The Alien Years

The Alien Years

2.7 9
by Robert Silverberg
     
 

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“Sobering and frightening…. Silverberg’s rich characters, his dead-on-target vision of modern society, his mastery at building tension—all are in evidence in this notable outing from one of the very best.” —Publishers Weekly

The Entities have arrived on Earth, fifteen feet tall with impenetrable defenses and inscrutable…  See more details below

Overview

“Sobering and frightening…. Silverberg’s rich characters, his dead-on-target vision of modern society, his mastery at building tension—all are in evidence in this notable outing from one of the very best.” —Publishers Weekly

The Entities have arrived on Earth, fifteen feet tall with impenetrable defenses and inscrutable motives. As conquerors, they have no demands, no explanations, simply harsh consequences should they be challenged. Releasing a plague and plunging the world into a new Dark Age, the Entities seem unbeatable. But, one family at least—the Carmichael clan led by Colonel Anson Carmichael—will never give up the resistance.

THE ALIEN YEARS is an epic story told over multiple generations by master of thoughtful science fiction Robert Silverberg. Can ideas of freedom survive in the face of an overwhelmingly powerful enemy? “A remarkable study of human endurance and patience that belongs in most SF collections.” —The Library Journal

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Editorial Reviews

John Peter Andersen
Not much of Robert Silverberg writings are translated into Danish. If you want to pursue your addiction to this genuine Mastro of the genre you have to make yourself able to read his works in their untainted native language; being a practising attorney with a past of long study stays in the U.S. I guess I am lucky to have attained that gratifying level even if there will always be small linguistic oddities popping up from time to time reminding you that you are swimming in the ocean of a foreign language. I assume that my addiction to science fiction started when I was about 14 (H.G. Wells and Jules Verne), and I am pretty sure it is going to stay on till my term is up. I and other devoted science fiction addicts need a constant delivery of mind drugs that expands your moments of intellectual experience into great vistas of imaginative delight. Without it you would dry up and eventually become just one of so many Billions of inhabitants on Planet Earth that go about their daily tasks never stop wondering for one second about our unique situation here on this green lush rock encircling the sun on the outer fringe of the Milky Way, far out on the country side, away perhaps from all the frightening technocivilisations at the core of the galaxy with their dark military ambitions and expansion policies. All the questions that the probing of science has brought to our attention - spurred lately by the justly acclaimed American Pathfinder mission - Silverberg's works are a ticket to a vivid artistic interpretation of all such themes that may enthral your mind.

Once "the Alien Years" hit the street, therefore, I had one - lickety-split - shipped over from the U.S. I like the book, but it does have flaws. Firstly, to a devoted Silverberg reader like me, it is displeasing to revisit old material. It may be a trend that has taken root and may be profitable, but I don't like it when authors transform their accomplished short story fiction into novels. The Carmichael story "Against Babylon" and "The pardoners tale" - both strong and impressive short stories published in "The collected stories of Robert Silverberg" of 1992 have been reused directly in the Alien Years; so has fragments of "Hannibal's Elephants" from the same collection. Sure, the fusion is done with all the skill that the gifted hand of Silverberg is capable of, but why serve old food to the readers? And no explanation offered in a preface or something in order to shed some light on this blatant recycling of art. I don't like it now, and I didn't like it when Silverberg did it in "Hot Sky at Midnight" and "Starborne" - both novels being expansion stories of prior short story fiction. It may be good business - cash returns is a consideration as Silverberg himself correctly stated in his introduction to "The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party" - but its simplicity does leave a whiff of sour taste in your mouth. It is not what you expected from a book announced as "His Epic Masterpiece". Masterpieces aren't borne into the world by reprocessing your former writings and squeeze them for another story that the readers immediately recognize as old wine watered down, with the unmistakably taste of stale yesterday. I am not saying that such a trick cannot be pulled diligently and succesfully once in a while, but it is not a comforting thought that the two recent Silverberg books that I am aware of ("Hot Sky at Midnight" and "Starborne") prior to "The Alien Years" also were but magnified version of earlier short stories. For a fresh reader with no past in Silverberg reading this may mean little, of course; for the large number of experienced Silverberg readers that do appreciate his excellent art in the world of science fiction it is bad morale. That said, it should be emphasised that "The Alien Years" is a book that you do want to read. Its birth mark of being a surgical grafting of older short story material does mean, however, that the book feels too long, probably about 30 percent. It lacks the succinct nature of communication of one of its main characters, the ol' Colonel. In a novel you can go off course for whole chapters at a time and no one will mind - says Silverberg the aforementioned introduction - but in "The Alien Years" one does indeed notice. The book contains too many trivialities and is only skating the surface of the social impact on our civilisation that alien visitors truly would bring about if they came. His somewhat hasty and sparse description of the infrastructural effects caused by loss of electricity - e.g. the money market which is a social glue of all human interaction above the level of anarchy - is superficial to an extent that is not really in line with his usual artistic capabilities. The social impact should have been explored in more depth to add reliability to the story and to visualise the repercussions in more detail. Some readers have complained that the aliens - termed the "Entities" are much too mysterious. I don't think so. That is one point where Silverberg has cleverly moulded the idea to fit the story. The aliens are really aliens and we cannot hope to grasp their intentions in any meaningful way. We can grasp, however, that they do break down our human culture and enslave us to fit their obscure needs. And as always with occupying forces - some of our brethren and sisters will choose to collaborate as some did in Denmark and Norway during the German occupation in world war two; they became, as in Silverberg's book "quislings" - after the Norwegian Nazi puppet of that very name (equalling an Arnold Benedict).

