Review: "The Book of Skulls" by Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls was published in 1972 to wide approval. It was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards (without taking any of the prizes home). It’s a science fiction novel, but there are shadings of adventure, fantasy, and horror, too.
      Eli, Ned, Timothy and Oliver are college seniors looking for an adventure before matriculating into the real world. When Eli finds an old manuscript hidden in the college library detailing a secret brotherhood and the promise of eternal life in Arizona’s desert, the friends make a pact and hit the road. The boys don’t believe the manuscript’s promises—they’re looking for a story to tell—but when they reach the desert everything changes. What they find and what they become is more sinister and terrifying than they could imagine.
      The Book of Skulls is difficult to categorize (science fiction, horror) but it’s not hard to recognize its power and meaning and pure imaginative force. It’s a novel of the turbulent 1960s and 1970s; the changing social norms (civil rights, free love, drugs, the individual’s relationship to society) But the ideas are as fresh and relevant today as they were in the long ago. After all, it’s unlikely we’ll ever outgrow friendship, loneliness, corruption, fear, and death. The Book of Skulls is a minor masterpiece of strange fiction that is as meaningful as it entertaining and the ride is as marvelous as anything the genre has to offer.


a little about Robert Silverberg…

·       Robert Silverberg was born January 15, 1935, in New York City to Michael and Helen Silverberg. His first novel, Master of Life and Death was published as one half of an Ace Double in 1957. Silverberg has written in multiple genres, including science fiction, horror, mystery, and old school paperback sleaze. His writing has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Award. He resides – likely forced to tiptoe between narrowly spaced rows of writing trophies – in Oakland, California.

·       My favorite Silverberg novel is The Book of Skulls, but I also have affection for Hawskbill Station – both the novella and the novel – The Stochastic Man, Man in the Maze, and Dying Inside.

Check out The Book of Skulls on Amazon.



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