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REVIEW: Thebes of the Hundred Gates by Robert Silverberg

Dear Mr Silverberg,

silverberg-thebes-hundred-gates.jpgThe 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+


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Charlene Teglia
    Jul 16, 2007 @ 19:08:40

    Did you find this on Fictionwise? This is a Silverberg I’ve never heard of. And Egypt! Cool! You are feeding my booklust for unconventional historical settings again…

  2. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2007 @ 19:13:35

    Yes, I bought it a Fictionwise. I’d been contemplating it for a while and took the plunge when they had their mega sale a few months ago. Have you read many of his books and can you make recs? I see they have a ton of his books for sale. And I’m always glad to feed someone’s lusts!

  3. Charlene Teglia
    Jul 16, 2007 @ 19:26:42

    Thank you. Because my e-reader card wasn’t already too full…

    There’s the classic Nightfall. Might take you a while to get into it, but interesting. And At Winter’s End. Y’know, I think both of those have the same theme, now that I think about it. Anyway, if you get into Silverberg, his backlist will keep you busy for a good long time!

  4. KS Augustin
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 05:41:37

    I snorted whisky-on-ice out my nose (ouch!) when I read your review because–did you know?–Silverberg has been writing since the mid-1950s. As much as I like his science-fiction, to me, Silverberg’s crowning glory is a far-future fantasy called “Lord Valentine’s Castle”. Give that one a whirl. If you like that, then please please give M John Harrison a shot. The man must be one of the most underrated fantasy writers around. His works include “The Pastel City”, “Viriconium” and “A Storm of Wings”. Highly recommended for thought-provoking fantasy that goes way beyond the usual “coupon quests”. Ahem. In my opinion.

  5. DS
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 05:44:21

    The Majipoor books are very good. The novel series begins with Lord Valentine.

  6. Jayne
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 06:35:15

    LOL, well you can tell I don’t read much science fiction, can’t you? Thanks for all the recs. I’m always more willing to venture into the deep end of the pool if I have a few specific book titles to keep me afloat.

  7. Baked Scrod
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 09:57:33

    Silverberg has an amazing backlist – some of his books are nearly horrifying but all inspire strong emotion. LORD VALENTINE’S CASTLE is an amazing work, something that exploded out of his usual work and made his second reputation. It takes place on a world a hundred times the size of Earth but with the same gravity, a world so huge humans couldn’t hold it alone but called for alien colonists to share it, a world so vivid and weird and true that it survives being the background of the story of a man born and raised a king, whose nature cannot be concealed no matter what changes come. Majipoor is so huge that ordinary police and laws are often ineffective, but each night The King of Dreams and Lady of the Island prowl the sleeping minds of millions, searching for criminals in need of punishment or suffering souls in need of balm. The old king, the Pontifex, runs the government from his underground Labyrinth while the young Coronal rules the world from his incredibly exalted throne.

  8. Karen W.
    Jul 17, 2007 @ 20:32:13

    I love Silverberg’s work; he’s one of my all-time favorite SF writers. I didn’t know about this novella, so thanks for the review!

  9. Jayne
    Jul 18, 2007 @ 07:17:33

    BS, thanks for the plot synopsis. That was an awful lot of typing for you!

    This novella seems to have slipped under the radar of a lot of his fans. I’m glad to bring it to everyone’s attention.

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