The Man in the Maze, or, Adventures in Reader Reactions

I’m going to stick with the Robert Silverberg material for awhile.

Joachim Boaz did a proper review of the novel.

Man in the Maze

Raw Feed (1993): The Man in the Maze, Robert Silverberg, 1969.

I liked a lot of things in this novel.

This alien maze was much more lush and exotic seeming with its nature as a romantic alien archaeological site than the maze in Algis Budrys’ Rogue Moon. (I read this novel to compare it to that work.) I liked the throwaway bits of description (political, cultural, environmental) Silverberg gives for the various worlds of man — proving the truth of one reviewer saying Silverberg takes the material of space opera and recasts it into a more literate form. I liked the various technological details – the matter duplicators, drones, computer projection of probability, “women cubes” – that reminded me that the current crop of sf stories dealing with the implications of nanotechnology and computers and virtual reality are really not that new in the their concerns and findings, only in the window dressing of their rationales. I liked the giant aliens from a gas giant who see down the entire electromagnetic spectrum, who need to telepathically control other species to build their technologies.

I liked Silverberg’s skill at weaving the details of Richard Muller’s past with his self-exile on Lemnos. I liked Ned Rawlins as the young reflection of the earlier Muller: ambitious, moral, removed from humanity but also desirous of company. I liked the thematic tension – symbolized in Muller’s repulsive telepathic emissions of his emotions – between man’s repulsiveness (the physical repulsiveness of his pores, his guts, his skull – in contrast to the many sexual and sensual references in this novel – and his spiritual repulsiveness of lusts, xenophobia, fears, despairs, regrets) and his potential, his superficial beauty and grandeur, his cleverness. The novel says, in its rejection of Muller’s “sophomoric cynicism”, that man has to do the best he can with his nature, to adopt Boardman’s seemingly world-weary but really wise pragmatism.

However, I felt the novel fell a little short in a couple of respects: convincing me that naked emotions from Muller would be that bad and that Muller hated humanity (though it could be argued that he really didn’t). The ending, Muller’s soul being drained, was a bit abrupt too.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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