cover image Starborne


Robert Silverberg. Spectra Books, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10264-2

One of SF's most prolific writers, Silverberg (Hot Sky at Midnight, 1995, etc.) seems to be resting on his considerable laurels (which include four Hugos and five Nebulas) with this meandering and talky philosophical exercise. A multiethnic crew of 50 humans are aboard a starship, carrying enough genetic material to populate a new world, and thus to rejuvenate the human race, which is currently stagnating on Earth. As they hurtle through the galaxy seeking a habitable planet, the crew spends much of its leisure time discussing the higher reasoning and visualizing functions involved in playing the game of Go. The narrative focuses on Noelle, the blind mission communicator whose ability to converse telepathically with her sister jumpstarted the mission, and the year-captain, a monk-turned-xenobiologist who tries to hide his infatuation with Noelle. In time, a kind of static impedes communications between the sisters. Members of the crew postulate that ""angels"" of some type are causing the interference. Will continued attempts at communication destroy Noelle? Silverberg writes compelling prose, flocked with lovely imagery, as always, but this novel falls far short of Geoffrey Ryman's more elegiac and transcendent pieces using similar themes. (June)