The Longest Way Home
By Robert Silverberg
Published by Fantastic Audio
Read by Stefan Rudnicki
Somehow I never read this one back in high school when I must confess I read many of Mister Silverberg’s stories. Well, that’s good, because I was able to approach this one with a completely fresh perspective, and I must say, that I really enjoyed it. This is not the epic writing of Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Trilogy, so many younger readers, come to his novels might not appreciate that this story harkens back to the many novels he penned earlier in his career. Ion deed it was stories like this that got me interested in science fiction, both reading and writing, in the first place.
It is not a story of complex and murky palace politics. It is a coming-of-age story involving the heir to a noble house, Joseph, on a distant world with many intelligent and very alien species. It is also a world on which a previous human colonization (The Folk) was supplanted by Joseph’s people, the Masters.
Joseph is spending a year with distant relatives, prior to his age of majority, but one night he wakes up in the middle of a rebellion on the part of the Folk. With help of a loyal servant he manages to escape into the surrounding forest where he knows nothing of what it will take to survive. Joseph decides he must try to get back home even though home is on an entirely different continent and even though it looks like he is going to have to walk across hostile territory populated by people who wanted him dead simply because he is a master and also by people who are the ultimate neutrals, who help or ignore him based on their own alien societal rules and mores.
In fact, I will go so far as to say these are the best alien societies I have seen depicted in fiction in a long time. They are not human and their values only coincide with human ones occasionally. What’s more, it is done in a casual and believable manner that has no hidden environmental or political agenda. These are just aliens doing what they do for the reasons of their own. Quite refreshing really.
In the end, Joseph must use what he learns of the real world as he prepares to govern his own homeland. Let’s just say, the kid turns out all right.
I had some trepidation on learning that the reader was Stefan Rudnicki. All my experience at listening to his performances were in the various Ender novels by Orson Scott Card and their adaptations. Readers will recall that I have become increasingly less enchanted as that series progressed (but there is one more of the mainstream of that series to get through – tune in next week) and that unfairly colored my opinion of the readers involved.
That said, it was a pleasure to listen to this performance. Mister Rudnicki’s deep voice is vaguely reminiscent to that of Harrison Ford to me, so when he provided the voice of Colonel Graff in the reading of Ender’s Game and the audioplay as well, I, for a moment, wondered how they decided on getting Ford to play the part even before the movie was cast. No, just a happy coincidence.
I noted this similarity again while listening to this recording, but this time Stefan Rudnicki was able to voice all the parts, although the story is refreshingly lineal (in a day when authors feel the need to stretch out stories by constantly jumping from one character to another or else falling deep into the pitfalls of flashbacks) and so always follows Joseph from one encounter to the next. But other characters do have dialogue and Mister Rudnicki varied his voice subtly, but just enough to be able to tell one from another.
So to sum it up, what we have here is an interesting story told in a manner many authors have forgotten in recent years and it is read amazingly well. I seriously recommend it.