Thursday, September 22, 2016
Nightwings by Robert Silverberg
The story happens in a far future Earth where apparently several civilizations have risen and gone. Humanity has reached the stars but has withdrawn back to the Earth. A group of three friends is approaching an ancient city, Room, where relics of several cycles of civilizations which span millennia can be found. One of the group is a watcher, a kind of guard for an alien invasion which will come at some undetermined date in the future. The invasion has apparently been coming for centuries, but the exact date is unknown. One is a winged female, who is able to fly at nighttime; on daytime, the "pressure of light is too heavy". The third is a mutant who isn't part of any guild – practically everyone is part of some guild which protects the interests of its members. Not being a member of any is a severe handicap. After they have arrived at the Room they have an audience with the emperor of the Room. They get a permission to go to the imperial hotel, but then the aliens attack.
In later parts of the book, the watcher who has lost his purpose (as there is no need to be on guard for an alien invasion anymore) finds a new quilt. He joins the historians at Parrish, another ancient city. There he finds out why the aliens had decided to invade earth - and it turns out that they had a pretty good reason for it. The aliens turn out to be pretty benevolent rulers, perhaps better than the humans themselves were. Later the protagonist continues his journey and finds a new purpose for his life.
A pretty good book, after I got used to pretty pompous writing style (which seemed to lighten a bit at the later novellas - the book is a fix-up of several stories which were originally published separately). I am not sure if they are more stories which happen in this world, but I should find out. Good writing and novel ideas make this a deserved classic and it hardly feels dated.