Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg


Silverberg’s book from 1972 is about a middle aged man who is losing his powers of telepathy. It is necessarily, then, an examination of growing older and of losing potency. Here, decay is inevitable; ‘a factor in every day life’, a formidable, enduring, and oppressive force of disorder.

Nevertheless, he writes that we are not mere spectators of this degradation, but active participants who are entwined in an eternal tension with it. By our commune with others, and nature, we generate anti entropic powers; we absorb food from our environment, and positive energy from other people in the form of love, support, and the exchange of ideas. Thereby, we create world changing forces of communication, via our sensory organs and souls, to overcome the entropy and give life both order and meaning. However, such powers are shown to be temporary, due to our mortality. Dying Inside is occupied with showing us the pathos of this idea (even further, it suggests how we can cope.)

The novel also looks at human relationships between siblings, ex-lovers, parents, and friends, from the viewpoint of a sardonic, self pitying, and emotionally flawed man who happens to have a superpower. It is an engrossing character study, told in a markedly literary manner: notice the frequent shifts from the first to third person, the temporally non-linear narrative, and colossal intertextuality.

The success of the novel is that such profundity and depth is soundly and satisfyingly constructed in two hundred pages, and easily read.

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