This stellar performance by one of the grandmasters of science fiction not only portrays a wildly imaginative possible future, but also a larger-than-life protagonist whose witty and wise outlook on life will not easily be forgotten.
Yakoub, the Gypsy King, has abdicated his throne and retreated to a lonely planet where his only companions are ghosts and snow-serpents. The Gypsies are the remnants of an ancient people who were driven from Romany Star when its sun suddenly swelled, destroying everything. Yakoub’s abdication is a ploy to remind his people of their true destiny--to return to Romany Star after the third swelling of its sun. His disappearance, however, creates a power vacuum, not only among the Gypsies but also in the Gaje (non-Gypsy) Empire, whose aged Emperor is dying without naming a successor, and who rely upon the Gypsies to pilot their starships from planet to planet.
Silverberg, the winner of one Hugo and five Nebula awards for his previous works, is noted for the humanistic philosophical content of his fiction and his emphasis on the dignity of individuals. In STAR OF GYPSIES, the author’s humanistic outlook is again evident.
There are unmistakable echoes here of Silverberg’s novel GILGAMESH THE KING (1984), in which a noble protagonist also narrates his mythic life story, but Yakoub is a more endearing character than Gilgamesh. Indeed, much of the book’s pleasure is derived from the wit and wisdom that Yakoub displays as he recalls his long adventurous life and plots his eventual triumph. This novel works on several levels: as a political allegory; as a tract on the triumphs of the outcasts and dispossessed; but most of all as an imaginative work of speculative fiction that is a delight to read.