Master of Life and Death

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Categories: Science Fiction
Publisher: RosettaBooks | Date published: 09/09/2002


From Robert Silverberg's contemporary afterword: "What I wanted to do in short was to produce a masterpiece. I don't mean that word 'masterpiece' in the pretentious sense, not a sublime work of genius but merely the piece of work which a craftsman presents by way of proving that the apprenticeship is over. That required an elaborate plot. My earliest books suffered from an inability to tie up loose I studied my elders, I analyzed the means by which the science fiction writers I admired wove the strands of their stories ... I studied and I imitated and finally in Master of Life and Death, I let loose with all my thunderbolts." In The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher wrote that "Silverberg's success in maintaining complete clarity and narrative drive while 'manipulating unnumbered plots and complex concepts is a technical triumph" and Master of Life and Death, returning in this RosettaBooks edition, has the contemporaneity of Silverberg's best work. When his superior disappears, Roy Walton, the assistant director of population relocation, suddenly becomes the Master of Life and Death on an overcrowded Earth and must reapportion the population to avoid fear and panic. But this is only the first of Walton's challenges. He is confronted by menacing aliens with an ambiguous agenda which may include conquest. A renegade scientist has produced a new immortality serum which if distributed would only strain resources and deepen human misery. But how can such information be withheld and will Walton become the Master of Death alone if he suppresses that information? Manifold obstacles make efforts to solve one problem only contribute to increasing the others. Ultimately, however, Walton finds the ingenious solution which ties and resolves all of the difficulties.