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The Way They Wove the Spells in Sippulgar: 06/27/11
There was a time when I was enchanted by everything I read by Robert Silverberg. Over the years though my tastes in books and his approach to writing have drifted apart somewhat. Now I find his science fiction hit or miss.
"The Way They Wove the Spells in Sippulgar" was published in the October / November 2009 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It follows a man on a journey to a far dessert town to investigate the disappearance of his brother-in-law. Sippulgar has always been a place he has wanted to visit so he goes with mixed emotions and is soon enchanted by one of the local cults.
Silverberg does a wonderful just at creating memorable cities and cultures. Sippulgar on paper reminds me of how Liore is shown in the first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist (either anime version). Liore's a sparkling dessert town in the grips of a cult leader and Sippulgar follows magical beliefs and ancient religions that other parts of Majipoor have left behind.
But... I have problems with Majipoor itself. When I first read Lord Valentine's Castle I didn't notice how massively huge the planet is supposed to be. I only noticed it in a cursory fashion when the action turns to the castle itself which is built in proportions to make the fabled Tower of Babylon seem like a doll house.
Here though the story seems to spend a lot of time describing how big Majipoor is. And yet travel doesn't seem to take much longer than it does here. But Majipoor doesn't have extremely high tech transportation. And all this thought about how things just don't add up geographically got in the way of my enjoyment of the good parts of what happens at Sippulgar.