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

by Robert Silverberg

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6961313,671 (3.6)17
Member:clark.hallman
Title:The Book of Skulls (Kindle Edition)
Authors:Robert Silverberg
Info:Del Rey (2006), Kindle edition, 232 pages
Collections:Fiction, Your library
Rating:***1/2
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 (12)  Italian (1)  All languages (13)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
My favorite of Silverberg's novels. This one is a tale of a journey into the heart of an American darkness. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Robert Silverberg is possibly the most underrated sf writers of all time, considering that he has been writing sf since the 50s, won numerous Hugo, Nebula and other major sf awards, and is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master. In spite of all this he never seems to be "in vogue" these days, most of the younger generation of sf readers today have never read anything by him. I believe this is indicative of how criminally underrated he is and the ongoing decline of civilization as we know it.

What Silverberg does better than almost any sf authors writing today is to write short stand alone novels with very strange plots and excellent characterization. His special talent is to drop the reader right in the middle of a strange place and time of his imagining and gradually acclimatize you through his story telling skills.

The Book of Skulls is a very odd book, even among the very odd books he has written. The basic plot is very simple, four American college boys seek immortality in a monastery in the Arizona desert. The caveat being that of the four applicants only two will achieve immortality, the other two have to die, one by suicide and the other by murder. The simple synopsis belies the deep complexity of the book as we get to know each of the young protagonists through alternating first person narrative. Silverberg wrote this book during 1970 when written science fiction was being shaken up by the "new wave" of authors who were experimenting with new writing techniques, structures and often controversial contents (epitomized by the legendary [b:Dangerous Visions|600349|Dangerous Visions|Harlan Ellison|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1176167292s/600349.jpg|2758790] anthology edited by Harlan Ellison). The Book of Skulls is a fine example of the sort of sf being written at this time. The story takes some very dark and bizarre turns with several long passages of the main characters' stream of thought, epic length sentences and the odd explicit sex scenes which are in no way titillating.

The book is not overtly sci-fi but it is ambiguous enough to be considered sci-fi under certain assumptions, under different assumptions it could be viewed as a social satire or dark fantasy. Certainly it is character-centric thought experiment, a work of speculative fiction that can comfortably fit into our modern day's "weird fiction" subgenre. It was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards (but won neither).

The book is very well written as is the case with most of Silverberg's output, the prose style may be less lyrical than a lot of his other books because it is written in the voice of young college students. Interestingly Silverberg has given each of the four narrators their own individual "voice" which may not be so noticeable to begin with but become quite distinct later on in the book.

If you are looking for galaxy spanning sci-fi, post apocalyptic sci-fi, cyberpunk etc. this book is not for you, but if you are in the mood for something weird and disturbing that will leave you wondering the hell the author just hit you with this could be just the ticket. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
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 |
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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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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