Read The Chalice of Death Online

Authors: Robert Silverberg

The Chalice of Death






“Where Silverberg goes today, Science Fiction will follow tomorrow.”

Isaac Asimov, author of

“[He] seems capable of amazements beyond those of mere mortals.”

The Washington Post Book World

“A master of his craft and imagination.”

The Los Angeles Times

“One of the great storytellers of the century.”

Roger Zelazny, author of the Chronicles of Amber series

“Silverberg is a master writer in any genre.”

John Shirley, author of

“Robert Silverberg's versatile, skeptical intelligence controls a lavish and splendid imagination.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, author of
The Left-Hand of Darkness

“Robert Silverberg is a master storyteller.”

SF Signal

“A major force in science fiction.”

The New York Times Book Review

The Chalice of Death

Three Novels of Mystery in Space

Robert Silverberg




Thirty thousand years ago, Earth reigned as the supreme force for law and order in the galaxy. Now her mighty star empire lies vanquished and long forgotten, and Earthman Hallam Navarre must seek out and recover his ancestors' secret weapon—or be doomed to suffer the fate of the lost homeworld he's never seen


Interplanetary fugitive Johnny Mantell flees authorities to the artificial pirate world of Starhaven, sanctuary for the criminals and misfits of space. There he hopes to find a new home for himself—if only he's willing to submit to the space station's iron-fisted dictator and his potentially mind-shattering psychprobe


Deep-space colonist Baird Ewing travels to Earth for the first time in the thousand years since his ancestors last departed, seeking aid against the aliens who have set out to destroy his colony. But the weapon he finds upon the ancient Earth can save only one planet, and Ewing must decide which homeworld will live and which will be utterly annihilated

A Biography of Robert Silverberg


This is the second of two omnibus volumes collecting the science-fiction novels that I wrote for the Ace Double Novels series back in the early years of my career, more than fifty years ago. The other omnibus is called
The Planet Killers: Three Novels of the Spaceways;
and before I discuss the three books in this one, I want to recapitulate part of the introduction to the other collection, byway of setting the historical context for Ace Books and my involvement with their Double Novels program.

I was a college sophomore in the fall of 1953, hoping in a rather desperate way to become a professional science-fiction writer some day, when the first Ace Double Book appeared. In those days it was possible to buy all the science fiction that was published, even on a college sophomore's budget, because there really wasn't very much of it—four or five magazines a month, and one or two paperbacks at most—and so I snapped it up.

It was an unusual-looking book. For 35 cents—five or six dollars in today's purchasing power—you got a short, thick paperback containing A. E. van Vogt's novel
The World of Null-A
. But if you turned the book over, flipping it from top to bottom in the process, you discovered a second van Vogt novel on the back—
The Universe Maker
. Two for the price of one—182 pages of small type for
, and 138 more for
Universe Maker
! And, though the greatly ballyhooed
World of Null-A
was plainly the main event here, one could not actually consider one book to be the lead novel and the other its backup, because each was printed upside down in relation to the other, so that the volume had neither “front” nor “back,” just two novels in one binding, each with its own cover and each inverted vis-à-vis its companion.

As I examined it I don't think I allowed myself the fantasy of having some book of mine published in the Ace Double series just yet. It would have been much too far-fetched. I still hadn't managed to sell even one short story, though just a couple of months earlier I had had an article on science-fiction fandom accepted by one of the professional s-f magazines. That sale had brought me $30, but to me an article was a somewhat lesser thing than a story, and I would not think of myself as a real science-fiction writer until I had sold a story or two. Selling novels, perhaps, would come later, but I tried to keep my adolescent fantasies as plausible as I could.

