Dying Inside

Dying Inside

by Robert Silverberg

Paperback(Second Edition)

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765322302
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt


So, then, I have to go downtown to the University and forage for dollars again. It doesn't take much cash to keep me going — $200 a month will do nicely — but I'm running low, and I don't dare try to borrow from my sister again. The students will shortly be needing their first term papers of the semester; that's always a steady business. The weary, eroding brain of David Selig is once more for hire. I should be able to pick up $75 worth of work on this lovely golden October morning. The air is crisp and clear. A high-pressure system covers New York City, banishing humidity and haze. In such weather my fading powers still flourish. Let us go then, you and I, when the morning is spread out against the sky. To the Broadway-IRT subway. Have your tokens ready, please.

You and I. To whom do I refer? I'm heading downtown alone, after all. You and I.

Why, of course I refer to myself and to that creature which lives within me, skulking in its spongy lair and spying on unsuspecting mortals. That sneaky monster within me, that ailing monster, dying even more swiftly than I. Yeats once wrote a dialogue of self and soul; why then shouldn't Selig, who is divided against himself in a way poor goofy Yeats could never have understood, speak of his unique and perishable gift as though it were some encapsulated intruder lodged in his skull? Why not? Let us go then, you and I. Down the hall. Push the button. Into the elevator. There is a stink of garlic in it. These peasants, these swarming Puerto Ricans, they leave their emphatic smells everywhere. My neighbors. I love them. Down. Down.

It is 10:43 A.M., Eastern Daylight Savings Time. The current temperature reading in Central Park is 57°. The humidity stands at 28% and the barometer is 30.30 and falling, with the wind northeast at 11 miles per hour. The forecast is for fair skies and sunny weather today, tonight, and tomorrow, with the highs in the low to middle 60's. The chance of precipitation is zero today and 10% tomorrow. Air quality level is rated good. David Selig is 41 and counting. Slightly above medium height, he has the lean figure of a bachelor accustomed to his own meager cooking, and his customary facial expression is a mild, puzzled frown. He blinks a lot. In his faded blue denim jacket, heavy-duty boots, and 1969vintage striped bells he presents a superficially youthful appearance, at least from the neck down; but in fact he looks like some sort of refugee from an illicit research laboratory where the balding, furrowed heads of anguished middle-aged men are grafted to the reluctant bodies of adolescent boys. How did this happen to him? At what point did his face and scalp begin to grow old? The dangling cables of the elevator hurl shrieks of mocking laughter at him as he descends from his two-room refuge on the twelfth floor. He wonders if those rusty cables might be even older than he is. He is of the 1935 vintage. This housing project, he suspects, might date from 1933 or 1934. The Hon. Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Mayor. Though perhaps it's younger — just immediately prewar, say. (Do you remember 1940, Duvid? That was the year we took you to the World's Fair. This is the trylon, that's the perisphere.) Anyway the buildings are getting old. What isn't?

The elevator halts grindingly at the 7th floor. Even before the scarred door opens I detect a quick mental flutter of female Hispanic vitality dancing through the girders. Of course, the odds are overwhelming that the summoner of the elevator is a young Puerto Rican wife — the house is full of them, the husbands are away at work at this time of day — but all the same I'm pretty certain that I'm reading her psychic emanations and not just playing the hunches. Sure enough. She is short, swarthy, maybe about 23 years old, and very pregnant. I can pick up the double neural output clearly: the quicksilver darting of her shallow, sensual mind and the furry, blurry thumpings of the fetus, about six months old, sealed within her hard bulging body. She is flat-faced and broad-hipped, with little glossy eyes and a thin, pinched mouth. A second child, a dirty girl of about two, clutches her mother's thumb. The babe giggles up at me and the woman favors me with a brief, suspicious smile as they enter the elevator.

