I read this as part of my planned effort over the next year to thin out my library by reading some of the books I’ve been schlepping from apartment to apartment with the idea that I’ll read them someday. Someday is now! This plan worked here because this book is going straight in the recycling after this review, freeing up shelf space to buy more books.
Nightwings is a combination of three novellas, one of which won the Hugo in 1969. I didn’t notice that it was a mashing together of three novellas, so that was pretty seamless. I churned right through this in two days and Silverberg was/is seem as a stand-out in the field for a reason. There are some interesting ideas here and he knows how to write a compelling near-future world. This reads like fantasy-influenced sci-fi, which I like, and it has a dream logic edge to it. He is a strong writer and this is an easy read with a clear narrative arc.
On the negative side, I was braced for weird descriptions of women and he delivered within the first few pages. There are two female characters here and he neatly fits them into the saintly one vs the bad one. I really did not like the way he kept describing the love interest’s body like she was pre-pubescent (“her small girl-child’s breasts,” “her breasts were mere bumps”), even though the main character and two other men have sex with her. It made me feel complicit and took me straight out the novel. Also, the evil woman at one point gets turned into a small child and then he describes her naked body too. It just felt like he was determined to describe as many naked child-like women and children as he could get away with. There is tons of better science fiction out there now with characters I can relate to, and this is not a re-read or a keeper. I honestly don’t know if I’d recommend it. If you’re reading through all the Hugo winners and are ready for period-typical weird relationships with women and the book’s desire to suggest underage sex by making the character look like a child, then fine, but there are better books to read. I personally give it three stars because overall it is well-written, the aforementioned interesting ideas, and I’m glad I now understand another piece of the history of SF/F, but I hesitate to do so.