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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 403

Robert Silverberg won a 1969 Hugo Award for a novella, also titled “Nightwings,” that was incorporated into the novel Nightwings. The novel focuses on plot and message, and Silverberg’s lyrical writing style makes for enjoyable reading, though the author can be faulted for his lack of character development.

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Robert Silverberg won a 1969 Hugo Award for a novella, also titled “Nightwings,” that was incorporated into the novel Nightwings. The novel focuses on plot and message, and Silverberg’s lyrical writing style makes for enjoyable reading, though the author can be faulted for his lack of character development.

Using the main character as a voice for the author, the novel warns of the faults and foibles of humanity while holding out the hope that humans may someday transcend current human nature. Even though the novel follows the main character throughout his journeys around Europe and Africa and the story is told through him, Tomis is a victim of circumstance throughout the novel. Tomis gets back together with his love interest, Avluela, as part of his fate rather than as a result of any action on his part. Even his one interesting moral dilemma, in which he faces the decision of whether to trade information he has stumbled upon for his and the Prince of Roum’s futures, positions him with insufficient knowledge to understand the choices he makes. By portraying Tomis as a basically well meaning but passive person, Silverberg creates a character with which readers will have difficulty sympathizing. He succeeds in focusing interest on humanity as the true main character of the plot.

Coming close on the heels of his more action-and adventure-oriented works of the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Nightwings is a departure into a new stylistic mode for Silverberg, one that he continued in later writings. The novel is rich in description and explanation of the future Earth depicted. Silverberg describes in detail the accomplishments of Second Cycle Earth and what Earth has deteriorated to in the Third Cycle. He explains and warns of the two mistakes Second Cycle humanity makes: first, collecting non-starfaring alien races and confining them in compounds or zoos for study on Earth, and second, using the technology of weather machines that change the location of Earth’s poles. The final sequence of events in the novel calls for the transcendence of the human race. In that, it is reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1953).

A prolific writer and editor, Silverberg tentatively explores several themes in Nightwings that he goes on to explore in more detail in later novels. Dying Inside (1972) explores the negative aspects of telepathy, Tower of Glass (1970) explores religious themes, and Son of Man (1971) is another novel of transcendence.

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