Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nebula Update: A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg

A Time of ChangesA Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book won the 1971 Nebula award for Best Novel, so I read it as part of my project to read all such award winners. I vaguely recalled starting to read it before and never being able to make it through.

Well, I got to the end, and then remembered reading the whole thing. Can't remember when -- 5 years ago or 20?

The middle is very nice -- pure Silverberg world-building in the style of Lord Valentine's Castle (aside: this book won the Nebula, and none of the Majipoor books was nominated??!). The beginning and end are weaker, dealing with two peculiarities of the work -- the world's insistence that individuals hide their individuality (the word "I" is considered an obscenity), and the narrator's attempt to overcome that through the use of drugs.

At times, these themes seem very dated -- rooted in the 1960s/1970s. Silverberg handles them well, though, showing the downfall of the narrator in fairly subtle terms. On the one hand, since he's fighting for individuality, we're inclined to root for him. On the other hand, his insistence that he's got this wonderful drug with no side effects (despite all evidence to the contrary) seems a little familiar and turns him into a pathetic figure.

I'm now up to having read 31 of 45 Nebula winners. This one was harder to find, so I bought it used off Amazon. That worked pretty well, since I was under no pressure to return in to the library. I could read it a few chapters at a time, as parenting permitted. As it turned out, I finished the second half on a fairly empty flight back from New Orleans, as we were able to spread out and both kids slept most of the flight.

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