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The Book of Skulls (Kindle Edition) by…

The Book of Skulls (Kindle Edition) (original 1972; edition 2006)

by Robert Silverberg

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6821114,002 (3.62)17
Title:The Book of Skulls (Kindle Edition)
Authors:Robert Silverberg
Info:Del Rey (2006), Kindle edition, 232 pages
Collections:Fiction, Your library
Tags:fiction, science fiction, 2012read, eBook, Kindle, immortality, fantasy

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The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg (1972)


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English (10)  Italian (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Four young men stumble upon The Book of Skulls, a book written in an archaic language tucked away in the dusty archives of a university library. It states that immortality can be attained, but only through death can everlasting life be achieved, two fo the four must die, one must give himself up for the others through suicide, and another must be murdered.

it sounds like a "brain off" type of plot, but I was pleasantly surprised by how...well, literary it was. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised numerous times throughout reading this book. The characterization was terribly off-putting in the beginning, the 4 young men are flat, one-dimensional stereotypes that could probably be perceived as rather offensive. There is a snobbish heir of a rich family, a small-town boy trying to make something of himself in a large city, a jew, and a homosexual, and Silverberg is completely upfront about these archetypes right from the beginning. This is usually a horrible way to go about things, but there is that one rare instance where this kind of thing is acceptable, and that is when the stereotypes are used for social commentary, or as a way to evolve the characters away from the reader's perspective. I felt that The Book of Skulls definitely achieved this, in a similar fashion as the 1980's film The Breakfast Club.

It's funny, it's not uncommon to see flat, simplistic plots being hyped up as works of fine literature, but this is the complete opposite. The book masquerades as being barbaric, 4 college boys on a road trip, with all the vulgarity, drug use. and "free love" you might expect from a book published in the early 1970's, it really shouldn't be good. Despite everything going against it, The Book of Skulls manages to actually be both intelligent and enjoyable to read. I wouldn't consider it my favorite book in the world, but the thing I kept saying to myself while I was reading it was that it simply is a pleasant surprise, and not at all what I expected.

On a side note, the author is a science fiction author and so for whatever reason people have labeled this as a science fiction novel. It isn't, in any way. I would describe it as literary fiction, and the immortality aspect is magical realism at best. It's closer to horror than it is SF, but I definitely wouldn't consider it a horror novel either. ( )
1 vote Ape | Apr 25, 2015 |
I liked the idea behind this, and I even liked the way Silverberg set up the four characters, stereotypes that over the course of the novel are pried open and exposed for the often hypocritical things they are. The writing, too, is pretty good, lyrical and intense. The psychological building up and tearing down of the characters works really well, and it's not easy to predict who will commit the murder, who will be the sacrifice, etc. The only real problem for me was that I kept having to check the chapter headings to see who exactly was talking: despite the four very different character backgrounds, they didn't sound different at all.

But. The stereotypes manage to be so offensive -- like, the portrayal of the gay male character/s is kind of horrifying, the whole portrayal of what gay people are like as a community. I know this isn't exactly a new book, and doubtless Silverberg knew he was using stereotypes and that real gay people come from all over the spectrum, but it's still pretty ghastly to read.

I can see why people enjoy it, I think, but euch, not for me. ( )
  shanaqui | Nov 23, 2014 |
Somehow I missed this when it was first published, and I am sorry I did. Silverberg did a great job of writing from the viewpoint of four different characters, and a better job of preserving tension right through to the fated denouement. ( )
  nmele | Sep 14, 2013 |
The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg was first published in 1972. Four college roommates (Eli, Ned, Timothy, and Oliver) drive west across county to a monastery in an Arizona desert where they hope to achieve immortality. Eli, whose scholarship emphasizes ancient languages, discovers a manuscript in the university archives entitled The Book of Skulls. With much study and effort, he is able to translate the book. It describes a monastery, referred to as the House of Skulls, where the monks are immortals and they can give immortal life to others who are able to successfully endure the acceptance trial. After much research, Eli locates the mysterious monastery and he persuades his roommates to pursue immortality with him. However, immortality comes with serious consequences. Only groups of four people may apply, and only two of them can survive to achieve immortality. The story is presented through successive narration of the thoughts and actions of each of the four individual protagonists. The reader learns much information about the lives of each of them, including intimate details about their relationships with each other and more than I wanted to know about their sexual experiences. The Book of Skulls is an unusual tale that is difficult to categorize. Even Mr. Silverberg states in the Afterword he wrote for this book in 2004 that much of it reads as a mainstream book that perhaps could be thought of as “dark social satire” instead of science fiction. He goes on to explain that it was written in 1970-71 during a time when science fiction writers were trying to combine their writing styles with the methods of modern mainstream novelists, i.e., a movement known as “New Wave” science fiction. However, because it deals with immortality this book has been mostly categorized as science fiction. I consider Robert Silverberg to be one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. I have read ten of his books in addition to several of his short stories. I found this book to be an interesting and worthwhile read. It is steeped in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which elicits many memories and emotions from those of us who lived through those years. However, I’m not sure how readers who did not live through those decades will react. In my opinion, this is not one of Silverberg’s best science fiction efforts, but it is a Silverberg novel, which makes it better than most. ( )
1 vote clark.hallman | Feb 2, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Silverbergprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CarlCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Coming into New York City from the north, off the New England Thruway, Oliver driving as usual.
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Book description
Four students discover a manuscript, The Book of Skulls, which reveals the existence of a sect, now living in the Arizona desert, whose members can offer immortality to those who can complete its initiation rite. To their surprise, they discover that the sect exists, and is willing to accept them as acolytes. But for each group of four who enter the rite, two must die in order for the others to succeed.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345471385, Paperback)

Seeking the immortality promised in an ancient manuscript, The Book of Skulls, four friends, college roommates, go on a spring break trip to Arizona: Eli, the scholar, who found and translated the book; Timothy, scion of an American dynasty, born and bred to lead; Ned, poet and cynic; and Oliver, the brilliant farm boy obsessed with death.

Somewhere in the desert lies the House of Skulls, where a mystic brotherhood guards the secret of eternal life. There, the four aspirants will present themselves–and a horrific price will be demanded.

For immortality requires sacrifice. Two victims to balance two survivors. One by suicide, one by murder.

Now, beneath the gaze of grinning skulls, the terror begins. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:35 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Seeking the immorality promised in an ancient manuscript, four friends go on a spring trip to Arizona.

(summary from another edition)

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