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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor novels, with comparisons to Jack Vance

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor
(For a quick introduction to Silverberg's Majipoor, see Welcome to Majipoor. For the Wikipedia article on these works, go here.)

I confess -- I originally posted this in my own domain, which no longer exists, several years ago, and discovered that someone had archived it, so I'm re-publishing it as part of this blog. It has been lightly edited, and the links are still good.

In his Lord Valentine’s Castle, (New York: Bantam Books, 1981) Robert Silverberg, (a five-time Nebula award winner, but not for this book) has created a fascinating world. Silverberg has written about that world again, in Majipoor Chronicles, (New York: Bantam, 1989) in Valentine Pontifex (New York: Bantam, 1989), in Sorcerers of Majipoor, (New York: HarperPrism, 1996) in Lord Prestimion (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), in The King of Dreams (New York: HarperCollins, 2001, in "The Seventh Seal," (in Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Silverberg--New York: Tor, 1998) and possibly in some other works.

Warning: if you are wondering about whether to read these books, but are the kind of person who doesn't want to know about what happens until you have finished a book, you should not read this web page further. I recommend the books to you. I have found them worth reading, and reading again.

Majipoor’s geography and government
The planet is very large, probably as large, or larger, than Jupiter or Saturn. (As a reviewer points out, Silverberg claims that it is the largest inhabited planet in fantastic literature, but isn't as large as Larry Niven's Ringworld. The Ringworld is supposed to be a manufactured object.) However, because of a lack of heavy elements, gravity is not oppressive. Most of it is covered by water, but the land areas combined are larger than those of any other inhabited planet. There are four main land areas, Alhanroel, Zimroel, Suvrael, and the Isle of Sleep. There is also one large archipelago. Castle Mount, on Alhanroel, is very tall--so tall, thirty miles high--that there are weather machines near its top, producing a breathable atmosphere for the inhabitants of its cities, and its Castle. Other features, including the oceans and rivers are also, as it were, larger than life. So are some of the manufactured objects, especially the Labyrinth, a vast underground city several miles deep, and the Castle, with thousands of rooms, on Castle Mount.

The Piurivars, an indigenous race, who used to be found on all continents, are almost all confined to a large reservation in Zimroel in Castle. (Some of Silverberg's other writing about Majipoor goes back long before Castle, including before the Piurivars were moved to the reservation.) This species is also known as metamorphs, or shape-shifters, because they have the ability to alter their appearance, even their structure, to mimic other species.

There are four powers of the government throughout most of the books. (There are stories going back before all four were established, and a fifth power is established at the end.) These are the Pontifex, who issues decrees relating to commerce from the Labyrinth, in Alhanroel; the Coronal, who is the ceremonial head of government, carrying out the decrees of the Pontifex, from the Castle, also in Alhanroel; the Lady, sending out, with her subordinates, dreams of peace and goodness from the Isle, and the King of Dreams, sending out dreams to punish criminals from Suvrael. The Coronal becomes Pontifex on the death of an old Pontifex. The new Pontifex chooses a Coronal, usually from a small group of those trained to lead, but does not choose his own relatives. The Coronal’s mother becomes the Lady. The King of Dreams is a hereditary office, passed down within the Barjazid family.

One interesting aspect of the governmental institutions that Silverberg created is that Coronals don't like their jobs very much. They must sign countless documents, and attend countless ceremonies, and listen to countless speeches by various minor functionaries. They are expected to make Grand Processionals every few years, which takes them around Majipoor for as much as five years at a time. They look forward with real horror to moving to the Labyrinth, where they will live as Pontifex when they succeed to that office, coming above ground but rarely.

Majipoor is so large that its human rulers invited non-humans to come and help colonize it, thousands of years before the time of Castle, the first book written. As a result, there are several species who have lived on Majipoor for a long time. The Skandars are tall and covered with fur, and have four arms. The Su-Suheris have two heads. The Ghayrogs lay eggs. Hjorts and Vroons and Liimen are obviously non-human. These species are all living in harmony, and share a single culture, more or less, and a common language. They travel and work together, and live in the same cities, and have the same government.

There is an indigenous species, the Piriuvar, or metamorphs, who are not part of the common culture, although a few of them do live among the other species, and communication is possible.