And the ending of "The Alien Years"? Some have complained about it. The ending, however, is logical and acceptable - because it is truly enigmatic and beyond any understanding just as the aliens themselves. The ending signals that we have absolutely no idea what has been going on and why it has come to an end. Some shift of administrative policy in a far away alien bureaucracy (17th. office of colony affairs) in a twin star system sixty light years away - ? Who knows. I find the ending significantly better that the one of "The Face of the Waters" - the tamest ending of a great book, in my humble opinion. There, I expected a clever Mayflower story (troubled and haunted humans settling down on foreign coast in hostile alien environment, now getting foothold and hopefully finding some iron ore to make some weapons to fight ourselves a place in the wilderness and make the aliens know who we stubborn bipedals really are and thereby preserving human culture for the posterity...), but no, alas, it had to evaporate into a surrealistic cloud of transforming humans into something else not human - and as a private member of that race I have some idiosyncrasies about that, excuse me.

Well, you go buy "The Alien Years" and read it. The touch of Silverberg is, after all, unmistakable. And let us hope that the publisher and Silverberg himself may at some point come to re-evaluate publishing policies and choose to show timely restraint and not go on blindly refurbishing the past short stories into future novels. "The Aliens Years" could have been done without its source short stories material, but it would have taken more effort and thereby cost more money. The balance of money and art is a sensitive one. A couple of more of the short story novels of the same breed as "The Alien Years" and one might begin to get the impression that Silverberg himself believes that he has peaked his curve of artistic life and may as well recuperate whatever dividends that still might be pulled out of replaying his writings in new wrappings. Having followed, with increasing delight, Silverberg's writings for some twenty years (vacuumcleaning whatever used book stores that I have come upon when in the U.S and uncritically buying everything with his name on in unfaltering confidence of its artistic value) I would dislike believing that to be the truth, and I don't believe it is. The authorship deserves better - and better may in times of maturity mean lesser, but with the depth and subtlety that remains the gift of an ol' hand of science fiction without whom my moments of intellectual satisfaction in this world would be far less than they are.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Silverberg (Sorcerors of Majipoor) returns to his 1986 short story '"The Pardoner's Tale' as the inspiration for this sobering and frightening novel of extraterrestrial invasion. The narrative opens seven years hence, with the arrival of alien spaceships on Earth, an event that has a devastating effect on the Carmichael family. Pilot Michael Carmichael is killed trying to fight the huge firestorms in Los Angeles that erupt when the alien ships land; his wife, Cindy, leaps at the chance to go aboard one of the UFOs and become an interpreter for the 'Entities'; and his brother, Colonel Anson Carmichael, is summoned by Washington to help cope with the situation. Before there is time to react, however, the aliens' intent becomes known as they disrupt all electricity and plunge civilization back into the Dark Ages. Silverberg's story is clear-eyed, credible and occasionally bleak. Faced with an omnipotent enemy, mankind's only alternative is to refuse to capitulate and to attempt to endure. Isolated and relatively safe in their mountain ranch, the extended Carmichael clan tries to go on with their lives while working on ways to resist their oppressors. Silverberg's technique of leapfrogging several years ahead between chapters furthers momentum, and while the enemy in his story is disturbingly inhuman, the focus of the tale is the humanity of his characters and their efforts to keep hope alive. The novel's ending seems arbitrary, but Silverberg's rich characters, his dead-on target vision of modern society, his mastery at building tension--all are in evidence in this notable outing from one of the very best.
VOYA - Kevin S. Beach
