Last night, while the darn flu bothered both me and SO, I have finished reading Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg. It’s a science fiction novel — but also a beautiful book for everyone, whether you’re into science fiction or not.
David Selig is a middle-aged telepath who is slowly losing his gift, and he feels like he’s dying on the inside. It’s not that he ever used telepathy for anything great; quite the contrary, he was using it to achieve his selfish goals, and since his ability showed him his fellow human beings as usually small-minded and petty and full of flaws, he rarely managed to really care about anyone. And yet, he can’t stand losing it, because, since his early childhood, he defined himself as a telepath, and has no idea what to do with himself after it goes away.
Don’t get me wrong: David Selig is not an evil man. He’s just as small-minded as all those people he despises — and he’s also having difficulties overcoming his own flaws, which made him unable to reach out to people, which in turn made him very lonely, and he’s very, very scared.
The novel goes back and forth in time (but never in a way difficult to follow), so we get to see David as an adult who’s losing his ability, as a young adult who meets another telepath for the first time, as a misfit kid who wants to murder his adopted baby sister, as a young man falling in love and ruining it, while he’s trying to make peace with his sister… Some episodes are hilarious; others read like poetry; and, even though it’s a novel about a telepath, even though it can be read as a study about telepathy at its various stages, it can also be read as a novel about any of us slowly losing that one thing we believe defines us and trying to cope with it — any of us, whether it’s you or someone you deeply care for.
A beautiful novel, and well worth a try even if you don’t usually read science fiction.