Friday, 1 October 2010

"Dying Inside" by Robert Silverberg

Yet again I'm surprised and pleased by the SF Masterworks series, most recently for introducing me to Robert Silverberg's "Dying Inside".

"Dying Inside" sits somewhere between Kafka's "Metamorphosis" (in which a man awakes to find himself transformed into a bug) and "The Fermata" by Nicholson Baker (in which a man has the ability to stop time at will).   David Selig, the main character of "Dying Inside" is a mind-reader.   Unlike the main character of "The Fermata", he cannot bring himself to take advantage of his gift to gain an advantage (by reading stock tips, for example).  Instead, in spite of his gift, David Selig struggles through life, vainly searching for some real connection and identification with the rest of humanity.

We meet him as his powers are waning, as the ability that defines him slips away and leaves him floundering.  Even at the height of his power he has not found a connection to the people whose minds he can read, or to another telepath he encounters, or to the rare girl he finds whose mind he cannot read.  As his powers fade, he becomes more hopeless until at last something has to give.

There's something to the phrase "mind reading".  The beauty of this book is that as reader's to David Selig's narrator, we are privileged to explore his mind, to have his secrets opened to us and try to understand him.  The novel makes us perfect receivers, just as Selig is, but we are powerless to transmit back, just as he is.  Without his power, he struggles just as we all must to make a connection with others, and his drama is our drama.   This is a great book, and highly recommended.

Silverberg's "Downward to the Earth" and "Book of Skulls" are also on the SF Masterworks list, I look forward to reading those very soon.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

An ironic read or a parallel universe - you decide.
Love, Mom