With great name recognition and several Nebula and Hugo award nominations, Silverberg has a reputation for writing exciting and contemplative works. This novel is basically a history of a fifty-five-year time period on Earth, in our very near future, when aliens land and control the energy resources and freedom of its inhabitants. The invaders abduct a few prisoners then take away all electrical power for two years, essentially ignoring the earthlings who are thrown into darkness. One of the hostages taken on the first day is the wife of a pilot from the Carmichael family, a military clan destined to lead what little resistance efforts Earth can muster. Eventually the aliens allow limited electronic ability, and computer hackers begin reassembling a basic international web. One even eventually taps into the aliens' computers and establishes communication with them, offering his assistance for personal gain. Within a generation, a frightening government led by alien sympathizers is issuing work orders for slave labor and requiring travel passes. Efforts to fight the aliens result in mass executions, plagues, or global energy shutdowns. The Carmichaels build an isolated compound and create their own self-sustaining society. Heartbreakingly, the family's leadership passes to a generation that never knew life before the aliens came. Efforts continue to infiltrate the aliens' defenses and slowly, small bits of knowledge become a plan. The aliens eventually do leave and it is interesting to find out how it finally happens. The characters are nicely drawn and the evolving society that accepts the alien presence as just another part of life is fascinating. Readers will enjoy the descriptions of the post-technological society and the efforts of the few to resist. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults).
Library Journal
In the first decade of the new millennium, a sudden invasion by an alien species known only as the Entities brings about the swift and total conquest of Earth except for a small pocket of resisters led by Col. Anson Carmichael and his remarkable family. The latest novel by sci fi grand master Silverberg chronicles a half-century of struggle and frustration as generations of Carmichael sons and daughters strive to keep alive the concept of freedom in the face of overwhelmingly superior conquerors. Silverberg remains a superb raconteur whose patriarchal tendencies serve as a minor flaw in a remarkable study of human endurance and patience that belongs in most sci fi collections.
Glenn Jonas
Despite the considerable pleasures of Silverberg's lucid prose, this story might have been better told at half the length. -- The New York Times Book Review
Norman Spinrad
Robert Silverberg's The Alien Years is exemplary. The title and the simple back cover copy say it all, plotwise: "THEY CAME. THEY SAW. THEY CONQUERED. WE SURVIVED."
Asimov's
Kirkus Reviews
Alien invasion yarn from the veteran author of Sorcerers of Majipoor. Seven years from now, huge alien spaceships appear all over the Earth; in California, a ship's exhaust carelessly causes vast brushfires that pilot Mike Carmichael dies trying to extinguish. Mike's weird New Age wife, Cindy, goes aboard the alien vessel, relays a message of peace and friendship, and refuses to leave. All other attempts to communicate with the aliens fail. Meanwhile, Mike's brother, retired Colonel Anson Carmichael III, is summoned to the Pentagon to discuss the situation. The aliens come in three varieties: the dominant squid-like Entities; the balloon-like Spooks; and the huge blue Behemoths. Clearly, the aliens are highly advanced and can't be defeated, but what do they want? The Colonel returns to his California ranch none the wiser, but soon the aliens switch off the world's electricity, and governments, economies, and social orders collapse overnight. The Colonel gathers the Carmichael clan at his ranch and founds a center of resistance to the aliens, who can control anyone by means of the Touch (a telepathic inquisition) and the Push (an irresistible compulsion). Attempts to damage the aliens or their installations are met with devastating plagues and other brutal reprisals. The years pass. Some humans, like computer whiz Karl-Heinrich Borgmann, collaborate with the aliens. The Carmichaels continue to scheme and plot—ineffectually, but they never give up through more than half a century of aloof occupation. Realistic, often intriguing, but too episodic to be fully involving.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781497611801
Publisher:
Open Road Media
Publication date:
04/01/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
488
Sales rank:
209,563
File size:
978 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Alien Years


By Robert Silverberg

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1994 Agberg, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-1180-1


CHAPTER 1

SEVEN YEARS FROM NOW


Carmichael might have been the only person west of the Rocky Mountains that morning who didn't know what was going on. What was going on was the end of the world, more or less, but Carmichael—his name was Myron, though everybody called him Mike—had been away for a while, reveling in a week of lovely solitude and inner retiming in the bleak beautiful wasteland that was northwestern New Mexico, not paying close attention to current events.

