By Robert Silverberg
Published by Librivox
Read by Dawn Larsen
One of the things I like about digging through the Librivox.org catalog is that I frequently find the early and more obscure works of favorite authors. There’s a bunch of stuff that either were allowed to pass into the Public Domain or else got there on their own by virtue of having been written while the older copyright laws were in effect.
As far as I know this was Silverberg’s second novel, published in 1958 while he was still in college. I wish I was writing this well when I was in college! Yes, okay it’s far from his best work and rather predictable but it is a good solid story and well worth the read.
The story takes place several centuries from now in an age when Mankind has extraterrestrial colonies, but the ships that travel to them can only approach the speed of light, not transcend it so the crews are subject to time dilation. A journey that takes a few weeks of subjective time for the crew and passengers lasts years for those left behind on Earth. However, time keeps moving on and the community of space travelers is out of sync with planet-bound people and the two rarely mix.
Some starmen make the mistake of jumping ship and soon learn that there is no legitimate place for them in the highly stratified and restricted guild-based Earth society and can survive, at best, as professional gamblers, an occupation that very few do well at, so when Alan’s twin brother jumps ship, Alan returns nine Earth years (six weeks for him) later to find his brother on a world hostile to anyone who does not fit in and especially to spacemen.
I enjoyed the story and thought I saw some heavy influence from the early Heinlein juveniles. A few situations resolve a bit too easily and coincidence seems to always go in Alan’s way, but as a second attempt, this story is still fairly solid and a clear indicator that Robert Silverberg was destined to be named one of the Grand Masters of Science Fiction.
This was the first time I have listened to a story read by Dawn Larsen and I hope it will not be the last. She reads the story in a clear no-nonsense manner. She does not attempt to speak in an overly dramatic manner. Some readers can get away with emoting, but Ms Larsen simply reads the story rather than make an attempt at a performance.
She could probably stand to make some minor vocal variations to delineate characters, but the story does not really need it since Silverberg’s writing even in this early work makes it abundantly clear who is talking and at least she doesn’t resort to funny voices and accents so her reading is enjoyably consistent.
So we have an interesting early piece by a well-respected author and the reader will keep you listening throughout. Good job!