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DYING INSIDE [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert Silverberg
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 12 1973
In 1972, Robert Silverberg, even then an acknowledged leader in the science fiction field, published a book that was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. More than three decades later, Dying Inside has stood the test of time and has been recognized as one of the finest novels the field has ever produced. Never wasting a word, Silverberg persuasively shows us what it would be like to read minds, painting an unforgettable portrait of a man shaped by that unique power; a power he is now inexorably losing.

Acclaimed upon first publication by SF critics and mainstream reviewers alike, Dying Inside is overdue for reintroduction to today’s SF audience. This is a novel for everyone who appreciates deeply affecting characterization, imaginative power, and the irreplaceable perspective unique to speculative fiction of the highest order.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Review

“One of those rare novels that manages to be at once dazzling and tender.”—Michael Chabon on Dying Inside

Dying Inside is an artist’s summit that doubles as an intimate allegory of the artist’s quandary.”—Jonathan Lethem

"Now widely regarded as Robert Silverberg's masterpiece, Dying Inside, first published in 1972, has just been reissued in a handsome trade paperback with a new preface by its author, one of science fiction's most distinguished writers . . . It's insane that Dying Inside should be subtly dismissed as merely a genre classic. This is a superb novel about a common human sorrow, that great shock of middle age -- the recognition that we are all dying inside and that all of us must face the eventual disappearance of the person we have been."--Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Silverberg has written the perfect science fiction novel for people who don’t like science fiction.”—The New York Times Book Review on Dying Inside
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

A SFWA Grand Master and the winner of five Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards, ROBERT SILVERBERG, author of the bestselling Majipoor series and dozens of other books, is one of the giants of science fiction and fantasy. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, writer Karen Haber.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Long hailed as a classic of 1970s science fiction literature, Robert Silverberg's "Dying Inside" is an emotionally riveting character study of a telepath confronting the loss of his power. Set in the near future - in this case the later 1970s - "Dying Inside" is a compelling exploration of the mind of telepath David Selig; a gripping and poignant examination of himself as he recalls his past , considers the present, and fears for a future without his telepathic powers. It is also an incredible journey cast as a fictional memoir, recalling how David became aware at a young age of his unusual mental ability. Remembering too the tangled web of loves won and lost, especially with those rare few who became fully cognizant of his telepathy. Silverberg draws heavily on his undergraduate life as a Columbia student, and his Jewish-American heritage, but this tale is no mere fictional recasting of Silverberg himself; instead David Selig comes across as a most credible, and realistic, character who barely shares some of the traits which readers may choose to associate with Silverberg himself. So wonderful a character study is "Dying Inside" that it shouldn't be regarded as one of the finest science fiction novels of our time; it is quite simply, a superb work of 20th Century American literature written by one of the most elegant prose stylists working in science fiction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Aging and regret from a sci-fi perspective Jan. 11 2004
Format:Paperback
Robert Silverberg started out in the outlandish word of sci-fi pulps and has written about countless fantastic worlds and peoples since. But the novel that is often considered his best is one of his more earthly, Dying Inside.
Dying Inside is the story of David Selig, an aging New York loafer who is loosing his ability to read minds. The novel takes a non-linear approach to examines Selig's life, flip-floping between his childhood feud with his adopted sister, his uncomfortable friendship with a callous young man with similar powers, his uneasy romance in that uneasy year 1968 and his depressing present, forging term papers for Colombia jocks and losing his powers.
What is remarkable about Dying Inside is that Silverberg writes more about old flames, squandered youth and other ordinary lost opportunities than about special abilities. Silverberg is writing about (and writing about quite well) a person who wasted extraordinary potential, something anyone of a certain age can relate to. The further one reads Dying Inside, the more it becomes apparent that the book is not about superpowers but about life and aging from a unique perspective. For science fiction lovers or fans or anyone merely looking for a good novel, Dying Inside is sure to be a winner.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 1 of the BEST SF novels of the 70s Sept. 11 2002
Format:Paperback
Along with THE BOOK OF SKULLS and DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH, this is 1 of Silverberg's very best novels, & 1 of the finest science fiction novels of the 70s. An intimate portrait of a telepath losing his powers, the book Dscribes the depression of that loss, as well as the exaltation of David Selig's gift. The brilliant writing U can almost take 4 granted -- it's Silverberg. What's really stunning is the painfully up-close, intimate, personal portrait U'll get of Selig & the people in his life. It's so vivid, indelible -- U'll feel like U've met this person. There's even a happy ending. It makes 4 an amazing, rewarding mind-movie. An all-time classic -- the fact that it didn't win either a Hugo or a Nebula Award (which both went to Isaac Asimov's 2nd-rate THE GODS THEMSELVES) is 1 of the major lapses of R time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Psychological Study of Mortality April 16 2002
Format:Paperback
Robert Silverberg is a genius and this is deservedly regarded as one of his masterpieces. This semi autobiographical novel was written in 1972 and is set in 1976. The main character David Selig is a New Yorker with a strange gift for reading people's minds. He is in his early forties and is slowly losing this talent. He has been a ... loner all his life living in slums and only working enough to support his meager needs. He currently ghost writes term papers for Columbia University students to get a few dollars together and is unable to hold a normal job. He occasionally must rely on his sister for both moral and financial support but his relationship with her is ambivalent. Their love hate relationship dates from his earliest memories of hating her for taking away his parents attention.

