The Longest Way Home by Robert Silverberg

The Longest Way Home by Robert Silverberg (Italian edition)
The Longest Way Home by Robert Silverberg (Italian edition)

The novel “The Longest Way Home” by Robert Silverberg was published for the first time in 2002.

Joseph Keilloran is a teenager heir of a Great House of the Masters who rule Homeworld but everything changes for him while he’s the guest of another Great House, thousands of kilometers from his home. One night, a rebellion of the Folk overthrows the government of Masters and Joseph can barely escape.

After some failed attempts to communicate with the outside, Joseph can only flee to avoid being killed. He doesn’t know how widespread is the rebellion and could be forced to travel thousands of kilometers to get back to his home. His only hope is that his relatives are still alive and must rely on help from the Indigenes and other species native to Homeworld such as the strange Noctambulos.

In the development of “The Longest Way Home”, Robert Silverberg used some very classical elements. It’s a kind of story that in the past would have been called a juvenile while today we use the “young adult” label and is a coming of age story. The plot focuses on a kind of odyssey because the protagonist is forced to embark on a long journey to his home.

The story is set on Homeworld, a planet colonized by humans during two waves first by those known as the Folk and later by those known as Masters, who took control creating a sort of feudal society. Homeworld also hosts many native lifeforms including the Indigenes, who are sentient and have their own civilization with limited contact with humans, and the Noctambulos, who have a certain intelligence.

Joseph is the eldest son of the Great House Keilloran and grew up with the awareness that one day he’ll inherit its control from his father. His education has been based on that the prospect. The society in which he lives is stable with the Masters taking care of the Folk, or so Joseph was taught.

Everything changes when the Folk start a rebellion while Joseph is the guest of another Great House. The members of the local Great House get killed and Joseph is forced to flee to avoid the same fate. The normal communication systems are are shut down so the young man can’t get in touch with his family. He can only hide and embark on a long journey home.

Joseph’s journey brings him into contact with the Indigenes and their culture and this, along with other difficulties he meets, forces him to revise his thinking and what he was taught. There’s an inner journey together with the physical one because during it he must reflect on what’s happening on Homeworld and on his encounters.

To develop the story of Joseph’s odyssey, Robert Silverberg created a world with a complex history which hosts various sentient species that have different cultures. For a long time the Masters have basically ignored the Folk’s culture and had very limited dealings with other species with whom they share Homeworld.

To survive, Joseph is forced to have an attitude very different from the one he was taught. Without technologies such as the communication devices and above all the vehicles he was used to, the boy is forced to rely on his strength but even more on the help from someone else.

Robert Silverberg avoids some cliches of this kind of story. For example, Joseph is the heir of a wealthy family but is not a spoiled brat, on the contrary he takes very seriously the prospect that one day he’ll have to run the Great House Keilloran. For this reason, he’s committed to his studies and after the rebellion uses his intelligence to face the difficulties, adapting to entirely new situations.

For these characteristics, “The Longest Way Home” is a novel in which there’s adventure but especially a lot of introspection. There are neither great inventions nor particularly original elements but I think it’s well done. It’s certainly not at the level of Robert Silverberg’s masterpieces but overall I found it a good novel. If you like introspective stories and for you a slow pace of a story focused on a single character is not a problem it may be worth reading.

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