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Summary

A lone man must make a journey across a once-colonized alien planet abandoned by mankind when it was discovered that the species there were actually sentient.

Gundersen returns to Holman’s World seeking atonement for his harsh years as colonial governor. But now this lush, exotic planet of mystery is called by its ancient name of Belzagor, and it belongs once again to its native alien races, the nildoror and the sulidoror. Drawn by its spell, Gundersen begins a harrowing pilgrimage to its mist-shrouded north to witness a strange ritual rebirth that will alter him forever.

This is one of Silverberg’s most intense novels and draws heavily on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It puts listeners at the heart of the experience and forces them to ask what they would do in the same circumstances.

©1969 Robert Silverberg (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“Blends mysticism, world-building, and literary references in an inventive mix…This is perhaps SF’s finest tribute to Joseph Conrad, both in its keen moral sense and its portrayal of a vividly realized alien forest.” ( Time Out)

What listeners say about Downward to the Earth

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Profile Image for David Kent Watson
  • David Kent Watson
  • 13-08-17

A fantastic adaptation of Heart of darkness

What did you love best about Downward to the Earth?

I read it a second time just recently and it was just as good as the first. It's a exciting and compelling adaptation of heart of darkness. A redemption novel with compelling creatures and a distinctive world. So far, this is the only Robert Silverberg book I've really liked. I'm going to read another but Up The Line wasn't all that interesting to me. This book has more wisdom to it than most and best of all it has a good ending, something separate from most science fiction. Something very compelling. I won't say more!

Have you listened to any of Bronson Pinchot’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I thought the audio performance was great. Didn't think of it too much, he did a good job of pulling me into the story rather than thinking about the performance.

Any additional comments?

My only complaint is that the story line is kind of a now classic hollywood tail of white man comes to feel bad about imperialism and his role in it. A thing the character should feel but the narrative is still on the greatness of the guy, his personal learnings, not of the charecters effected by the company and imperialism. But, that complaint is a nuanced one and criticizing silverberg on that seems a little unfair. he did not grow up in a hyper aware time.

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Profile Image for Jim N
  • Jim N
  • 22-12-19

A Fascinating World

Downward to the Earth is a superb science fiction novel! For some reason, I hadn't read Silverberg before this year, despite decades of reading science fiction. I've recently begun to discover the joys of his work. He writes beautifully and this is a thoughtful book, full of symbolism, darkness, light and discovery. The world-building is excellent and Gunderson, the protagonist, is a well-developed, interesting (and introspective) character. This is the kind of book that made science fiction my favorite genre. What a joy to discover it!

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  • Andrew F Gallagher
  • 26-02-15

Love this book

I have never encountered SciFi like this. I felt as though I was inside one of the Heinlein side stories. It's a must read.

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  • Robert
  • 09-04-21

A nice contained story

Although short, as I am used to listening to over 20+ hour long audio books, this was a pleasing self contained story. The main character has an amazing arc that is full of character development as he makes his pilgrimage. And as always Bronson Pinchot gives a grade A performance.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-03-21

Good listen

it was a very well narrated story. enjoyable and kind of thought provoking at the end

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  • Shanice Joy
  • 26-03-21

Wow!

Wonderful listen! Reminds me a bit of Treason by Orson Scott Card. Very satisfying ending.

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  • Renee Cook
  • 21-03-21

Best reader for this book!

Good many voiced story, quietly and powerfully told. Raises questions regarding class, identity and transcendence.

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  • Eric A,
  • 22-01-21

A fine journey

A very good story of a man’s journey on an alien planet. Interesting concepts. Story is not so predictable. Recommend this relatively quick listen.

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  • per erik loeff
  • 09-12-20

I am pretty sure

I did like the book. Very strange and a very different story. I guess it is in the spirit of Stranger in a strange land, but I am not sure. I usually am not a very spiritual person, and I suspect that is because that I am very logical. If I don't misunderstood this story, this is kinda what main characters problem are.

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Profile Image for Michael G Kurilla
  • Michael G Kurilla
  • 12-09-20

Planetary post-colonialism

Robert Silverberg's Downward to the Earth is an exploration of post-colonialism on a planetary scale with an indigenous intelligent population. A former colonial administrator returns after relinquishment to reconcile his own sense of his former behavior. The natives have the appearance of elephants. He journeys to participate in the mysterious rebirth ceremony for which he harbors some remorse for having denied the process to a group of natives. Along the way, he reconnects with various ex-pats that have adapted in various ways to the decidedly unearthly planet. In the end, he learns answers to some of the unknowns from his former time as well as arriving at a greater understanding of the concept of a soul.

Silverberg leans heavily on Heart of Darkness and does a yeoman's effort in crafting a sci-fi version of the post-colonial scenario with the unavoidable cultural clash. In this case, rather than the classic savage versus civilized dichotomy, the alien species' lack of tool capability and written language render them at first glance as merely smart animals. As the administrator confronts his prior prejudices as he experiences his journey, the narrow Earth perspectives are dwarfed by his appreciation of the richer context around him. At the same time, the distinction between a smart animal and true intelligence, where the latter is perceived as having a soul, is displayed due to the presence of a second intelligent species. The final denouement of the rebirth ceremony was an insightful ending to this delightful tale.

The narration is superbly rendered with excellent character distinction as well as clear alien accents. Pacing is brisk.