There is a humorous account of ten-year-old David with a child psychologist. Selig and Silverberg clearly have no use for the field of psychology. He amuses himself with the psychologist: given the Rorschach inkblot test he tells the quack the first things that pops into the psychologist's mind. He sees that the doctor thinks that the solution to his psychological problems is that he have a sibling and recites these thoughts verbatim back to him.
If one takes the loss of telepathy as a metaphor for the loss of youth and the realization that one is no longer young, then this book becomes an examination of the horror of facing one's own decline and eventual demise. There comes a time in everyone's life when you realize that you are getting old, that you are not going to live forever. You become aware of physical decline or gray hair or mental lapses that signal the coming of advancing age. Hemingway said that any story, if taken to it's logical conclusion, ends in death.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
73 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Undeniable proof that SF isn't considered serious literature Jan. 5 2002
By "jackaroe" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Robert Silverberg's "Dying Inside" is one of the great classics of SF literature. The protagonist, David Selig, is a telepath whose rare talent has brought him no pleasure. He leads the life of an outcast, a voyeur, with his gift as his keyhole. When his telepathy deserts him he is left stranded-
(Pauses). (Sits silently, head bowed). (Finally, sighs forcefully). (Prepares to whip self to indignant frenzy).
This world just isn't fair. You know that, you don't need me to tell you. But every so often an injustice so flagrant and so heinous occurs that I need to grab the nearest passerby and scream it at him. You're here, and I'm mad, so put down that mouse and listen. Have you read this book yet? Have you read "The Catcher in the Rye"- you know, "the coming-of-age story against which all others are judged," etc., etc.? Go read them. I'll wait- done yet? Good. What do you think? They're both excellent, aren't they? You really feel the turmoil and pain and angst of both Caulfield and Selig after reading them. So why has this book attracted only a handful of reviews, while "The Catcher in the Rye" has attracted- let me check- over 1000 reviews? Why does "The Catcher in the Rye" appear on all the "100 Greatest Novels of the Century" lists while "Dying Inside" doesn't? I'll tell you why- look at your copy of "Dying Inside," and look for those damning scarlet letters "Science Fiction." That's why. "The Catcher in the Rye" is serious literature; "Dying Inside" is science fiction. Never mind that David Selig is as vividly realized as Holden Caulfield, that the prose of "Dying Inside" is as smooth as silk and as scorching as a brush fire, that "Dying Inside" is to middle age what "The Catcher in the Rye" is to adolescence. One is "truly one of America's literary treasures," and one is not. There ain't no justice, is there, Larry?
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of print? WHY? Dec 2 1999
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Bear with me briefly while I go on a bit of a rant (part one of it at least) here, this book here represents only a very small part of what may be one of the greatest single spurts of output science fiction or the literary world has ever known. You see, during the seventies, Mr Silverberg came up with no less than thirteen masterworks of science fiction, not a sequel or connected book in the lot, each one a completely unique and searing study of people and the possibilities of science fiction as a whole. Once I heard about these, I knew that I had to get as many as I could and so I go to find them and lo and behold, how many do I find in print. Exactly none gentle reader. None at all, and the horrifying part is that at least two of these are Hugo winners (Time of Changes and the book I'll be reviewing in a moment). Why is this? What is this? Oh well, more on that as I chug along with the four classic period books that I own. This is the first one I read here, Dying Inside in case you've forgotten and it simply made my mouth drop open. The story is one that we're partly familiar with, man has great powers, uses them in a silly fashion and then realizes that he's losing them. Flowers for Algernon is another gem on this theme but in a lot of ways David Selig is even more of an innocent than poor Charley. No matter how many women he beds, no matter how many minds he reads and lives he lives vicariously, no matter how much he can shield himself with his armor of cynicism, inside is a man crying for the release of his power so he can be a normal man and yet he's desperately afraid of what will happen to him if he loses it because it has defined him and made him who is his entire life, he fears that instead of becoming a normal man, he will become even less than the rest of us. And Silverberg portrays this all and lets us into the head of this tormented man with pointed, searing prose, with a focus and poetry that is rarely seen in his work and an intensity that is rarely seen anywhere. You may not like David Selig and you may not agree with him but you will know him more intimately than almost anyone else by the time you close the pages on this all too brief book. The thing that to me is the most poignant is the closing to the book (hint: stop reading if you don't want an even vague idea of how it ends) with David having lost his powers and considering his place in the world, he has to start all over again, and a lesser writer would have gone the easy way and given us the hint of a new love in his life, or some ray of hope. But David has to start over and just like the rest of us, he's unsure and cautiously hopeful but unsure nonetheless. In the end he's more like the rest of us, both before and after, than either him or everyone else would care to admit.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LITERARY MASTERPIECE Aug. 22 2005
