THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG Volume 1: Secret Sharers by Robert Silverberg (Bantam Books: $25 cloth, $12.50 paper; 546 pp. ) Bob Silverberg has been a very busy man for a long time now, his prolificacy often obscuring the fact that he has all along, while cranking out porno novels, children's books and a variety of potboilers, also produced some of the most engaging, original science fiction being written.
It was said of Voltaire that he wished to think freely but not to live in the Bastille. Bob Silverberg has always wanted to be a serious writer and to make a living at it. Much of the time, he's managed to do just that.
Silverberg prefaces each of the 24 stories in this 546-page volume with the story of its origin. What comes across mostly in these delightful introductions is Silverberg's essential professionalism--that sense of craftsmanship he speaks of in his intro to the Dozois collection--and his humility.
And what comes across in the stories is Bob's signature way of taking an idea, standing it on its head and watching what falls from the pockets turn into real characters and absorbing situations.
This book collects stories published since 1983, many of which appeared in Omni and Playboy, others in Asimov's and various anthologies. Included are "Homefaring," a wonderful evocation of a truly alien world; his rare comic tale of the ultimate California girl, "Amanda and the Alien"; and a number of prizewinners, such as the novella "Sailing to Byzantine," "Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another" and (in homage to Conrad) "The Secret Sharer."
Throughout, ideas are original and intriguing, angles of attack various and convincing, the writing always vivid. This man who speaks so insistently of simple craftsmanship again and again delivers, surreptitiously and a little abashedly, it seems, a rare kind of art.