They stand with their backs toward me. Dense silence. Buenos dias, señora. Nice day, isn't it, ma'am? What a lovely little child. But I remain mute. I don't know her; she looks just like all the others who live in this project, and even her cerebral output is standard stuff, unindividuated, indistinguishable: vague thoughts of plantains and rice, this week's lottery results, and tonight's television highlights. She is a dull bitch but she is human and I love her. What's her name? Maybe it's Mrs. Altagracia Morales. Mrs. Amantina Figueroa. Mrs. Filomena Mercado. I love their names. Pure poetry. I grew up with plump clumping girls named Sondra Wiener, Beverly Schwartz, Sheila Weisbard. Ma'am, can you possibly be Mrs. Inocencia Fernandez? Mrs. Clodomira Espinosa? Mrs. Bonifacia Colon? Perhaps Mrs. Esperanza Dominguez. Esperanza. Esperanza. I love you, Esperanza. Esperanza springs eternal in the human breast. (I was there last Christmas for the bullfights. Esperanza Springs, New Mexico; I stayed at the Holiday Inn. No, I'm kidding.) Ground floor. Nimbly I step forward to hold the door open. The lovely stolid pregnant chiquita doesn't smile at me as she exits.

To the subway now, hippity-hop, one long block away. This far uptown the tracks are still elevated. I sprint up the cracking, peeling staircase and arrive at the station level hardly winded at all. The results of clean living, I guess. Simple diet, no smoking, not much drinking, no acid or mesc, no speed. The station, at this hour, is practically deserted. But in a moment I hear the wailing of onrushing wheels, metal on metal, and simultaneously I pick up the blasting impact of a sudden phalanx of minds all rushing toward me at once out of the north, packed aboard the five or six cars of the oncoming train. The compressed souls of those passengers form a single inchoate mass, pressing insistently against me. They quiver like trembling jellylike bites of plankton squeezed brutally together in some oceanographer's net, creating one complex organism in which the separate identities of all are lost. As the train glides into the station I am able to pick up isolated blurts and squeaks of discrete selfhood: a fierce jab of desire, a squawk of hatred, a pang of regret, a sudden purposeful inner mumbling, rising from the confusing totality the way odd little scraps and stabs of melody rise from the murky orchestral smear of a Mahler symphony. The power is deceptively strong in me today. I'm picking up plenty. This is the strongest it's been in weeks. Surely the low humidity is a factor. But I'm not deceived into thinking that the decline in my ability has been checked. When I first began to lose my hair, there was a happy period when the process of erosion seemed to halt and reverse itself, when new patches of fine dark floss began to sprout on my denuded forehead. But after an initial freshet of hope I took a more realistic view: this was no miraculous reforestation but only a twitch of the hormones, a temporary cessation of decay, not to be relied upon. And in time my hairline resumed its retreat. So too in this instance. When one knows that something is dying inside one, one learns not to put much trust in the random vitalities of the fleeting moment. Today the power is strong yet tomorrow I may hear nothing but distant tantalizing murmurs.

I find a seat in the corner of the second car, open my book, and wait out the ride downtown. I am reading Beckett again, Malone Dies; it plays nicely to my prevailing mood, which as you have noticed is one of self-pity. My time is limited. It is thence that one fine day, when all nature smiles and shines, the rack lets loose its black unforgettable cohorts and sweeps away the blue for ever. My situation is truly delicate. What fine things, what momentous things, I am going to miss through fear, fear of falling back into the old error, fear of not finishing in time, fear of revelling, for the last time, in a last outpouring of misery, impotence and hate. The forms are many in which the unchanging seeks relief from its formlessness. Ah yes, the good Samuel, always ready with a word or two of bleak comfort.

