Reviews of Alien Years, the (1998)
In 1987 Robert Silverberg published "The Pardoner's Tale." Even though the story bears no resemblance to Chausser's tale, it is remarkable in its own right. The story is about a hacker, who goes about his business, while in the meantime telling about the world he lives in. That world is not such a nice place, as it turns out – aliens have conquered the Earth and enslaved all of humanity. But the subject of this review is not the story, but something that resulted from it. Eleven years later, Silverberg decided that the topic is far from being exhausted and so came forth “The Alien Years.”
Silberberg’s book is a lengthy saga that expands upon the world, described in “The Pardoner’s Tale” and in some other stories. The author tells us the history of several generations of the Carmichael clan that live in a secluded villa while the world around them changes profoundly. The characters in the book are many, and some of them are surprisingly well-developed. The plot has its occasional holes, though. Since the book is made of several short stories, there is a very tangible feel that the space between the short stories had to be filled with words, but things did not work out. The ending is the plot’s biggest weakness. It is sufficient to say that the main and omnipresent conflict is resolved bluntly and abruptly in a Deus ex machina kind of way. Although the plot is not up to the challenge, the author’s style makes up for it. Silverberg writes in a narrative way that does not tire the reader. The balance between dialogue, description, and action creates an easy to read mix.
“The Alien Years” is not a deep and profound book, but rather something that you would pick in the evening to get your mind off things. The characters are easy to associate with and the alternate world is interesting enough so that one can take a break from the real world. I, personally, am not disappointed for having read the book but do not feel I have gained much from it either. If you are up to some well-written sci-fi without deep themes and heavy reflections upon life, give the book a try. But for award-winning science fiction, stick to Silverberg’s other works.