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Friday, July 2, 2010

The Face of the Waters - Robert Silverberg

I found a copy of this novel on my mom's bookshelf while I was visiting Ohio last month, and thought it sounded like a great Jupiter Voyage. I'm also including this one in the Speculative Fiction Challenge. (The only other Silverberg I've ever read is The Ugly Little Boy, originally a sci-fi short by Asimov, and I really enjoyed it.)

It was interesting to go from reading about the water world of Le Guin's Earthsea to Silverberg's planet, Hydros. Like Le Guin's world, Hydros has not yet been fully explored by the human population and communication between islands is primitive. Except in Silverberg's story, the humans are not originally native to the planet. Earth was destroyed generations before. Hydros was originally used as a penal colony and there is no way to leave the planet once you arrive; the native race called the Gillies or Dwellers have forbidden the building of spaceports, and the "islands" that the humans live on with the Gillies are artificial and constructed of organic materials. Having been warned once already by the native race not to abuse the natural environment, one island of humans is banished for killing local wildlife (sentient creatures called "divers"), and given one month to pack up and get out. The long and short of the plot is that they have nowhere to go but through the Empty Sea and into uncharted territory to face the Face. I think Silverberg is excellent at bringing out his characters' attributes and flaws, making them very relatable. The main character, Valben Lawler, is struggling to define his humanity as a human who was born on Hydros and will never leave it, and dreams about Earth and will never see it. When you're putting yourself in his shoes as you read this story, you can sympathize with him every step of the way.

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