Somewhere about 180th Street I look up and see a girl sitting diagonally opposite me and apparently studying me. She is in her very early twenties, attractive in a sallow way, with long legs, decent breasts, a bush of auburn hair. She has a book too — the paperback of Ulysses, I recognize the cover — but it lies neglected on her lap. Is she interested in me? I am not reading her mind; when I entered the train I automatically stopped my inputs down to the minimum, a trick I learned when I was a child. If I don't insulate myself against scatter-shot crowd-noises on trains or in other enclosed public places I can't concentrate at all. Without attempting to detect her signals, I speculate on what she's thinking about me, playing a game I often play. How intelligent he looks. ... He must have suffered a good deal, his face is so much older than his body ... tenderness in his eyes ... so sad they look ... a poet, a scholar. ... I bet he's very passionate ... pouring all his pent-up love into the physical act, into screwing. ... What's he reading? Beckett? Yes, a poet, a novelist, he must be ... maybe somebody famous. ... I mustn't be too aggressive, though. He'll be turned off by pushiness. A shy smile, that'll catch him. ... One thing leads to another. ... I'll invite him up for lunch. ... Then, to check on the accuracy of my intuitive perceptions, I tune in on her mind. At first there is no signal. My damnable waning powers betraying me again! But then it comes — static, first, as I get the low-level muzzy ruminations of all the passengers around me, and then the clear sweet tone of her soul. She is thinking about a karate class she will attend later this morning on 96th Street. She is in love with her instructor, a brawny pockmarked Japanese. She will see him tonight. Dimly through her mind swims the memory of the taste of sake and the image of his powerful naked body rearing above her. There is nothing in her mind about me. I am simply part of the scenery, like the map of the subway system on the wall above my head. Selig, your egocentricity kills you every time. I note that she does indeed wear a shy smile now, but it is not for me, and when she sees me staring at her the smile vanishes abruptly. I return my attention to my book.

The train treats me to a long sweaty unscheduled halt in the tunnel between stations north of 137th Street; eventually it gets going again and deposits me at 116th Street, Columbia University. I climb toward the sunlight. I first climbed these stairs a full quarter of a century ago, October '51, a terrified high-school senior with acne and a crew-cut, coming out of Brooklyn for my college entrance interview. Under the bright lights in University Hall. The interviewer terribly poised, mature — why, he must have been 24, 25 years old. They let me into their college, anyway. And then this was my subway station every day, beginning in September '52 and continuing until I finally got away from home and moved up close to the campus. In those days there was an old cast-iron kiosk at street level marking the entrance to the depths; it was positioned between two lanes of traffic, and students, their absent minds full of Kierkegaard and Sophocles and Fitzgerald, were forever stepping in front of cars and getting killed. Now the kiosk is gone and the subway entrances are placed more rationally, on the sidewalks.

I walk along 116th Street. To my right, the broad greensward of South Field; to my left, the shallow steps rising to Low Library. I remember South Field when it was an athletic field in the middle of the campus: brown dirt, basepaths, fence. My freshman year I played softball there. We'd go to the lockers in University Hall to change, and then, wearing sneakers, polo shirts, dingy gray shorts, feeling naked amidst the other students in business suits or ROTC uniforms, we'd sprint down the endless steps to South Field for an hour of outdoor activity. I was good at softball. Not much muscle, but quick reflexes and a good eye, and I had the advantage of knowing what was on the pitcher's mind. He'd stand there thinking, This guy's too skinny to hit, I'll give him a high fast one, and I'd be ready for it and bust it out into left field, circling the bases before anyone knew what was happening. Or the other side would try some clumsy bit of strategy like hit-and-run, and I'd move effortlessly over to gather up the grounder and start the double play. Of course it was only softball and my classmates were mostly pudgy dubs who couldn't even run, let alone read minds, but I enjoyed the unfamiliar sensation of being an outstanding athlete and indulged in fantasies of playing shortstop for the Dodgers. The Brooklyn Dodgers, remember? In my sophomore year they ripped up South Field and turned it into a fine grassy showplace divided by a paved promenade, in honor of the University's 200th birthday. Which happened in 1954. Christ, so very long ago. I grow old ... I grow old ... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. The mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.

I go up the steps and take a seat about fifteen feet to the left of the bronze statue of Alma Mater. This is my office in fair weather or foul. The students know where to look for me, and when I'm there the word quickly spreads. There are five or six other people who provide the service I provide — impecunious graduate students, mostly, down on their luck — but I'm the quickest and most reliable, and I have an enthusiastic following. Today, though, business gets off to a slow start. I sit for twenty minutes, fidgeting, peering into Beckett, staring at Alma Mater. Some years ago a radical bomber blew a hole in her side, but there's no sign of the damage now. I remember being shocked at the news, and then shocked at being shocked — why should I give a damn about a dumb statue symbolic of a dumb school? That was about 1969, I guess. Back in the Neolithic.

"Mr. Selig?"