The first book describes how Valentine, the Coronal, has been deprived of his memory, and his rulership, but becomes aware of his loss, and, with a group of associates, including humans, Skandars, a Hjort, a Vroon, and even an alien being, (a tourist on Majipoor) regains his memory and his position. During this story, Silverberg often gives us just names of great cities, without any description, or with a very modest description. In no case, except for a city inhabited mostly by Ghayrogs, does he describe one of these cities as having a different culture. The cultural differences in the mostly Ghayrog city, Dulorn, are because Ghayrogs don’t sleep, except at one season of the year, not because they wish to be separate, or others from them.

One theme, spread throughout the Majipoor books, is how the Piurivars were originally mistreated, and how they finally come to accept a role as part of the common culture.

The second book in the series, Chronicles, is a group of stories. Silverberg uses a fictional device. It has been possible for citizens of Majipoor to store their memories and experiences in such a way that they can be re-lived. The book relates these experiences, which are re-lived by Hissune, one of the main characters in the first three books, and are part of his training to take Valentine’s place as Coronal.

In the very first of these episodes, “Thesme and the Ghayrog,” Silverberg takes us back to a time long before Valentine and Hissune, when non-human species are new on Majipoor. Thesme has decided to live in isolation in the forest. She finds an injured Ghayrog, and helps him recover. She eventually has sexual experiences with him. Finally, she tires of this, and returns to living with her family and human acquaintances, but the episode closes with the understanding that humans, Ghayrogs, and other species are going to work together in harmony to tame Majipoor.

Silverberg's use of Culture Compared with Jack Vance's Work
In case anyone wonders, Silverberg has read Vance, and, in fact, he says: "Vance was an influence so far as the design of the planet was concerned -- I borrowed his Big Planet concept, though I designed my own." (Interview with Jim Freund, Ellen Datlow, and Mike McCoy, September 7, 1997.) Actually, I didn't know this when I decided to start this comparison. I just knew that Majipoor was way too homogenous to be a Vance creation.

The most thorough treatment of Vance's propensity to invent culture is "People are Plastic: Jack Vance and the Dilemma of Cultural Relativism," by Tom Shippey, in Jack Vance: Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography, Edited by A. E. Cunningham (Boston Spa and London: The British Library, 2000, pp. 67 - 84) Shippey's first paragraph says, in part:
. . . Vance’s work should not be treated as merely whimsical or decorative, but should be seen as centrally preoccupied with one of the most acute moral dilemmas and major intellectual developments of our age: a dilemma and a development furthermore which tend to be avoided or left unfocused, to our detriment, in literature of the mainstream. The intellectual development is that of social or cultural anthropology, . . . and the dilemma it generates is, to put it bluntly, whether any sense of absolute value, or of ‘human nature’, can survive a thoroughgoing acceptance of the cultural relativism recommended so forcefully by so many anthropologists.

Silverberg's creation has a culture, and there are local variations, but nothing like those of Vance. Every city, almost every neighborhood, seems to call upon Vance's creative powers, as he invents new types of clothing, food, occupations, amusements, language, religion and courtship for so many of these. Or, perhaps, it's the other way around. Vance adds neighborhoods and cities so he can have places for his permutations of culture to inhabit. Majipoor does have a few isolated pockets where there is a separate language, or a separate religion, (even, in Prestimion, an area where several intelligent alien species live) but they are in the minority on the planet, and Silverberg does not dwell on them.

Silverberg uses some of his creative powers in describing variety in the landscape, (or sometimes in the seascape) and in the animals and plants that inhabit it. Besides the several diverse species of intelligent beings that have come to Majipoor, there is an abundant variety of supposedly non-intelligent life there. The most spectacular of these are the sea-dragons, immense beasts that migrate in herds, in paths that take them years, around the planet. They can swim, and have wing-like appendages, but cannot fly. In Castle, Valentine and his companions travel with the dragon-hunters to reach the Isle of Sleep. On the way, a giant sea-dragon attacks their ship, and some of his companions are lost. Valentine, himself, with his giant human female bodyguard, is swallowed by the dragon. The bodyguard finally cuts a tunnel in the side of the dragon, and they escape. In Pontifex, we, and the central culture, find that the sea-dragons are highly intelligent, and have the power to send their thoughts to other intelligent beings at a great distance, but the central culture lived in ignorance of that for thousands of years.

