

"Crime and Punishment"  Decent.  

"Among the Dream Speakers"  Just fair; although the narrator made this story better than it probably actually was.

"A Thief in Ni-Moya"  So some of these stories I remembered quite well; I had totally forgotten about this story, about a swindled shopkeeper who becomes a thief, and then regains her fortune. As soon as it began, I was instantly transported back in time to when I first read it, and first enjoyed.  It's as enjoyable and thrilling, particularly as this narrator is maybe my favorite.  

"Voriax and Valentine" Continues to be my least favorite story in the entire collection; it serves a bridge between the conclusion and the next next book in the series, but it's still boring.  Creepily memorable, though, as the two brothers "couple" with a witch who then tells their fortune.  


Majipoor Chronicles (Lord Valentine, #2)Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 Majipoor Chronicles is essentially a grouping of short stories set on and during various time periods of the lush and large world Robert Silverberg created. Some of the stories were previously published. They are all loosely connected by the character of Hissune, who we first met in LVC as a sassy street urchin (are there any other kinds in literature?) who meets Lord Valentine in the Labyrinth. Silverberg has (conveniently) created a Register of Souls, that contains "memory readings" that one can access, essentially living someone's life, seeing events through their eyes. I think various other authors have used this literary device, albeit in various forms) including if I remember correctly J.K. Rowling. This conceit could be considering somewhat lame, although perhaps Silverberg was the first to apply it. The convenience of this device, however, is far overshadowed by the stories, some of them quite superior pieces of the science fiction / fantasy blend that Silverberg is really a master of writing. LVC is that kind of mash-up (Anne McCaffrey's Pern does this quite well too), and some of these stories are little gems. I listened to an audio version; each story was narrated by a different reader, which I really enjoyed.


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