Overall, I found the story itself to be quite dull (as well as anachronistic, misogynistic, and slightly racist) at times. No news here; one has to take Old School SciFi for what it was – even though that doesn’t really excuse its writer, given that 1972 is not that far removed from us. In this respect, the fact that it was ever nominated for a Hugo just goes to prove that said award has never been a guarantor of quality.
Silverberg having been one of the least conservative sf writers of the Seventies did not immunize his work against the reproaches of contemporary readers, of course. But if that’s all the mercy he’s going to receive, heaven help the other favorites of that era.
The more commonly accepted idea of Silverberg’s place in sf history, which takes context into account, is the one expressed by Kim Stanley Robinson in this recently-published article:
“[In the 1960s and 1970s], that’s when [Silverberg] came into his own,” [Kim Stanley] Robinson noted. “When he saw that science fiction could be written in the styles of the great literary modernists, it struck sparks in him. He became one of the new wave. He’s so prolific that he popped off a half-dozen classics in rapid order – The Book of Skulls, Dying Inside, Nightwing. Those are among the books that marked that era as being the
in American science fiction. Silverberg was a big part of it.” high point