(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Robert Silverberg wrote Tower of Glass in the middle section of his science-fiction writing career, after his prolific youth, which was spent turning out numerous short stories for science-fiction magazines when the genre boomed in the 1950’s, and before he emerged from a four-year hiatus to write Lord Valentine’s Castle (1980). During the 1960’s, science fiction matured from a genre overridden with technological speculation and formula plots, with little attention given to character development. Silverberg established himself as a leader of the movement to introduce more literary elements into science fiction.

Tower of Glass is not lacking in established science-fiction ingredients, but interstellar spaceships, unknown aliens, instantaneous transportation, and deciphering of the genetic code all aid in advancing a plot that is primarily character driven. The themes of the novel also dominate rather than depend on science-fiction devices.

Tower of Glass is a study in futility. Simeon’s obsessive frenzy to communicate with aliens across the galaxy starkly contrasts with his inability to understand the android aliens who surround him on Earth. Simeon’s Tower of Babel is as doomed to failure as its biblical ancestor. Likewise, the androids futilely base their entire religion, along with their hopes for a brighter future, on a man who has no more regard for them than he does for any other technological...

(The entire section is 449 words.)