Scattered throughout the books are descriptions of strange landscapes, soil, geological formations of many types. Also, I have not counted, but there must be names, and, in some cases, descriptions, of at least a hundred different species of plants, and as many animals. In both Pontifex and Prestimion, some animals have been produced (by genetic engineering?) for evil purposes. Except for these, the culture of Majipoor lives in general harmony with the land, the sea, and their non-intelligent inhabitants. The variety of natural features, living and non-living, has probably not been matched in any other works of fantastic literature.

It is true that, having established a nearly homogenous culture on the largest inhabited planet in the first three books about Majipoor, Silverberg departs somewhat from that in later writings. The Mountains of Majipoor (New York: Bantam: 1996) presents a story that takes place several hundreds of years after Valentine has departed the scene. Harpirias, a young noble, is sent to a newly-discovered group of humans that have been geographically isolated for thousands of years. They speak a different language, have a different religion, etc. However, Harpirias is able to learn the language, and to understand them. If Vance had written about the same situation, there would surely have been some incomprehensibility between the two cultures. (Mountains also presents the Piurivars as not having been completely homogenized yet.)

Sorcerers of Majipoor (New York: Harper Prism, 1998 -- excerpt from novel here) takes place long before Valentine's time. In it, Silverberg describes how many religious cults, each bizarrely different, have arisen. However, these are all manifestations of the same thing:
In a thousand cities, furious mages came forth, saying, "This is the way of salvation, these are the spells that will restore the world," and the people, doleful and frightened and hungry for salvation, said, "Yes, yes, show us the way." In each city the observances were different, and yet in essence everything was the same everywhere: processions and wild dances, shrieking flutes, roaring trumpets. (p. 33)

Since this is fantastic fiction, there is plenty of opportunity for bizarre crime. The first book begins shortly after one such has been committed. Valentine, the Coronal, has had his body taken over by another, who now masquerades as Coronal. Some of his consciousness, but not all—not enough even to remember that he was Coronal—has been placed in a different body. The story of the first book is the story of Valentine’s quest, which is, at first, undertaken very reluctantly, to overthrow the false Coronal and restore harmony to the realm.
At the end, Valentine and his followers discover that one of the Barjazid family members has had his mind placed in what had been Valentine’s body.  The force behind this awful act, however, was a group of metamorphs (Piurivars), who have masqueraded as humans, one of them even assuming the form of the King of Dreams, the usurper’s father. When the plot is unmasked, and Valentine is back in his rightful place, one of his friends proposes vengeance upon the Piurivars. Valentine does not agree: “But I think also we must reach toward those people, and heal them of their anger if we can, or Majipoor will be thrown into endless war.” (Castle, p. 444) He also did not seek vengeance on the human who was the tool of the Piurivars: "Lord Valentine . . . had gently and lovingly sought even to win the soul of his enemy the usurper Dominin Barjazid, in the last moments of the war of restoration." Pontifex, p. 49.

There are three stories in the Chronicles that also demonstrate that vengeance is not central to Silverberg’s characters. In one, a merchant has been sold shoddy goods. While he is meeting with the man who sold them to him, he impulsively pushes him out the window of the hotel room into the river, to his death. The river is so boisterous that the body will not be found. Things go along well enough for a while, but eventually the King of Dreams starts sending terrible dreams to the murderer. He flees, taking on new identity, again and again, each time escaping for a while. Finally, he becomes a pilgrim in the Isle, where pilgrimage from level to level, toward the center, usually takes many years. After some years there, he sees a man who looks like the merchant he murdered. He converses with the man, who turns out to be the son of the dead man. The son says that he does not want to punish the murderer. He has already been punished, and all that the son wants is to find out what happened to his father.

Another story concerns the establishment of the King of Dreams. Dekkeret, a noble from the Castle, has business in Suvrael, which is mostly an oppressive desert wasteland, and hires a Barjazid as a guide into the interior. While on the journey, he is beset by terrible dreams, and almost dies while sleepwalking during one. He discovers that the guide has been sending them, using an apparatus he wears on his head to project dreams from his own brain. Barjazid asks if the noble will punish him. The noble says that he will not. Instead, he wants Barjazid to come to Castle Mount, to show the apparatus to the Coronal and others. This Barjazid’s son, Dinitak Barjazid, will become the first King of Dreams.

