Tower Of Glass (1970), by Robert Silverberg

togThis is a compact SF novel of two hundred pages which concerns an egomaniac tycoon who constructs a 1200 meter tower in the arctic circle in order to communicate with an extra-terrestrial intelligence. In doing this, he uses a labour force of androids, who he has invented, and who worship him as a God in their underground religion. The novel follows the construction of the tower, as the androids begin to agitate for civil rights.

The novel is thereby a first-contact narrative, as well as an android story. Here, the androids are fully conscious entities, emotionally, spiritually, even politically. The narrative also plays heavily with religious allegory and images: the androids are red-skinned, have their own bible (quoted at length), and the tower resembles a futuristic tower of Babel. Even further, the android God has a son, who is having an affair with a droid named Lilith. The use of these analogies feels speculative and playful, rather than didactic. Additionally, in its portrayal of the businessman, Krug, the novel is an examination of egomania and obsession.

I have read better novels by Robert Silverberg, particularly Downward To The Earth and Dying Inside, but this book was a worthwhile read overall. Some of the descriptive passages about the tower are beautiful in a poetic way, and there are interesting ideas about a world where instant transportation is possible. Krug’s impassioned thoughts and ambitions are also a highlight; they capture ably the impression of an obsessed mind put towards a narrow purpose. I should mention there is semi-frequent android sex throughout, with each other and with humans. This does not feel gratuitously done or unnecessary. Tower Of Glass is a good book, perhaps to be read as a companion to Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, with its extensive look at android life.

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