Robert Silverberg, . . Eos, $25.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97858-8

The prolific Silverberg (Starborne, etc.) offers a familiar odyssey spanning half a planet, two years and the gap between a child who knows everything about how his world works and a man who knows how to question it all. Destined to rule over an estate of Folk—a race he knew to be gentle, hardworking and not overly bright—15-year-old Joseph, one of the noble race of Masters, has left his home in the south to visit cousins in the north continent, High Manza, of a future Earth known as the Mother World. When the Folk of the north unexpectedly rebel, they kill all Masters and loyal servants they can find. Thrust out into the wilderness and forced to survive by his wits, Joseph tries to get home. Along the way he's loved, despised, held captive, educated and traded as a commodity. While neither the protagonist of this bildungsroman nor his transformation is remarkable, the land that our young hero journeys through and the exotic creatures that inhabit it testify to the author's rich imagination. The solid presence of the noctambulo, a being with different personalities by day and by night who leads Joseph for a time, establishes the otherness of the Mother World. As Joseph passes through many villages of the alien Indigenes, with their puzzling philosophy of indifference, their behavior toward him evolves, subtly demonstrating the distance Joseph has traveled toward maturity. Fans won't find much that's new or challenging, but they should enjoy the ride. (July 9)

FYI:Silverberg's previous novel was the concluding volume of his Majipoor cycle, The King of Dreams: Book Three of the Prestimion Trilogy (Forecasts, Apr. 30, 2001).