In a third story, a shopkeeper is visited by two rascals, who tell her that she has inherited one of the great homes in a city far away. For a significant sum, they will process her claim to the estate. She pays them, and goes to claim her inheritance, finding that she has no such claim, and that the rascals have been saying the same thing to many others. Through a long series of circumstances, the girl does become mistress of this same great home. One day she sees the rascals. She has them arrested, because they have defrauded many, but asks that their punishment be slight, because her circumstances are so much better, because of what happened to her as a result of the swindle.

A fourth story details an episode in the conquest of the Piurivars by Stiamot, the Coronal. In Prestimion, which takes place much later, we read that Stiamot, many years later, tried to travel to ask forgiveness of the Danipiur, the leader of the Piurivars, but died before he was able to finish that journey.

Silverberg said (in the interview cited above, with Freund, Datlow, and McCoy) that "I knew that Lord Valentine's Castle needed a sequel to deal with the problem of the disgruntled Shapeshifters." He said the same thing in other interviews.

There is another interesting aspect of revenge in Pontifex. The Piurivars have a long memory. They remember sacrificing two sea-dragons in their holiest place, on land, long before humans came to Majipoor. They believe that they have so defiled the place, and themselves, that they abandon it. However, the greatest of the sea-dragons tells (through telepathy) Faraataa, Piurivar leader who thinks he is leading his people to atone for this sin:
The gods gave themselves willingly, that day in Velalisier. It was their sacrifice, which you misunderstand. You have invented a myth of a Defilement, but it is the wrong myth. . . . The water-king Niznorn and the water-king Domsitor gave themselves as sacrifices that day long ago, just as the water-kings give themselves yet to our hunters as they round the curve of Zimroel. (p. 362--this idea, of a willingness to be sacrificed by intelligent beings, is reinforced in "Seventh Shrine.")
Silverberg's characters don't always feel that they need revenge. The sea-dragons go further--they willingly offer themselves as victims.

Religion, with comparison to Jack Vance
Although he doesn't spell out its theology, clearly Majipoor, and, presumably, Silverberg, consider that religion is important, and often, although not always, beneficial. Not so with Vance, who never presents religion as anything but empty, and usually dangerous, ritual. Vance's priests, or the equivalent, are usually greedy and hypocritical.

The Lady of the Isle, although a living human person, is, in a sense, worshipped by the inhabitants of Majipoor. They address prayers to her. There is, however, another sort of deity for Majipoor, understood as above all, and, somehow, influencing and controlling events.

Here is a dialog near the end of Castle (p. 375):

Deliamber said . . . "It may be that the present troubles of the realm are the beginning of the retribution for the suppression of the Metamorphs."
Valentine stared at him. "What do you mean by that?"
"Only that we have gone a long way, here on Majipoor, without paying any sort of price for the original sin of the conquerors. The account accumulates interest, you know. . . . perhaps the past is starting to send us its reckoning at last."
"But Valentine had nothing to do with the oppression of the Metamorphs," Carabella protested. . . .
Deliamber shrugged. "Such things are never fairly distributed. What makes you think that only the guilty are punished?"
"The Divine--"
"Why do you think the Divine is fair? In the long run, all wrongs are righted, every minus is balanced with a plus, the columns are totaled and the totals are found correct. But that's in the long run. We must live in the short run, and matters are often unjust there. The compensating forces of the universe make all the accounts come out even, but they grind down the good as well as the wicked in the process."
"More than that," said Valentine suddenly. "It may be that I was chosen to be an instrument of Deliamber's compensating forces, and it was necessary for me to suffer in order to be effective."

Pontifex, in a sentence, is about the long run--righting all wrongs. It is a story of sin, sacrifice, and redemption. The book begins by describing how the life of Majipoor is falling apart, with the agents being, in part, the metamorphs, and ends with the establishment of these Piurivars as equal and participating members of the society of Majipoor. Throughout the book, there is frequent mention of higher powers:
"We have no choice in that: it is the will of the Divine. Is that not so?" (p. 24. The speaker is Aximaan Threysz, an ancient and respected Ghayrog matriarch and farmer.)
"Noor groaned. 'The Divine spare me!'" (p. 27. Noor is an government agricultural agent.)
"By the Divine, if you could know how I long to see the sun again!" (Valentine speaking, p. 47)
"But is he acceptable to the Divine, my friends?" (A human, claiming that Valentine should not be Coronal, pp. 129-130)

