Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg

We spring toward the bed. Still stiff, I top her and take her. Gasp gasp gasp, moan moan moan. I can get nothing on the mental band. Suddenly she goes into a funny little spasm, intense but quick, and my own spurt quickly follows. We curl up together, cuddly in the afterglow. I try again to probe her. Zero. Zee-ro. Is it gone? I think it's really gone. You have been present today at an historic event, young lady. The perishing of a remarkable extrasensory power. Leaving behind this merely mortal husk of mine. Alas.

Ballantine Books, October 1973. Cover by Philip Kirkland
This is the third novel by Robert Silverberg that I've read in the past year. The others being A World Inside and Hawksbill Station. All three novels are excellent, and I can't recommend them highly enough. It's amazing when you consider the output that Robert Silverberg accomplished at the time. I've come late to reading Silverberg's novels. It should have been a natural progression from Asimov and Clarke. I'd like to blame Walden Books at my local mall when I was growing up. At some point their meager Science Fiction section got invaded by elves, dragons and runes...and I scrammed for the Mystery section. My bad, I should have looked harder for the good stuff hidden behind the hobbits and wizards. Thank God for used bookstores.

As for Dying Inside, I'm not sure I'd call it a Science Fiction novel. It's got a cover that's cool, but has nothing to do with the novel it masks. To my mind it's more of a psychological study of an unpleasant man who believes he's losing his power to read minds. It would be right at home in the Lit section, but that's not how publishers like to work. Anyway, that's the plot. But it's much deeper than that simple summary. It's the study of a man bearing his soul, warts and all, to an unknown observer (the reader? an old love? God?) and exposing his fears and insecurities not just of losing his power to probe minds, but of love, family, career and life. David Selig makes a meager living ghosting term-papers for distracted undergrads. He's brilliant enough to have made a hell of a life for himself. Instead, he lives in a cheap apartment in a bad part of town hammering out essays for students at $5 bucks a page. He ambles through life mourning the past, the loss of his girlfriend, the animosity of his sister, and the rootlessness of life. A rootlessness he blames on the diminishing strength of his ESP. Clearly there are a number of ways to interpret the novel, which made reading it such an exhilarating experience. It's a snapshot of America in the 60's and 70's, it's a study of psychology, and a portrait of the lost. Give it to an earnest undergrad in American Lit today, and let them run with it.

Anyway...I really liked it as you can tell.

Highly recommended.


  1. This sounds cool! I've only read the crime novels that Hard Case and Stark House reissued, all terrific stuff.

  2. Hi Cullen, I like those Stark House books too of his. I started reading his Science Fiction stuff last year, beginning with some short stories. What is amazing is the output he had in the late 60s with his Sci Fi novels, how many he did in that period and how good they are. Check out his novel The World Inside if you get a chance. That one is terrific.