Volume Nine: The Millennium Express 1995-2009
by Robert Silverberg
Review by Mel Jacob
Subterranean Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596066687
Date: 31 August 2014
Subterranean Press offers another commemorative anthology of Robert Silverberg's short stories and novellas, this time from the 1995 through 2009. The sixteen stories range from fantasy to horror to science fiction. He explores relations and culture, the mind, Earth, and the galaxy in a curious mixture of tales. Titles are: "Diana of the Hundred Breasts", "Beauty in the Night", "Call Me Titan", "The Tree that Grew from the Sky", "The Church at Monte Saturno", "Hanoz Prime Goes to Old Earth", "The Millennium Express", "Travelers", "The Colonel Returns to the Stars", "The Eater of Dreams", "A Piece of the Great World", "Against the Current", "The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale", "Defenders of the Frontier", "The Prisoner", and ends with "Smithers and the Ghosts of the Thar". This last is a take-off on Lost Horizons by James Hilton.
A general introduction provides background information on Silverberg and the collection. A short introduction accompanies each story. However, these do little to explain the themes of the stories. Silverberg has left that for the readers to discover. Hard science and futuristic fantasies vie with Arabian Nights fantasies.
The nice thing about an anthology by a good writer is that the reader is certain to find something to like. "Diana of the Hundred Breasts" pits interesting characters against one another and eventually reveals unexpected aspects among the characters contrary to stereotypical expectations. Faced with the unknown and perhaps unknowable, they react in very different ways.
"Beauty in the Night" brought to mind Oscar Wilde’s the Ballad of Reading Gaol but covers so much more. The stoic behavior of the Pakistani grandmother and her loving ways contrasts sharply with the English quisling who fathered her grandson. It provides an interesting experience on many levels.
The story I least liked was "The Prisoner". Personally, I found it depressing. Those who read the stories when they were first published can renew old acquaintance. With such a variety, readers are certain to find something to their taste. As always, I’m grateful to Subterranean for bringing out these collections and for the occasionally novellas by well-known authors they also issue.