Actually, the humans who came to Majipoor long ago are not the only beings who have sinned. Their sin was not "original sin," or not the original one on the planet. The Piurivars sinned, at least in their own eyes, by sacrificing two sea-dragons, before humans ever came to the planet. Here is a dream of a Piurivar:
"In the beginning was the Defilement, when a madness came over us and we sinned against our brothers of the sea," he cries. "And when we awakened and beheld what we had done, for that sin we destroy our great city and go forth across the land. But even that was not sufficient, and enemies from afar were sent down upon us, and took from us all that we had, and drove us into the wilderness, which was our penance, for we had sinned against our brothers of the sea. And our ways were lost and our suffering was great and the face of the Most High was averted from us, until the time of the end of the penance came, and we found the strength to drive our oppressors from us and reclaim that which we had lost through our ancient sin. . . ." (Pontifex, p. 118)

Throughout the Majipoor books, it is clear that there is a higher power. The land-dwelling inhabitants speak of The Divine. The sea-dragons speak of "That Which Is." (All words capitalized in the original.)

(An aside here: in my view, Silverberg has a genius for naming characters, or at least for inventing names. Not all fantastic writers have been so good. Tolkien was, but he was drawing on the languages that he had created to produce those names. Silverberg, so far as I know, did not create any languages for Majipoor, but there is music in some of the names above these lines: Deliamber, Carabella, Aximaan Threysz.)

An on-line chat, apparently held in 1999, and apparently no longer available on-line, includes the following:
R Silverberg: Advocating any doctrine seems to me a violation of the reader-writer relationship.
OrsonScottCard: Obviously I'm not a fan of the genre.
RSilverberg: Exploring, yes. Peddling, no,
RSilverberg: Christianity is at least as worth exploring as atomic theory.
RSilverberg: In fiction, I mean.
. . .
RSilverberg: I was once asked to provide a quote for a Christian novel by Roger Elwood. He was astounded when I pointed out I wasn't Christian.
RSilverberg: And that Zeus was about as real to me as Jehovah.

I believe Silverberg has set out to explore Christianity in the Majipoor writings. It isn't the only thing he explores, and I doubt if he would say it's the main one, but it's part of the exploration. What has he explored? At least four themes closely related to Christianity. As I have said, one of these is revenge, or, rather, forgiveness and love instead of revenge. He has also explored sacrifice, in several ways. Valentine goes to the Piurivars, knowing that he may be killed, in Pontifex, because he is willing to be sacrificed for the good of Majipoor as a whole. Dekkeret's lovely cousin dies, killed by a madman who is trying to kill Prestimion, in Prestimion. Her death brings Dekkeret, who will eventually become Coronal, to Prestimion's attention. The Water-Kings, or seadragons, allow the Piurivars to kill them in a sacrificial ritual. Several warriors die gladly so that their leaders may live. A third is sin, and its consequences. Although there is forgiveness, evil leads to destruction, desolation, and death. Tying all these together is the theme of redemption. Valentine, and, later, Prestimion and Dekkeret, realize that Majipoor needs redemption--some act of love to free them from the consequences of wrong.

Sorcerers of Majipoor: revenge and religion
Sorcerers of Majipoor is set long before the time of Valentine. The plot is this: sorcerers have become prominent in the land. Most people consult them. The wealthy hire them to tell the future, and find things, and even, sometimes, to perform magic. The Pontifex is dying. Coronal Confalume (remembered for the throne he had built, in the marvelous Castle, the throne that Valentine ascended) will become Pontifex. He has chosen Prestimion to be the next Coronal. Although a Coronal's son has never succeeded a Coronal to the throne, Confalume's daughter, Thismet, and her sorcerer, persuade Thismet's twin brother, Korsibar, that he is the man most fit to succeed. (He is not--he is selfish, vain, and shallow, and has not paid much attention to the details of government.) The sorcerer casts a spell of confusion on everyone but Korsibar when the Pontifex dies, and Korsibar seizes the crown and proclaims himself Coronal. Confalume, the new Pontifex, still confused, does not dispute this rash act. Prestimion decides that he cannot accept Korsibar, and that no one should, so rebels. Many follow him, including, apparently, his distant cousin, Dantirya Sambail, the Procurator, the most powerful man on Zimroel, the second-largest continent of Majipoor. Eventually, there is war. Dantirya Sambail betrays Prestimion, and suggests to Korsibar that Prestimion be lured into the valley below a great dam, then have the dam breached. Prestimion escapes, but most of his army, and thousands of innocent farmers, do not. Prestimion, never a believer in sorcery, flees to the city where the most powerful sorcerers live, and decides to try again to remove Korsibar by force. He raises another army, this time with sorcerers in it. Thismet decides that she has no place in Korsibar's Castle. Her sorcerer has left her for her brother, the false Coronal. Her brother does not give her any power, and ignores her. She leaves Castle Mount, and travels to join Prestimion, and becomes his consort. Battle is joined again. Thousands perish, including Korsibar and Thismet, both slain by her former sorcerer, who betrays Korsibar. Prestimion, still not been a devotee of sorcery, reluctantly decides that the only thing that will heal Majipoor is to have the two most powerful sorcerers perform one last sorcery--they make everyone in the whole world, including themselves, forget that Korsibar ever existed, that wars were ever fought, that the dam was breached. Only Prestimion and two of his friends, Septach Melyn and Gilaurys, will remember. The three of them believe that these terrible events, and their effects, are over.