On this crisp, clear autumn morning he had taken off long before dawn from a bumpy rural airstrip, heading westward, homeward, in his little Cessna 104-FG. The flight was rough and wild all the way, a fierce wind out of the heart of the continent pushing his plane around, giving it a scary clobbering practically from the moment he was aloft.

That wasn't so good, the wind. An east wind as strong as this one, Carmichael knew, could mean trouble for coastal California—particularly at this time of year. It was late October, the height of Southern California's brush-fire season. The last time there had been rain along the coast was the fifth of April, so the whole region was one big tinder-box, and this hard hot dry wind blowing out of the desert was capable of fanning any little spark it might encounter into a devastating conflagration of blowtorch ferocity. It happened just about every year. So he wasn't surprised to see a thin, blurry line of brown smoke far ahead of him on the horizon by the time he was in the vicinity of San Bernardino.

The line thickened and darkened as he came up over the crest of the San Gabriels into Los Angeles proper, and there seemed to be lesser zones of brown sky-stain off to the north and south now, as well as that long east-west line somewhere out near the ocean. Evidently there were several fires at once. Perhaps a little bigger than usual, too. That was scary. This time of year in Los Angeles, everything was always at risk. With a wind as strong as this blowing, the whole crazy town could go in one big firestorm.

The air traffic controller's voice sounded hoarse and ragged as he guided Carmichael toward his landing at Burbank Airport, which might have been an indication that something special was happening. Those guys always sounded hoarse and ragged, though. Carmichael took a little comfort from that thought.

He felt the smoke stabbing at his nostrils the moment he stepped out of the plane: the familiar old acrid stink, the sour prickly reek of a bad October. Another instant and his eyes were stinging. You could almost draw pictures in the dirty air with the tip of your finger. This one must indeed be a lulu, Carmichael realized.

A long, skinny guy in mechanic's overalls went trotting past him on the field. "Hey, guy," Carmichael called. "Where's it burning?"

The man stopped, gaped, gave him a strange look, a disbelieving blink, as though Carmichael had just come down from six months in a space satellite. "You don't know?"

"If I knew, I wouldn't have asked."

"Hell, it's everywhere. All over the goddamn L.A. basin."

"Everywhere?"

The mechanic nodded. He looked half crazed. Again the sagging jaw, again that dopey bozo blink. "Wow, you actually mean to say you haven't heard about—"

"No. I haven't heard." Carmichael wanted to shake him. He ran into this kind of cloddish stupidity all the time, and he hated it. He gestured impatiently toward the smoke-fouled sky. "Is it as bad as it looks?"

"Oh, it's bad, man, real bad! The worst ever, for damn sure. Like I say, burning all over the place. They've called out every general aviation plane there is for firefighting duty. You better get with your warden right away."

"Yeah," Carmichael said, already in motion. "I guess I'd better."


He sprinted into the main airport building. People got out of his way as he ran through. Carmichael was a sturdily built man, not particularly tall but wide through the shoulders and deep through the chest, and like all the Carmichaels he had fierce blue eyes that seemed to cast a searchlight beam before him. When he moved fast, as he was doing now, people got out of his way.

You could smell the bitter aroma of the smoke even inside the terminal. The place was a madhouse of panicky commuters running back and forth and yelling at each other, waving briefcases around. Somehow Carmichael jostled his way to an open data terminal. It was the old-fashioned kind, no newfangled biochip-implant stuff. He put a call through to the district warden on the emergency net, and the district warden said, as soon as he heard who was talking, "Get your ass out here on the line double fast, Mike."

"Where do you want me?"

"The nastiest one's a little way northwest of Chatsworth. We've got planes loaded and ready to go out of Van Nuys Airport."

