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Reviews of Book of Skulls, the (1972)

Review by ropie (2006-12-30)
Silverberg has a reputation for creating a good read and this novel is no exception. The plot is simple: four young men from differing backgrounds are on a journey to the Temple of Skulls, somewhere in the Arizona desert, to follow a path to lead two of them to immortatility and two of them to their deaths.

The 'Book of Skulls' is an intriguing read largely due to its layout: each chapter is presented in the first person voice of one of the four main characters. This approach works well as it allows the story to develop in a rounded and all-encompasing fashion so practically no plot detail is missed out.

It also means that you are reading the same information over and over again (albeit from a different point of view) as each part of the story is dealt with by all the characters, in turn. This allows for their differences of opinion to become apparent and the views here range from the polar opposites of any given topic (the two main ones being sexuality and religion).

The tale is reasonably compelling for the most part though the opinions of the protagonists are often childish and lacking in depth, particularly where sex is concerned. Unfortnately though, without wishing to spoil the ending, everything pans out much as you would expect and without any great explanation. The main topic, supposedly immortality, is not really dealt with in any depth either and is almost an afterthought.

The strength of Silverberg's writing keeps this one going though. It is SF-lite, with the emphasis on character study and for all that it is an interesting book but not a really great one.

Review by mrdude (2005-02-22)

The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg starts off with four college students who have found an ancient manuscript, the book of skulls, that describes of an ancient cult that can teach one how to become immortal. The Boys have discovered that this cult resides in a monastery somewhere in the Arizona desert and that although two of the four can become immortal two must die for this to occur.

There are some definite warnings about this book. Silverberg uses some pretty strong language in this book and there are some relatively explicit sex scenes, some which our Christian friends might want to refrain from reading. Homosexuality is dealt with a lot in this book although I don't personally agree with Silverberg’s opinions on the matter. Overall not a book for your kids to read.

Dialogue in this book is quite long winded but interesting. Silverberg uses a style of writing in which the entire book is in a first person narrative (along with dialogue) but the narrative switches off each chapter with which one of the four kids is telling the story. He does do a good job of having the story told by four very different characters (a Jew, a rich kid, an orphan and a homosexual).

Overall a good read although I would not put it on the top of my list.

(Review also posted at the IBDoF)

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