cover image The Emperor and the Maula

The Emperor and the Maula

Robert Silverberg. Subterranean, $25 (152p) ISBN 978-1-59606-845-2

Silverberg’s futuristic novella based on the Scheherezade story is a stultifyingly faithful rendition. It was originally intended as the first part of a multiauthor project for which the other authors fell through; as a result, the ending feels tacked on and Silverberg’s usually gorgeous prose is somewhat muted. The Ansaar Empire has conquered huge chunks of the universe, including Earth. Humans (indeed, all barbarian species) are not allowed to land on the holy central world of the Empire, on penalty of death. But Laylah Walis, a human well aware of the danger, goes anyway to speak to the emperor, and the story she tells him about why she is doing this is so riveting that he doesn’t want to execute her until it’s finished. There is some pretty travelogue, and the preface provides an interesting look at the piece’s convoluted history, but this will be most of interest to Silverberg completists. Agent: Chris Lotts, Lotts Agency. (Oct.)