"I need time to pee and phone my wife, okay?" Carmichael said. "I'll be in Van Nuys in fifteen."

He was so tired that he could feel it in his teeth. It was nine in the morning and he'd been flying since half past four, and battling that bastardly east wind, the same wind that was threatening now to fan the flames in L.A., had been miserable work every single mile. He was fifty-six years old, no kid any more, the old juices flowing more sluggishly every year. At this moment all he wanted was home and shower and Cindy and bed. But Carmichael didn't regard firefighting work as optional. Not with the possibility of a firestorm always hanging over the city.

There were times when he almost wished that it would happen, one great purging fire to wipe the whole damned place out.

That wasn't a catastrophe he really wanted to see, not even remotely; but Carmichael hated this giant smoggy tawdry Babylon of a city, its endless tangle of clotted freeways, the peculiar-looking houses, the filthy polluted air, the thick choking glossy exotic foliage everywhere, the drugs, the booze, the divorces, the laziness, the sleaziness, the street bums, the street crime, the shyster lawyers and their loathsome clients, the whips and chains, the porno shops and the naked encounter parlors and the massage joints, the virtual-reality chopshops, the weird people speaking their weird trendy lingo and wearing their weird clothes and driving their weird cars and cutting their hair in weird ways and sticking bones through their noses like the savages they really were. There was a cheapness, a trashiness, about everything here, Carmichael thought. Even the grand mansions and the fancy restaurants were that way: hollow, like slick movie sets.

He sometimes felt that he was bothered more by the petty trashiness of almost everything than by the out-and-out evil that lurked in the truly dark corners. If you watched where you were going you could stay out of reach of the evil most or even all of the time, but the trashiness slipped up sneakily around you no matter how well you kept sight of your own values, and there was no doing battle with it: it infiltrated your soul without your even knowing it. He hoped that his sojourn in Los Angeles was not doing that to him.

There had been Carmichaels living in Southern California ever since General Fremont's time, but never any in Los Angeles itself, not one. He was the first of his tribe that had managed somehow to wind up there. The family came from the Valley, and what Carmichaels meant when they spoke of "the Valley" was the great flat agricultural San Joaquin, out behind Bakersfield and stretching off far to the north, and not the miserable congested string of hideous suburbs just over the hills from Beverly Hills and Santa Monica that Angelenos understood the term to connote. As for Los Angeles itself, they ignored it: it was the cinder in the eye, the unspeakable blotch on the Southern California landscape.

But L.A. was Cindy's city and Cindy loved LA. and Mike Carmichael loved Cindy, everything about her, the contrast of her slim pixy daintiness against his big blunt burly potato-nosed self, her warmth, her intensity, her playful quirky sense of fun, her dark lively eyes and glossy curling jet-black bangs, even the strange goofy philosophies that were the air of life to her. She was everything he had never been and had never even wanted to be, and he had fallen for her as he had never fallen before; and for Cindy's sake he had become the family Angeleno, much as he detested the place, because she could not and would not live anywhere else.

So Mike Carmichael had been living there the past seven years, in a little wooden house up in Laurel Canyon amidst the lush green shrubbery, and for seven Octobers in a row he had dutifully gone out to dump chemical retardants on the annual brush fires, to save the locals from their own idiotic carelessness. One thing that just about every Carmichael grew up believing was that you had to accept your responsibilities, no complaining, no questions asked. Even Mike, who was as near to being a rebel as the family had ever produced, understood that.

There would be fires. That was a given. Qualified pilots were needed to go up there and drop retardants on them and put them out. Mike Carmichael was a qualified pilot. He was needed, and he would go. It was as simple as that.


The phone rang seven times at the home number before Carmichael hung up. Cindy had never liked answering machines or call forwarding or screen-mail or anything like that. Things like that were dehumanizing, mechanistic, she said. Which made them practically the last people in the world without such gadgets; but so be it, Carmichael figured. That was the way Cindy wanted it to be.

Next he tried the little studio just off Colfax where she made her jewelry, but she didn't answer there either. Probably she was on her way to the gallery, which was out in Santa Monica, but she wouldn't be there yet—the freeways would be worse even than on a normal day, what with all these fires going—and so there was no sense even trying her there.

That bothered him, not being able to say hello to her right away after his six- day absence, and no likely chance for it now for another eight or ten hours. But there was nothing he could do about that.

