Lord Valentine’s Castle introduced the world of Majipoor, a very large planet with magical elements. Basically, while there are a few aliens in the picture and even references to occasional starships, it’s really a place where Silverberg can write a straight fantasy adventure. It’s also a much more typical, and conventional, adventure novel than the “drugs will set you free” psycehdelia of a A Time of Changes.
The main character, Valentine, appears near a city in Majipoor with no real memory of who he was or where he came from. This is actually a nice device for Silverberg to introduce his setting, as the main character is largely unfamiliar with the world around him. Valentine does have a lot of cash and a few talents – he’s smart, agile, and good at winning people’s confidence. Having nothing else to do, he signs on with a crew of travelling jugglers (he can’t juggle to begin with, but he picks up the skill with uncanny ease).
From here, two of Majipoor’s main features kick in. First, dreams are incredibly important in the culture of Majipoor, and most magic on Majipoor seems to involve psychic dream manipulation. Valentine begins to “receive” dreams that hint at his true identity, and lead him on a quest to uncover and recover it. Second, we’re told the planet is extremely large, with twenty billion inhabitants, so this is a long quest, and we get the grand tour of Silverberg’s new creation along the way.
This novel is really the opposite of A Time of Changes . It’s decently written and fast-paced. It’s extremely conventional; without spoiling it, I’ll just say that the plot is one of the most basic plot formats for a fantasy story. In the end, Silverberg delivers a novel that is more entertaining but even less interesting. Even his combination of sf and fantasy seems rather pointless. Putting a fantasy world in a science fiction universe is a great idea, but it has no bearing on this story (perhaps it means more in the sequels?)