The Last Song of Orpheus: Old story told beautifully

The Last Song of Orpheus Kindle Edition by Robert Silverberg (Author) fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Robert Silverberg The Last Song of OrpheusThe Last Song of Orpheus by Robert Silverberg

Finally. After all of the conflicting information we get from the numerous myths, legends, writings, and operas about Orpheus, we have the true story told by Orpheus himself as he writes his life story for Musaeus (with some help from Robert Silverberg).

In The Last Song of Orpheus, all the bits and pieces of Orpheus’s life are tied together into a single chronological narrative and Orpheus tells his own version of how he obtained his famous lyre and used it to charm Pharaoh,  the Furies, Persephone, Charon the Styx ferryman, and Cerberus the three-headed dog. He also tells the tale of his disastrous voyage with Jason and the Argonauts when they set out to recover the Golden Fleece and he relates some juicy tidbits about other heroes of legend such as Heracles and (my favorite) Odysseus. Some things he’s kept to himself, “neither confirming nor denying” popular rumor, but he does take the chance to explain why he turned back and looked at Eurydice as they were leaving the Underworld.

There’s not much new in The Last Song of Orpheus — you’ve likely heard these stories before. But there is much beauty here:The Last Song of Orpheus Kindle Edition by Robert Silverberg (Author)

There is no sound like the sound of the lyre. It does not pierce one’s ears like the sound of the flute, nor does it shake the hills like a properly struck drum, nor set the heart atremble with warlike impulses like the cry of the trumpet. But it achieves other things, and they are great things, for it is perfect for the accompaniment of the human voice, fitting the contours of the singing tone the way a woman’s body fits a man’s.

I especially enjoyed listening to Orpheus explain how “music is the divine mathematics” and that the universe, with its planets and moons in perfect relation to each other, like the chromatic scale, is really an infinitely large “harmonious mathematical structure.” He implies also that the inner workings of a single cell are likewise arranged, and these ideas, I think, are truly beautiful.

The Last Song of Orpheus — (2010) Publisher: In the course of his extraordinary — and prolific — career, Robert Silverberg has made an enormous contribution to imaginative literature. In The Last Song of Orpheus, his longest story in more than a decade, Silverberg has given us one of his most remarkable accomplishments, a resonant recreation of one of the central myths of western civilization. In this mesmerizing narrative, Orpheus — wanderer, demigod, and master musician — recounts his own astonishing story. That story ranges from the depths of the Underworld, where he attempts to rescue his beloved but doomed Eurydice, to the farthest, most dangerous corners of the ancient world, where he journeys in search of the legendary Golden Fleece. It is a tale of men and gods, of miraculous encounters, of the binding power of inescapable Fate. More than that, it is a meditation on the power of the creative spirit, and on the eternal human search for balance and harmony in a chaotic universe. Beautifully constructed and masterfully written, The Last Song of Orpheus is Silverberg at his incomparable best, showing us a deeply familiar series of scenes, themes, and characters from a fresh, wholly original perspective.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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