A word about sorcery--in the two previous Valentine books, there is a little sorcery. Two of the races, Vroon and Su-Suheris, have what might be called extra-sensory powers. Autifon Deliamber, who is with Valentine almost from the beginning of his restoration, is a Vroon. Deliamber is able to find ways for Valentine and his companions to travel, by projecting himself, or his senses, ahead to find safety. There is little else in the Valentine books that indicates that sorcery had any prominence. In Sorcerers, it seems that sorcery has recently come to prominence, in part because of the recent arrival of the two races that are most likely to practice it. (Others, including humans, also do.) Apparently it loses its appeal, and its influence, during the reign of Prestimion, or some time after that.

Religion, in Sorcerers, is fractured. There is still some acknowledgement of the Divine. However, it is clear that sorcery has become not only a wide-spread practice, but belief in it has become a religion, or many religions:

So there was no contending against the tide of magic and fear. In a thousand cities furious mages came forth, saying, "This is the way of salvation, these are the spells that will restore the world," and the people, doleful and frightened and hungry for salvation, said, "Yes, yes, show us the way." In each city the observations were different, and yet in essence everything was the same everywhere, processions and wild dances, shrieking flutes, roaring trumpets. Omens and prodigies. Sorcerers, p. 33.

Clearly Silverberg understands, as some authors of fantastic fiction do not, (No less than Tolkien, a faithful Roman Catholic, has been accused of this) that religion plays an important part, often positive, sometimes not, in the lives of people, and this should be reflected even in fantastic worlds. Here are two examples, spoken by Prestimion, from page 264:

"Item two, Korsibar's done something foul and dark and blasphemous by crowning himself like that. Such deeds are inevitably repaid on high. . . ."

"It's well known I have no use for sorcerers and such-like flummery. To that extent I'm a skeptic; but that doesn't mean I'm godless, Dantirya Sambail. There are forces in the universe that punish evil: this I do believe. The world will suffer if Korsibar's left to go unopposed. My own private ambitions aside, I feel he must be taken down, for the good of all."

Near the close of Sorcerers, Prestimion, like Valentine,  rejects violence. He has Dantirya Sambail in his power:

Nothing unhappy had befallen him that Dantirya Sambail had not had a hand in, somewhere. Prestimion felt himself grow hot with fury. Strike at him, he thought, and you are striking at all your misfortunes in a single thrust. . . .
"Go ahead," the Procurator said, "Shove it home, cousin!"
"What a pleasure that would be," said Prestimion. "But no. No, cousin, no." Not like this; not the slaughter of a prisoner, even this one. He could not. He would not. All his wrath had turned away. There had been enough killing for now. (pp. 598-9, emphasis in original)

Prestimion has him put into prison. He also puts a Vroon wizard, who changed sides more than once during the conflict, into the charge of a man named Barjazid, and tells him to take the wizard to Suvrael, the desert continent. The wizard has been working on devices to contact the mind at a distance.

