REVIEW: Thebes of the Hundred Gates by Robert Silverberg
Dear Mr Silverberg,
The idea of time travel fascinates me. Imagine being able to go back and see not only the great events in history but the little, ordinary day to day lives of the Average Joe/Jayne. We could clear up some of the Great Historical Mysteries, find out things that had been forgotten in the mists of time, enjoy spending a day (or 30) living among our ancestors. And in the end, head back home to better medical care, air conditioning / central heating and the internet. What’s not to like?
Edward Davis of the Time Service is on a rescue mission. Eighteen months ago, two Service personnel going to Tiberius’s Rome were lost when their Jump Field missed and put them in Thebes around 1390 B.C. Now that the Service has finally calculated their location, Edward, with his background in Egyptology, is to go back 35 and a half C’s to bring them home … if they’re still alive.
I’ve mentioned in reviews of other novellas that I expect an author to make use every word when working in such a short format. You do and yet manage to pack a full story into the 141 kb listed as the Lit length. Your descriptions are so well done I can almost feel that I’m there. I see the city laid out before me, the fast flowing Nile, the colorful temples, the aromatic City of the Dead, and the dank dungeon into which poor Edward Davis is thrown. And yet you avoid bogging the story down into too much unnecessary detail which would take away from the action.
I liked bits of humor (Edward’s wry observations when given slave, on embalmer’s jobs, when imagining himself marrying into embalming family, Elaine’s comments to Roger about how she ditched Edward in the embalming camp, her options for Edward to pick from if he stayed) and appreciated how thought out the Time Service details were– nicely done. Enough to fill me in without going into too much detail — again it’s too short a story to do that. The feeling of the time jump it is well described and enough of the mechanics is given to make it plausible.
I do wonder how 2 people with no Egyptian background, no language skills, no way to easily fit in could have progressed to such comfy positions in 15 years. They would have had some training and knowledge of ancient cultures since they were headed towards Rome (32 AD) but would this really help in Egypt? And Roger does have a point about medical treatments available to them and that they’re nearing middle age and would start to need modern medicine.
I very much enjoyed my first taste of your work and look forward to sampling your many other stories. B+