He took off from Burbank on emergency clearance, fire-fighting authorization. As soon as he was aloft again he could see the fire not for to the northwest It was denser now, a greasy black column against the pale sky. And when he stepped from his plane a few minutes later at Van Nuys Airport he felt an immediate blast of sudden unthinkable heat. The temperature had been in the low eighties at Burbank, damned well hot enough for nine in the morning, but here it was over a hundred. The air itself was sweating. He could see the congealed heat, like droplets of fat. It seemed to him that he heard the distant roar of flames, the popping and crackling of burning underbrush, the troublesome whistling sound of dry grass catching fire. It was just as though the fire was two miles away. Maybe it was, he thought.

The airport looked like a combat center. Planes were coming and going with lunatic frenzy, and they were lunatic planes, too. The fire was so serious, apparently, that the regular fleet of conventional airborne tankers had been supplemented with antiques of every sort, planes forty and fifty years old and even older, converted B-17 Flying Fortresses and DC-3S and a Douglas Invader and, to Carmichael's astonishment, a Ford Trimotor from the 1930s that had been hauled, maybe, out of some movie studio's collection. Some were equipped with tanks that held fire-retardant chemicals, some were water-pumpers, some were mappers with infrared and electronic scanning equipment glistening on their snouts. Harried-looking men and women were in frantic motion everywhere, making wild gestures to each other across great distances or shouting into CB handsets as they tried to keep the loading process orderly. It didn't seem very orderly.

Carmichael found his way to Operations HQ, which was full of haggard people peering into computer screens. He knew most of them from other fire seasons. They knew him.

He waited for a break in the frenzy and tapped one of the dispatchers on the shoulder. She looked up, nodded in a goggly-eyed way, then grinned in recognition and said, "Mike. Good. We've got a DC-3 waiting for you." She traced a line with her finger across the screen in front of her. "You'll dump retardants along this arc, from Ybarra Canyon eastward to Horse Flats. The fire's in the Santa Susana foothills and so far the wind is from the east, but if it shifts to northerly it's going to take out everything from Chatsworth to Granada Hills, right on down to Ventura Boulevard. And that's only this fire."

"Holy shit! How many are there?"

The dispatcher gave her mouse a couple of clicks. The map of the San Fernando Valley that had been showing on the screen went swirling into oblivion and was replaced by one of the entire Los Angeles basin. Carmichael stared, aghast. Three great scarlet streaks indicated fire zones: this one out at the western end of things along the Santa Susanas, another nearly as big way off to the east in the grasslands north of the 210 Freeway around Glendora or San Dimas, and a third down in eastern Orange County, back of Anaheim Hills. "Ours is the big one so far," the dispatcher said. "But these other two are only about forty miles apart, and if they should join up somehow—"

"Yeah," Carmichael said. A single wall of fire running along the whole eastern rim of the basin, maybe—with ferocious Santa Ana winds blowing, carrying airborne rivers of sparks westward across Pasadena, across downtown L.A., across Hollywood, across Beverly Hills, all the way to the coast, to Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu. He shivered. Laurel Canyon would go. The house, the studio. Hell, everything would go. Worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, worse than the fall of Nineveh. Nothing but ashes for hundreds of miles. "Jesus," he said. "Everybody scared silly of terrorist nukes, and three carloads of dumb kids tossing cigarettes can do the job just as easily."

"But this time it wasn't cigarettes, Mike," the dispatcher said.

"No? What then, arson?"

Again that strange stare and blink, much like the one the field mechanic had given him. "You serious? You haven't heard?"

"I've been in New Mexico the last six days. Way off in the outback."

"You're the only one in the world who hasn't heard, then. Hey, don't you ever tune in the radio news when you drive?"

"I flew there and back The Cessna. Listening to the radio is one of the things that I go to New Mexico to get away from having to do.—For Christ's sake, heard what?"

"About the E-Ts," said the dispatcher wearily. "They started the fires. Three spaceships landing at five this morning in three different corners of the L.A. basin. The heat of their engines ignited the dry grass."

Carmichael did not smile. "E-Ts, yeah. You've got one weird sense of humor, kiddo."

The dispatcher said, "You think it's a joke?"

"Spaceships? From another world?"