Lord Prestimion: revenge and religion continued
An aside, before I consider the main plot and themes of this work. In Chronicles, Hissune accesses a memory left behind by Dekkeret, which has this statement in the second paragraph. "It was as an act of penance that Dekkeret had undertaken a voyage to the burning wastes of barren Suvrael." (p. 100) Prestimion gives more of the background of this story. Prestimion sees Dekkeret, a commoner, and believes that he has qualities of greatness. He elevates him to the Castle, to training for leadership. Part of that is a trip to Zimroel. After many days as a bureaucrat, Dekkeret goes on a hunting trip. The guides are not friendly, and don't respect Dekkeret and his companion, a noble from the Castle. The quarry animal appears. He goes after it, and kills it, running past his guide as he engages the animal. It develops that the beast has injured the guide, and, when Dekkeret returns to the scene, she is dead. Others do not blame Dekkeret. Indeed, the woman probably would have died in any case, but Dekkeret asks for assignment to Suvrael as penance.

Lord Prestimion continues Sorcerers. Several things which seemed settled aren't really settled. Varaile, a young commoner, with a wealthy widower for a father, is in charge of her household. A servant leaps to her death out of a window, killing two tourists in the street. Others are affected, also. There is a madness that strikes randomly. Not everyone is affected, but too many are. People have horrible headaches, or stop functioning for a few minutes, or go mad, and attack others, or jump off boats. As nearly as anyone can understand, they are in despair. Prestimion, now Coronal, thinks that these troubles are because so many of the citizenry are trying to deal with the changes that came about as a result of the enormous sorcery he ordered, which was designed to put all memories of Korsibar, and the war, out of people's minds. They don't seem able to remember how their friends, relatives, or acquaintances died, or they have forgotten that they existed. They have made up stories about how and why missing people are missing. Confalume, still Pontifex, does not remember that he had any children. He cannot remember Thismet and Korsibar. Prestimion fears that there is a price to pray for the suppression of all this truth.

Besides his two friends, who know what has happened, Prestimion tells Dantirya Sambail enough of what happened to explain why the latter is imprisoned, because Prestimion doesn't feel that he can keep the second most powerful man on the planet in jail for no apparent reason. Dantirya Sambail does not beg forgiveness, and escapes. Prestimion tells a few others, also. He has told his Su-Suheris mage, Maundigand-Klimd (who, by the way, claims, and acts as if, his sorcery is a science, not magic). Prestimion tells his mother, who has become Lady of the Isle, one of the powers of Majipoor, and Variale, who has become his wife, while on a visit to the Isle. In his despair, he tells them: "I thought I was healing the world. Instead, I was destroying it. I opened the gateway for this madness that consumes it now, the full dimensions of which have only become apparent to me today." (p. 394) A little later, Variale remarks that Prestimion must hate Dantirya Sambail, who seems to be at large, and raising an army to rebel. Prestimion realizes that he does hate him.

The King of Dreams
King concludes the second trilogy. Dantirya Sambail's poison-taster, Mandralisca, is a consummately evil man. He establishes a kingdom of his own in Zimroel, with five of Sambail's nephews as fronts for his leadership. A Barjazid, kept by Dinitak from coming to the Castle, goes to Mandralisca, with the secret of thought-projecting helmets that can be used to attack enemies in another continent. Mandralisca uses a helmet to send horrible dreams to members of Prestimion's family. Prestimion's brother is driven to take his own life by Mandralisca's visitation. Prestimion, now Pontifex, believes that the government must go to war against Mandralisca and his followers. However, Dekkeret, now Coronal, hopes that there is some method short of outright war. He, like Valentine, wants to win by projecting goodness. Dinitak Barjazid, now Dekkeret's best friend and confidante, also has the secret of the thought-projecting helmets. He acts to protect Dekkeret from evil thought projection, and Mandralisca is overthrown, without a war. Just before his final overthrow, one of Mandralisca's most trusted lieutenants, Thastain, an innocent farm boy placed into events he has not understood, understands how evil Mandralisca is, and gives his life to protect Dekkeret. Septach Melyn, Prestimion's old friend, as a representative of the Pontifex, kills Mandralisca, but dies himself.

During the time leading up to Dekkeret's expedition to Zimroel to overthrow Mandralisca, he receives powerful messages, apparently from the Divine, that he must do something to change the way things are done on Majipoor. At the end, he decides that what he must do is to set up Dinitak Barjazid as the first King of Dreams, who will punish evil-doers all over the planet.

Mr. Silverberg, himself, found the previous incarnation of this document, and e-mailed me about what I had said about religion and his work. See here.

Thanks for reading! Read Silverberg, if you wish.

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