Big brawny jock looming above me. Colossal shoulders, chubby innocent face. He's deeply embarrassed. He's taking Comp Lit 18 and needs a paper fast, on the novels of Kafka, which he hasn't read. (This is the football season; he's the starting halfback and he's very very busy.) I tell him the terms and he hastily agrees. While he stands there I covertly take a reading of him, getting the measure of his intelligence, his probable vocabulary, his style. He's smarter than he appears. Most of them are. They could write their own papers well enough if they only had the time. I make notes, setting down my quick impressions of him, and he goes away happy. After that, trade is brisk: he sends a fraternity brother, the brother sends a friend, the friend sends one of his fraternity brothers, a different fraternity, and the daisy-chain lengthens until by early afternoon I find I've taken on all the work I can handle. I know my capacity. So all is well. I'll eat regularly for two or three weeks, without having to tap my sister's grudging generosity. Judith will be pleased not to hear from me. Home, now, to begin my ghostly tasks. I'm good — glib, earnest, profound in a convincingly sophomoric way — and I can vary my styles. I know my way around literature, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, all the soft-subjects. Thank God I kept my own term papers; even after twenty-odd years they can still be mined. I charge $3.50 a typed page, sometimes more if my probing reveals that the client has money. A minimum grade of B+ guaranteed or there's no fee. I've never had to make a refund.


Excerpted from "Dying Inside"
by .
Copyright © 1972 Agberg, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Dying Inside 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
HellCold on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book, as all books written by Silverberg usually turn out to be. It deals with David Selig, who was born with the ability to read minds, and the trouble he has when he realizes his gift is fading away. What we're dealing with is not the expected life of a superman, in fact he regards his gift as a curse due to the various difficulties it had put him through. And now that the power is dying inside him, he feels he's losing his identity with its passing away.I loved everything about that novel. Characterization is top notch, the writing's fluid, and the story itself is a beauty, despite being a bit too dark and depressive most of the time. Which suited my current mood perfectly, I must add.One thing that might irk readers unfamiliar with Silverberg's books is the open ending, as most of his books have no sharp ending event putting a neat close to the story line. More realistically though, he deals with the characters and the changing process they have to go through. Again, I had no problem with that.There's not much I can say about the story itself. You have to drink it in yourself. Recommended.
tkadlec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Turns out Dying Inside is a bit of a tough book for me to rate. I picked it up with very high expectations. The concept seemed very interesting - a man born with telepathic abilities suddenly finds those abilities fading when he enters middle age.But while "Dying Inside" is a fairly interesting character study, I never grew to like David Selig, the main character, and therefore, had a very hard time empathizing with him. His entire life, he's held a pity party for himself because of his "curse". He's incredibly judgmental of the people in his life and therefore, keeps them all at a distance. I believe that Silverberg was trying to show how having so much information about people (their inner thoughts and feelings) actually can create isolation...not closeness. However, he never gives David any redeeming traits - there's just nothing there to like about this guy, and so I end up feeling like David's isolation is self imposed and avoidable.That's not to say the book itself doesn't have some redeeming qualities. Silverberg does force the reader to contemplate questions about how we identify ourselves, and to contemplate how our attitude can determine whether something is a gift or a curse, a blessing or a burden. I just wish David would've been a character I could have felt some sympathy for.
wmraven on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of he best books on telepathy I've ever read. The changes that happen as the year progress seem to strike a cord with the issue of aging in general.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cstevens More than 1 year ago
This book is completely engrossing, surreal, horrific and absolutely beautiful in the same measure. Silverberg's ability to pull you into the stream of consciousness styled writing has you automatically identifying with the main protagonist David Selig. His use of humor, wit, and satire help ease such grave questions concerning our own mortality and what it is that makes us individual and to live, love, question, and to simply exist. I have read many reviews concerning a lack of plot but with all honesty every time I read this book I remember how much I love it.
WJones More than 1 year ago
You have to appreciate Silverberg for his craft. He is clearly in complete control of his writing as he spins this tale of a psychic in decline. It's at once completely engrossing and believable, but at the same time it's pretty depressing and ranges from mildy icky to downnright vulgar. Bad writing is never good to read. Great writing is occasionally not much fun to read either.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The inside story of a man's struggle with the loss of his gift to 'read' people. A great character exploration of a man who's losing the part of him that most defines him to himself. Tragic, funny and poignant. One of the best 'soft 'SF books ever written.