My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Some Spoilers. Review based on a second reading decades after the first time, when I was still in my teens. At the time, I remember liking this book. Now, as an adult, I find that I’m not nearly as impressed with it as I was long ago, but there are still some fun moments. Lord Valentine’s Castle is about one Valentine, who comes to wakefulness near the seaside city of Padruid, on a giant continent on a giant planet called Majipoor. He has no memory of his previous existence before this point. The story concerns itself with his quest to recover and reclaim his identity, which is pretty much established in the first chapter or so. The book, thereafter, is a long hero’s journey style story where he overcomes enormous difficulties to achieve his goal. All well and good, we’ve seen this kind of story before, and Silverberg is a great writer and a great world builder, so I was prepared to be engaged with it. The thing is, the lead character is weak. He’s a pleasant enough fellow, and likable, but he’s not very engaging. And all the supporting cast, including his incredibly convenient love interest, just seem to exist to confirm his activities and occasionally act like cannon fodder. Characterization was minimal at best, we don’t really see people– even the protagonist and antagonist in any level of detail. The real star of the novel was the setting– the planet Majipoor, a sort of fantasy/SF fusion setting, being a place colonized by Humans after fighting the aboriginal natives into submission. Majipoor is so vast.. a planet roughly the size of Jupiter, but inhabitable, that the humans have invited several other alien races to settle on the planet to help them rule. Due to the unique dream control technology which helps to govern the planet, all residents, aliens and human alike, are capable of receiving messages through dream states. This apparently has a lot to do with the harmonious government of Majipoor. No war, no crime and not even murder has occurred on Majipoor in 14,000 years. Until the events of LORD VALENTINE’S CASTLE that is. Valentine’s Eastward track through the giant continent that he is on, to the Isle of Sleep, to the Confrontation with the False Coronal that took his place, that’s the real story in Lord Valentine’s Castle. The conspiracy is often forgotten in page after page of travelogue writing, and I found myself not minding much, the setting was the best part of the novel.
Conclusion. Three Stars, really more like two and a half. Characters were mediocre at best, plot was long and meandering, the conclusion telegraphed. The travel elements of the book make it worth a read, at least once.