Although Silverlock was fairly well received by critics, it was largely ignored by the reading public when it first appeared and remained out of print for many years, despite a brief renaissance in 1966. The novel later was “discovered” by science-fiction fans, who were responsible for persuading Ace Books to republish it in 1979, with a number of subsequent reprintings.
The novel is the story of A. Clarence Shandon, a man disillusioned with his life who is nicknamed “Silverlock” for a streak of white in his hair. He is cast adrift by a shipwreck and clings to a piece of mast already occupied by a stranger who gives his name as Golias. They drift together for some time before beaching on an island. Silverlock is not well read and thus does not suspect that he is in no ordinary circumstances when the mast drifts past a ship in wild pursuit of a white whale. He does not realize the implications when, after abandoning Golias unconscious on the beach, he finds that the island is inhabited solely by a lovely, mysterious, woman with a bunch of pigs. Naturally, Circe enchants him and turns him into a pig.
After Silverlock is rescued by Golias, they swim to a nearby island, where they steal a boat from Robinson Crusoe’s cannibals and set out to sea again. Picked up by a Viking ship, they participate in a raid on the mainland and thus reach “The Commonwealth.”
The Commonwealth of Letters contains people, places, and animals from various myths, folktales, legends, and pieces of literature from everywhere in the world. In Silverlock’s journeys, he meets many of them. Because of his ignorance of literature, he fails to recognize them for what they are, frequently causing him problems.
Although Silverlock is separated from Golias in the raid, they had agreed to meet at Heorot. His adventures on the way there include sharing a meal with Natty Bumppo, a night with Robin Hood, and a visit to the Mad Tea Party, among other things. These adventures help to acclimate him, though he remains ignorant of the circumstances involved with the people he meets.
After being reunited, Golias and Silverlock undertake a mission to help a friend of Golias. As they journey across the Commonwealth, their adventures and the characters they meet keep them busy. While visiting an oracle, Apollo gives Silverlock a quest that leads him through a number of harrowing adventures, including...
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