Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Downward to the Earth
Downward to the Earth is a science fiction novel by Robert Silverberg. It is a tale of the quest for transcendence (a frequent Silverberg theme) set on another planet, and includes references to Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's classic tale of colonialism, including the name of Kurtz.
Edmund Gunderson was the Terran administrator of the colony world of Belzagor, and he returns to it after it has gained independence, feeling a sense of guilt for the way he has treated its dominant species, the elephant-like nildoror, whose animalistic appearance had kept Gunderson from taking them seriously as sentient beings. On his return, he feels a new sense of kinship with the natives, perhaps more than for the Terran tourists. The nildoror undergo a process of rebirth, and Gunderson’s greatest guilt comes from having denied rebirth to seven nildoror to make them help him repair flood damage. He encounters his old colleague Jeff Kurtz, who had undergone the rebirth ceremony only to be turned into something monstrous. Nevertheless, Gunderson dares to subject himself to the rebirth ceremony, which brings him a new understanding of the native creatures and new powers by which he can heal Kurtz and bring new understanding to others.
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