Starman’s Quest

The cover shows two teens in space suits, obviously another attempt to crack the young adult (“juvenile” as it was then called) market without it being stated overtly. The title was likely calculated to point back to Undersea Quest, also for the teen market. Robert Silverberg was all of 23 when he wrote this, even though it was his tenth novel to be published. (At least tenth: does anyone know all his pseudonyms?) It was also his third Gnome title, although the first two were as by Robert Randall, in collaboration with Randall Garrett.

Starman’s Quest is the story of two teens, one of whom goes to space while the other stays home thereby leading to their ages diverging because of time dilation. Unfortunately, that’s also the plot of Heinlein’s Time for the Stars, a juvenile published two years earlier. Heinlein’s juveniles were published by the mainstream giant Scribner’s, which had a tiny SF juvenile line consisting of Heinlein and one or two others. For some reason, SF juveniles were considered legitimate but SF for adults was not. The terribly august literary powerhouse Farrar, Straus and Giroux never touched the field until it published Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time in 1962 as a juvenile. It would be decades before they published an adult genre SF book (by an American; they did reprint some English titles). Even Heinlein needed to return to Gnome to get some of older stories republished. Silverberg would become a giant of the field in the 1960s and be published by mainstream houses but the entire field, the entire publishing industry, and the entire culture had to go through revolutions before that happened.

Floyd C. Gale reviewed the book for the December 1959 Galaxy:

Exciting story ingredients abound, but too many happenstances and line-of-least-resistance writing steal too much of its effectiveness.

Starman’s Quest, by Robert Silverberg, 1958, title #69, 185 pages, $3.00, 5000 copies printed, 2000 bound 1958, 1000 bound 1960?

Hardback. Cover by Stan Mack. “First edition” stated on copyright page. No printer designated. Back cover: 35 titles. Gnome Press address given as “P. O. Box 161, Hicksville, N. Y.

Variants, listed in order of priority

1) Currey (A), Dark blue-gray boards, spine lettered in yellow, printed 1958
2) Currey (B), Gray boards, spine lettered in red, printed?
3) Currey (C), Gray cloth, spine lettered in red, printed 1960?

NOTES: Currey has several inconsistencies. In both CURREY and the 2002 Revision, the date is listed as 1959. Both CHALKER and KEMP list the date as 1958, which matches the copyright page. The 2002 Revision lists the title as STAR MAN’S QUEST, three words, which is inconsistent with any spelling on the book itself and with the entry in CURREY. CURREY lists two states, (A) Dark blue-gray boards, spine lettered in yellow and (B) Gray cloth, spine lettered in red, which matches CHALKER. The 2002 Revision lists the third variant and inserts it between the other two. Therefore CURREY (B) first edition is not the same as CURREY (B) for the 2002 revision. I have not seen this change mentioned anywhere, and it is sure to be confusing. I have not seen the new variant, either.

Some listings for the book mention black boards, spine lettered in yellow. To my eye this appears to be identical with the known dark blue-gray boards of the earliest priority. Probably the same for listings of blue boards, which I have not had a chance to directly compare.


Starman's Quest jacket frontStarman's Quest blue-gray cover

Starman's Quest gray boards coverStarman's Quest gray cover

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