Hawksbill Station

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Hawksbill Station
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
AuthorRobert Silverberg
Cover artistPat Steir
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Hawksbill Station is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert Silverberg. The novel is an expanded version of a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in August 1967. The novel was published in 1968 and was released in the United Kingdom under the title The Anvil of Time.


Hawksbill Station was a penal colony in the Cambrian Period created by an authoritarian United States government, using time travel to exile rebels and political dissidents into the past.[1] The colony houses only male exiles, who are sent there as a "humane" alternative to execution. The machine only works one way, leaving prisoners marooned in the past.

The prison is set in a barren coastal area. The novel focuses on the relationships between the main character, the de facto leader of the colony, and his nemesis in the government, Jacob “Jack” Bernstein, both of whom were leading dissidents. It also explores the petty ideological differences among the prisoners and the confused circumstances leading to the establishment of the authoritarian government.

The prisoners, all middle-aged or elderly, are surprised by the arrival of a much younger prisoner. The newcomer, supposedly an economist, is questioned about economic theory and political ideology. His answers reveal his essential ignorance of both. This ignorance, combined with his youth, cause the prisoners to wonder if he is, in fact, a political prisoner or a common criminal, exiled for a heinous crime.

When the newcomer arrives via the time machine a second time, it is revealed that he is a police officer of a new government that overthrew the authoritarian government but was unrelated to the dissident movements of the exiles. The new government discovered the existence of Hawksbill Station and a way to travel from past to future, making it possible to retrieve prisoners from the colony. The newcomer has been sent to evaluate the prisoners and to recommend whether they are appropriate for retrieval.

With return now possible, the leader of the exiles realizes that he is a time traveler of a different sort. The struggle against the authoritarian government, his life's work, is over. His closest friends in the movement, as well as his most bitter enemies, are dead. He is tempted to visit the newcomer's future, but Hawksbill Station is now the only existence he knows.


Algis Budrys said that Hawksbill Station was Silverberg's best story.[2]

Hawksbill Station was credited by Jeff Vogel, a small indie game developer, as having influenced the design for his game Exile: Escape from the Pit, saying that while most of the game's plotlines were his, this classic short story helped shape his ideas.[3]


  1. ^ "Times Three by Robert Silverberg". 29 July 2011.
  2. ^ Budrys, Algis (November 1968). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 160–166.
  3. ^ "AMA with Jeff Vogel, Indie legend, maker of the Exile, Geneforge, Avadon, and Avernum series! • /r/pcmasterrace". 19 January 2015.


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