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The first explosions seemed very far away: a string of distant, muffled bangs, booms, and thuds that might have been nothing more than thunder on the horizon. Joseph, more asleep than not in his comfortable bed in the guest quarters of Getfen House, stirred, drifted a little way up toward wakefulness, cocked half an ear, listened a moment without really listening. Yes, he thought: thunder. His only concern was that thunder might betoken rain, and rain would spoil tomorrow's hunt. But this was supposed to be the middle of the dry season up here in High Manza, was it not? So how could it rain tomorrow?
It was not going to rain, and therefore Joseph knew that what he thought he had heard could not be the sound of thunder'could not, in fact, be anything at all. It is just a dream, he told himself. Tomorrow will be bright and beautiful, and I will ride out into the game preserve with my cousins of High Manza and we will have a glorious time.
He slipped easily back to sleep. An active fifteen-year-old boy is able to dissolve into slumber without effort at the end of day.
But then came more sounds, sharper ones, insistent hard-edged pops and cracks, demanding and getting his attention. He sat up, blinking, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. Through the darkness beyond his window came a bright flash of light that did not in any way have the sharpness or linearity of lightning. It was more like a blossom unfolding, creamy yellow at the center, purplish at the edges. Joseph was still blinking at it in surprise when the next burst of sound erupted, this one in several phases, a low rolling roar followed by a suddenemphatic boom followed by a long, dying rumble, a slow subsiding. He went to the window, crouching by the sill and peering out.
Tongues of red flame were rising across the way, over by Getfen House's main wing. Flickering shadows climbing the great gray stone wall of the façade told him that the building must be ablaze. That was incredible, that Getfen House could be on fire. He saw figures running to and fro, cutting across the smooth, serene expanse of the central lawn with utter disregard for the delicacy of the close-cropped turf. He heard shouting and the sound, unmistakable and undeniable now, of gunfire. He saw other fires blazing toward the perimeter of the estate, four, five, maybe six of them. A new one flared up as he watched. The outbuildings over on the western side seemed to be on fire, and the rows of haystacks toward the east, and perhaps the field-hand quarters near the road that led to the river.
It was a bewildering, incomprehensible scene. Getfen House was under attack, evidently. But by whom, and why?
He watched, fascinated, as though this were some chapter out of his history books come to life, a reenactment of the Conquest, perhaps, or even some scene from the turbulent, half-mythical past of the Mother World itself, where for thousands of years, so it was said, clashing empires had made the ancient streets of that distant planet run crimson with blood.
The study of history was oddly congenial to Joseph. There was a kind of poetry in it for him. He had always loved those flamboyant tales of far-off strife, the carefully preserved legends of the fabled kings and kingdoms of Old Earth. But they were just tales to him, gaudy legends, ingenious dramatic fictions. He did not seriously think that men like Agamemnon and Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan had ever existed. No doubt life on Old Earth in primitive times had been a harsh, bloody affair, though probably not quite as bloody as the myths that had survived from that remote era suggested; but everyone was quite sure that the qualities that had made such bloodshed possible had long since been bred out of the human race. Now, though, Joseph found himself peering out his window at actual warfare. He could not take his eyes away. It had not yet occurred to him that he might be in actual danger himself.
All was chaos down below. No moons were in the sky this night; the only illumination came from the flickering fires along the rim of the garden and up the side of the main wing of the house. Joseph struggled to make out patterns in the movements he saw. Bands of men were running up and down the garden paths, yelling, gesticulating furiously to each other. They appeared to be carrying weapons: rifles, mainly, but some of them just pitchforks or scythes. Now and again one of the riflemen would pause, drop to one knee, aim, fire into the darkness.
Some of the animals seemed to be loose now, too. Half a dozen of the big racing-bandars from the stable, long-limbed and elegantly slender, were capering wildly about, right in the center of the lawn, prancing and bucking as though driven mad by panic. Through their midst moved shorter, slower, bulkier shapes, stolid shadowy forms that most likely were the herd of dairy ganuilles, freed of their confinement. They were grazing placidly, unconcerned by the erupting madness all about them, on the rare shrubs and flowers of the garden. The house-dogs, too, were out and yelping: Joseph saw one leap high toward the throat of one of the running men, who without breaking stride swept it away with a fierce stroke of his scythe.
Joseph, staring, continued to wonder what was happening here, and could not arrive at even the hint of an answer.
One Great House would not attack another. That was a given. The Masters of Homeworld were bound, all of them, by an unbreakable webwork of kinship. Never in the long centuries since the Conquest had any Master struck a blow against another . . .The Longest Way Home. Copyright © by Robert Silverberg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted December 9, 2008
Fifteen years old Joseph Keilloran has lived a life of privilege with his destiny of one-day becoming the Master of House Keilloran. Currently Joseph is ten thousand miles from home visiting relatives at Getfen House when a massive civil uprising occurs against the local Masters. Bewildered by the uprising of the Folk, Joseph feels foolishly safe since he belongs to another House far distant from the revolution led by estate Foreman Jakirrod. Chambermaid Thustin persuades Joseph to flee if he wants to live because Jakirrod¿s followers are killing all the Masters and anyone loyal to them. <P>Joseph treks through a wilderness that is as alien to him as anything he has encountered, but he knows that if Jakirrod¿s troops find him he is dead. The youth struggles to find food and shelter in the wilds after spending his life always being pampered and served. He meets strange beings, traveling THE LONGEST WAY HOME in order to survive. <P>Though he offers nothing radically new, Robert Silverberg provides science fiction fans with an exciting coming of age adventure with a teen hero who must adapt 180 degrees if he is to survive his quest home. The story line is action-packed and provides just enough description and references to support the alien life forms that Joseph will encounter on his journey. This epic trek will please the myriad of Mr. Silverberg¿s fans while sending new readers on a trek to find other novels by one of the genre¿s Masters. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 3, 2014
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Posted November 25, 2012
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