Roma Eterna

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 21, 2004

Roma Eterna by Robert Silverberg

Only 3 people out of the 13 who showed up for the discussion had finished this alternate history collection of short stories. One person hadn’t read any of the book and 4 did not plan to finish it. Almost everyone (12 people) had read Silverberg before.

Although the book is marketed as a novel, it is actually a collection of stories (most published previously in Asimov’s). The stories are related only by the theme of a Rome that continues eternally (or at least through the last story which is set in 2723A.D.), but is often on the verge of falling. Silverberg’s history roughly parallels real history, with the Roman equivalent of historic events such as Magellan’s circumnavigation and the French Revolution. Most of the ancient history buffs in the group enjoyed this book (Renee and Kurt actually agreed on a book!!!), but other readers found it dull, particularly the first two stories. Some readers liked how the great historic moments were told from the point of view of non-historic characters on the sidelines, and preferred Roma Eterna to Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. Other readers found this story-telling style left the stories lacking in interest, devoid of plot and action, dry, and emotionally removed.

Only a writer with a long publication record like Silverberg’s could have gotten a book like this published, where the main character is Rome, the Eternal City.

— Sandy Kayser