So I bought the van Vogt Ace Double Book more as an avid collector of science fiction than as a potential author of Ace Doubles. Indeed there was no other reason then for me to have bought the book, for I had read
World of Null-A
three or four years before, in almost complete bewilderment, in its original magazine version, and, though I didn't know it at the time, I had already read
The Universe Maker
too. (It had previously been published under a different title in a 1950 issue of the pulp magazine
Startling Stories
.) But there was no indication of that in the double volume, since the title of the shorter novel was unfamiliar and the book gave a copyright date of 1953 for it. Ace Books, I was to learn, was never very fastidious about copyright information or book titles. But, as I've said, I had bought the book mainly as a collector's item, for the novelty of its back-to-back format.

A month later came a second Ace Double: Leigh Brackett's
The Sword of Rhiannon
bound with Robert E. Howard's
Conan the Conqueror
. I bought that too. I realized that these odd little Ace Doubles were something I wanted to collect as a series.

Once again, I had read the two books before. The famous Robert Howard novel was plainly labeled as a reprint. The Brackett was palmed off as an original novel, copyright 1953, but the text looked familiar, and for good reason: I had read a slightly shorter version of it, under the title of “Sea-Kings of Mars,” in the June, 1949
Thrilling Wonder Stories

The months went by, and nearly every one brought a new Ace Double: more van Vogt, an Eric Frank Russell novel, works by L. Sprague de Camp, Murray Leinster, Jack Williamson, Isaac Asimov, Clifford D. Simak. I had learned by now that the editor of the series was Donald A. Wollheim, a veteran figure whose experience in science fiction went back almost to its earliest days. The authors, that first year, were all long-established writers of the field, no newcomers among them, and the books were either reprints of hardcover novels or else reissues of recent magazine serials, disguised by new titles and copyright dates. Ace did not seem to be a market for previously unpublished fiction, not even from well-known pros.

I had by now sold a couple of stories to the lesser s-f magazines and was in the process of selling a young-adult novel to a hardcover firm, but at that early date I saw no likelihood of ever having a book of my own in the Ace series. Things changed. In the summer of 1955 one of the Ace Doubles included a novel that had never been published before, by a relatively new young writer named Philip K. Dick who had broken into the field just a couple of years earlier with a lot of short, clever stories for the pulp magazines. Then came a novel by another recent arrival on the scene, Gordon R. Dickson, and a second one by Dick. The Ace Doubles series was starting to turn into a market for new work by younger writers.

In the summer of 1955, too, though I was still in college, I broke into professional writing in a big way, with stories sold to
Astounding Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Fantastic
, and three or four other magazines. Even though these stories rarely rose above the level of minimal professional competence, there were a lot of them, a
, and my productivity alone was earning me a great deal of attention, just as theirs had done for Philip K. Dick and Robert Sheckley a couple of years before. And at the World Science Fiction Convention in New York in September, 1956, my prolific output won me recognition with a Hugo Award as Best New Writer of the Year.

That evening, after the award ceremony, Don Wollheim came up to me and said, “Do you think you'd be interested in writing novels for us at Ace?”

Ah, it was a wondrous thing to be 21 years old, three months out of college, standing there with a shiny new Hugo in my arms, and having Donald A. Wollheim inviting me to write for him, only three years after I had bought that first van Vogt/van Vogt Ace Double!

A week or so later I was having lunch with Wollheim at Steuben's Tavern, a German restaurant down the block from his midtown Manhattan office. He suggested that I send him an outline and the first three chapters of a book. That afternoon I spent an hour or so staring at the Dick and Dickson books, and one by Charles L. Harness, and a couple of Leinsters, as if merely by studying the close-packed typeface of those books I would form a Platonic-ideal notion of what an Ace Double Book ought to be. I did, in fact, have some idea of that already: just about all of them that had been published thus far were books of 40,000–50,000 words, fast-paced, heavy on color and action, rich in science-fictional wonderment. Brackett, van Vogt, Leinster, Williamson—these, I thought, correctly, were the prototypical Ace authors whose work I should emulate. One could have chosen worse role models than those.

Other books

Kit Gardner by Twilight
To Tame a Dragon by Megan Bryce
LOVING ELLIE by Brookes, Lindsey
Doña Perfecta by Benito Pérez Galdós Copyright 2016 - 2023