I remember Silverberg fondly from the days in my teens when I lived SF. He had ideas as good as Asimov but heaps more style and strong characters. I went back to him because it was late at night, I’d been reading a lot of theology and one of his books was sitting unread on my shelf.

In short

Kingdoms of the Wall is a competent SF novel that kept me reading but didn’t astound.

The Plot

Kingdoms of the Wall has an excellent setup: a massive mountain dominates the people who live at its bottom. Each year, the village sends up forty pilgrims to attempt to reach the summit and meet with the gods they believe live there. But only a couple ever return and these are either mad or silent. Yet still four thousand people compete each year for the privilege of being one of the pilgrims. The narrator, Poilar, is courageous and ambitious but not particularly intelligent. He wants to get to the summit and achieve glory without really knowing why.  His best friend wants to discover the meaning of it all.The climb toward the summit is a perfect narrative device. Reading a narrative can be so easily construed as climbing toward a summit. I expected, like the inhabitants of the village that there might be something special at the top…

Spoiler Alert

…Alas the summit was disappointing. It’s exactly as you thought it might be : the gods are humans who landed here long ago.

Silverberg is such an accomplished SF writer and I could feel him writing this in automatic, at least with the end.

I’m not disappointed I read it; Silverberg took me on an enchanting journey through strange lands where pilgrims have left their quest for the summit and made their new homes.