Novel Review - Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg


Tower of Glass
by Robert Silverberg, 1970, 208 pages
TLDR: 3 out of 5 for a decent sci-fi novel, though not my favourite by this author.


Ostensibly about the eponymous Tower, which is a giant communications tower designed by rich entrepreneur Elon Musk (here called "Simeon Krug") to send a first-contact message to a planet in a distant nebula on which intelligence has been detected. He's also building a starship that will eventually reach the place as well.

To construct both of these things, Krug has created intelligent, sapient androids in the image of humankind (except for their red skin), and it is these that he plans to send in the starship to the new planet.

However, things start to go awry as the androids, and in particular Krug's main android honcho, Alpha Thor Watchman, try to get recognition as people instead of objects. They seduce Krug's son, Manuel by setting him up with a female android (Alpha Lilith Meson) and a love triangle develops between Manuel, Lilith, and Thor.

When Manuel reveals the androids' hopes for freedom to his father (and the fact that they worship him as their creator in a church) Krug invites Thor into a 'shunt room' which allows two people to see into one another's minds. Thor's peek into the mind of his creator leads to dramatic and catastrophic consequences.


Tower of Glass is one of the ten or so SF novels that are considered Silverberg's best. And it's a decent tale with some interesting tensions and a dramatic conclusion. I didn't like it as much as The World Inside or Downward to the Earth, but that may be down to the the fact that it was mostly about androids-as-people (a theme I'm finding a bit old these days) than it is about alien contact (which is what I was expecting the book to be about). But it has some good thought-provoking elements, interesting symbology (Lilith, Thor, and the Tower of Babel being the most obvious), and a dramatic conclusion, so I have no qualms about recommending it. It was nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, but didn't win. 3 out of 5.


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