By Paco Rivero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What's that you say? You don't like sci-fi? Never really cared much for the intergalactic battles, laser guns, strange aliens, godlike heroes and exotic, vuluptuous vixens of traditional space opera? Books like CATCHER IN THE RYE and PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT are more your thing? Well, here's a science fiction novel you can finally sink your teeth into! The sci-fi is kept to a minimum, but the emotion and sheer humanity of it all are in full swing. The only science-fictional element here is the fact that the protagonist has ESP. We encounter him in middle age, his extrasensory power beginning to wane. Plot threads are few and uncomplicated, but the themes are large, complex, richly and poignantly rendered: death, love, maturity, subjectivity, society, solitude, entropy. This is a very literary novel, with quick but astute references to Aeschylus, Eliot, Joyce, Kafka, Ginsberg, even Shakespeare. The setting is the New York City of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, mostly in and around Columbia University. This is not a plot driven novel, but more of a character study. Through a narrative that alternates between first and third person, you find out about the protagonist's life--his childhood, his loves, his existential outlook and spiritual yearnings. An Amazon reviewer described this novel by writing that "DYING INSIDE is to middle age what THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is to adolescence." I would say that's exactly right, and gives you a good idea of what to expect. Silverberg is a great prose stylist and has created a clear, distinctive voice for David Selig, the main character. The story works on the heart strings without being maudlin. The protagonist is flawed, true (I even disliked him at times, just as with Holden Caulfield), but, in my opinion, redeems himself by the end. This book is a real literary masterpiece and not just a "genre" novel. I'm surprised that it's not taught in college English courses across the country (never mind that it's shockingly out of print at the moment). A reviewer here at Amazon believes that it's overlooked because it's considered a sci-fi novel and sci-fi is generally sneered at by academicians. I agree, but would add that the book also contains a few un-PC moments that might affect its standing in the halls of academe, though it's really nothing that even a die-hard liberal like me can't deal with. Anyhow, this is a must-read, especially for the more literate reader.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dying Inside, A Forgotten Masterpiece on Alienation Dec 27 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Dying Inside," by Robert Silverberg, is an amazing masterpiece on the subject of alienation which, unfortunately, seems to have fallen out of the public consciousness in the 1990's. David Selig is a telepath who is losing his power. He is also losing his only source of feedback for human emotion and real contact with other human beings. Reduced to hacking out term papers for otherwise engaged Columbia University students, Selig's superhuman powers serve only his prurient, voyeuristic interests. Selig has never realized the potential of his power and his regrets are underscored by his constant referral to T.S. Eliot's masterpiece of modern anti-heroic poetry, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Although he is becoming trapped within himself, Selig has a reconciliation with his normal sister and his fading power, which is ultimately affirmative and uplifting. Silverberg won the Hugo Award for "Dying Inside" and the book secured his place as a master of modern fiction. Although Selig is superhuman, he is really Everyman, trying to define himself in a vast and confusing world. His story is a personal and painful, yet rewarding, trip into the human conscience. While exploring basic questions from the entire range of man's emotional experience, "Dying Inside" remains grounded in the eternal modern question of the consequences of action, inaction and the value of human existence. In interviews, Silverberg has revealed how emotionally draining it was to write this book. His personal sacrifice should be rewarded with a periodic reprinting of this powerful and urgent portrait.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READING THIS BOOK WAS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE March 13 2007
By charles ballew - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside at the age of 19 in 1983, followed closely by Thorns, and to state it as simply as possible, these two books changed me from an adolescent to an adult. Up to that point in time I could only see the world from a surface point of view. I basically believed that everyone is basically the same, so I enjoyed books about characters I could identify with. When I came across a book with characters I didn't understand, I thought the writer was an idiot. I didn't realize that the problem was with ME!

But Dying Inside and Thorns took me on a voyage into the minds of human beings who were TOTALLY unlike me, yet TOTALLY understandable. I could LITERALLY feel my mind expanding as I read these books. It was as close as I have ever come to having a 'spiritual' experience. By the time Silverberg was through with me, I was not the same dumb kid. I suddenly saw that people are all DIFFERENT, not alike! I was able to read authors I hadn't appreciated before, because now I could accept not only that people are different, but actually take pleasure in trying to see the world from their point of view!

I didn't read many other Silverberg books after that, sad to say. The simple fact is, these two books were a bit sad for me. The characters and situations are VERY depressing, as well as brilliantly rendered. But I will always be appreciative of the gift reading these books gave to me: The simple ability to imagine the world from someone else's point of view, without judgement.

The world is packed full of people who have yet to learn this lesson, perhaps because they don't read anything that challenges their status quo. They see themselves as the standard of perfection, and feel justified to hate and distrust anyone who thinks differently, goes to a different church, or votes for a different political party. I think this basic lack of imagination and empathy is the core cause of most human suffering.

Just in case Robert Silverberg ever happens to read this review, I'd like to thank him for making me a better person.

I heartily recommend these novels to dumb young kids who need a kick in the brain.
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