"With critters fifteen feet high on board," the dispatcher at the next computer said. "Linda's not kidding. They're out walking around on the freeways right this minute. Big purple squids fifteen feet high, Mike."

"Men from Mars?"

"Nobody knows where the hell they're from."

"Jesus," Carmichael said. "Jesus Christ God."


Half past nine in the morning, and Mike Carmichael's older brother, Colonel Anson Carmichael III, whom everyone usually spoke of simply as "the Colonel," was standing in front of his television set, gaping in disbelief. His daughter Rosalie had phoned fifteen minutes before from Newport Beach to tell him to turn it on. That would not have occurred to him, otherwise. The television was here for the grandchildren, not for him. But there he was, now, a lean, long-legged, resolutely straight-backed and stiff-necked retired army officer in his early sixties with piercing blue eyes and a full head of white hair, gaping like a kindergarten kid at his television set in the middle of the morning.

On the huge state-of-the-art screen, set flush into the pink ashlar facing of the Colonel's recreation-room wall, the same two stupefying scenes had been alternating on every channel, over and over and over again, for the entire fifteen minutes that he had been watching.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Alien Years by Robert Silverberg. Copyright © 1994 Agberg, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth, and Lord Valentine’s Castle. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented him with the Grand Master Award. Silverberg is one of twenty-nine writers to have received that distinction. 
Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth, and Lord Valentine’s Castle. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented him with the Grand Master Award. Silverberg is one of twenty-nine writers to have received that distinction. 

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Alien Years 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I tried my very best to like this book. I gave it two hundred pages to get my attention, but it just bored me. The characters didnt interest me in the least bit, and the story was just to slow. I went to sleep three times trying to read it. I just gave up after awhile. To all out there looking for a good Alien Invasion read I suggest Footfall, or The Forge of God. I just cannot recommend this book.
Book_Reader_222 More than 1 year ago
(Originally written July 18, 2005) Hi! I'm an avid book reader of old who fell away from the habit during college. I recently decided to go back to my old hobby, and bought a bunch of books from my local new and used book store. I decided I might as well share my thoughts. My first was "The Alien Years," by Robert Silverberg. I read some of his collaborations with Isaac Asimov years ago, and so maybe my expectations were a little high. The concept was great. Aliens come down and take over, but instead of blowing us all away like in "War of the Worlds" or "Independence Day," they set themselves up as unstoppable tyrants and, directly or indirectly, enslave us as a race. A medium-long book covering years and years of time. Plenty of time to explore this concept. Sounded great. Sadly, in my eyes, the book did not live up to its potential. I enjoyed the second half better than the first, but overall, it kept feeling as though the best parts of the story were taking place ... "off stage?" "Between acts?" Something. Imagine having a forty page chapter build and build toward an event ... and then the event itself is summarized in the last page or two. Next chapter, seven years later. Again, I feel that the book DID get better as it moved along, so I do not regret sticking with it. More and more action started taking place DURING the chapters instead of between them. Over all, I guess the book was "just OK." It had the potential to BE "War of the Worlds" stretched out over fifty years, but instead, it just became something else entirely, something else not as exciting as it could have been.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The aliens have arrived and do nothing. The resistance is led by the Carmichael family and they do nothing too. Finally, after nearly 500 pages, the aliens leave as mysteriously as they arrived. The reader is left to wonder why they ever read this far.
Guest More than 1 year ago
. . .it's not quite there. Flashes -- no, great expanses of wow! what an idea -- that gets bogged down from time to time. Still, it earns a solid three stars and I've recommended it to fantasy and sci fi friends who relish books like Lord of the Rings and such. But, what an idea! Wow!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Silvergberg's book The Alien Years (ISBN 0-06-105111-X) is not the typical Earth Invasion story. In this book the citizens of Earth do not have time to put up resistance when Aliens appear and take over the world in under a week. However, there is resistance to the invasion that comes primarily from one family. The ending of this invasion is as dramatic as the ending of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. The book is well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jrcrawdad More than 1 year ago
this is not the best I've read by Silverberg, but it was entertaining and reasonably thought provoking. It needs at least 2 follow-up books to completely explore the themes introduced.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THe whole course of the novel is great. It kept me turning the pages faster and faster. I was emotionally involved with all of the characters and amazed by the Entities. An excellent read. Only a disappointingly lame ending keeps it from 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You wont like this one