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A Time Of Changes (1975)

A Time of Changes (1975)
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3.7 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
0586039953 (ISBN13: 9780586039953)
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A Time Of Changes (1975)
A Time Of Changes (1975)

About book: After four years of successive losses, sci-fi great Robert Silverberg finally picked up his first Nebula Award in 1972. His 1967 novel "Thorns" had lost to Samuel R. Delany's "The Einstein Intersection," his brilliant '68 novel "The Masks of Time" had been bested by Alexei Panshin's equally brilliant "Rite of Passage," '69's time travel tale "Up the Line" had succumbed to Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness," while 1970's unforgettable "Tower of Glass" had been beaten by Larry Niven's "Ringworld." But in '72, Silverberg finally copped the top prize given out by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, winning for his superb novel "A Time of Changes" and prevailing over Le Guin's "The Lathe of Heaven" and novels by Kate Wilhelm, Poul Anderson, T.J. Bass and R.A. Lafferty. ("A Time of Changes" was also nominated for the Hugo Award, ultimately losing to Philip Jose Farmer's "To Your Scattered Bodies Go.") Originally appearing in the March - May '71 issues of "Galaxy" magazine, the novel was released as a hardcover book in June of that year, and in conjunction with the author's three other remarkable novels of 1971--"The Second Trip," "Son of Man" and "The World Inside"--demonstrate what a tremendous roll Silverberg was on during this phase of his lengthy career. "A Time of Changes" takes the form of a memoir written by the fugitive prince Kinnall Darival, who pens his story in the desertlike Burnt Lowlands of the planet Borthan, at least 1,000 years from today. Darival is currently the most wanted man on the planet, and his story explains why. First settled by Earthmen a millennium earlier, Borthan--or, at least, Velada Borthan, the only continent that has been civilized--is now a society run in conformity with the dictates of their "Covenant." It is a society that severely frowns on any demonstration of the self. Speaking of one's feelings to another has been proscribed, to the point that even the use of such words as "I" and "myself" are deemed more offensive than the 21st century "F bomb." Indeed, one may only speak of such intimate matters to one's bondsister or bondbrother (everyone, apparently, gets two) or to the professional "drainers," who, in their quasireligious manner, seem to combine the attributes of both analyst and paid confessor. As Darival tells us from his crumbling shack in the middle of the burning desert, he had been forced to leave his province of Salla when his older brother, Stirron, had assumed the position of septarch, following the death of their father. He had found little welcome in the northern, ascetic province of Glin, and so had worked his way down to the southern, tropical province of Manneran, where he had wed the look-alike cousin of his bondsister Halum (who he'd been shamefully in love with), raised a family and risen to a position of prominence. All was going well with him until he'd encountered the roving Earthman named Schweiz, who made him realize what a repressive society he lived in, and with whom he'd partaken of a drug from the uncivilized southern continent of Sumara Borthan, which enabled its users to enter one another's minds and (gasp!) share feelings. And Darival's crimes were only compounded when, in company with Schweiz, he'd traveled to the unknown continent to get more of the drug, and come back to "turn on" the populace to a new covenant of love, feelings and mutual understanding.... "A Time of Changes" is a beautifully written book, and as it turns out, Kinnall Darival is almost as good a writer as Silverberg himself (LOL!). He is an immensely likable and self-effacing man, imposing physically yet constantly telling the reader about his perceived "shortcomings" (such as his premature ejaculation problem), and his slow conversion from upright observer of the puritanical Covenant to a messiah of free love is wonderful to behold. The world of Borthan is meticulously described by the author, down to its history, geography, customs, flora and fauna, and can almost be seen as a warm-up for Silverberg's most elaborately detailed planet, Majipoor (although it took him eight novels and change to flesh out THAT world fully). Very much a novel of its time, with its emphasis on drugs and "soul sharing" and the liberating power of love, the book retains its great effectiveness today, over four decades later. As for that Sumaran drug, it is described in a manner that forcefully brings to mind LSD, especially when Kinnall and Schweiz spill the powder into some wine, drink it down, and wait a 1/2 hour or so for the effects to manifest. Those initial effects DO seem reminiscent of the lysergic experience, too, although no acid that I have ever heard of, unfortunately, enabled soul-to-soul telepathy between its users. A pity. As in "Son of Man" (an extremely psychedelic, borderline unreadable book that makes one wonder about the extent of Silverberg's own drug experiments during that period!), our lead character here gets to know what it feels like to be a woman (by doing the drug with his mistress); as does the telepath David Selig in the author's 1972 novel "Dying Inside," our lead character also gets to experience a "double orgasm" (while doing the drug and having sex with that same woman). The book is absolutely compelling, fascinating and charming; a true "page-turner" that even contains some traces of genuine humor (in an apparent nod to "Star Trek," the shipmaster who takes Kinnall and Schweiz to the southern continent is named...Capt. Khrisch!). "My prose has its faults," Darival tells us at one point in his history, but there were certainly none that this reader could discern. In all, this is yet another wonderful creation from Mr. Silverberg, one of the best of the 15 or so that I have read so far, and surely deserving of that Nebula Award. To put it succinctly, and in a phrase that would surely shock and appall most of the inhabitants of Velada Borthan, "As for myself, I loved it!"

A Time of Change is told as the memoir of Lord Kinnall Darival, exiled prince of Salla who has come to know the self. On Borthan—founded by stern, stoic humans of northern stock—personal pronouns are obscene, self-concern is a sin, and the worst crime is to let loose emotions that should be buried deep inside. “I love you” is a more vile obscenity to this culture than “fuck off” is to ours. This set of social norms that prohibit acknowledgement and repress the self is the Covenant, and the rule of the Covenant is the rule of law supported by the teachings of the gods. The only outlets for the deepest secrets of one’s self are one’s bond-brother and bond-sister—friends close enough to be siblings, assigned at birth—and the drainers, an almost religious sect who “drain” the internal burdens of their clients, bound by oath to reveal none of what they hear.Kinnall’s memoir takes him from his younger days at the court of his father, the Prime Septarch of Salla, through his torturous exile and road to growth, culminating in his meetings with the Earthman, Schweiz, who picks apart what little of tradition Kinnall’s retained. The taking of a telepathic drug from the far south that expands consciousness and melds minds sets Kinnall on a self-appointed mission to enlighten his planet and allow his peers to bare their souls. But there are those who do not tolerate anyone changing the status quo, and Kinnall’s message of love and peace comes to a world that has long buried its emotions in favor of distance.At its core, the novel asks the loaded question “What is self?” in a similar vein to Philip K. Dick asking “What is human?” The planet Borthan doesn’t know, having long forgotten and repressed expressions of their earthly ancestors. Kinnall himself comes across as always confused by his world’s rigid social standings and distanced lack of emotions, going through its motions but failing to grasp its meaning, always questioning its purpose. A rebel not quite able to rebel. He comes to view himself through his connections to others—his love for his bond-sister, his friendship with the strange Schweiz. By the end, he’s become so enthralled by his own visions and hopes of becoming his world’s savior from the Covenant, and spirals towards his own doom as a Christ-like figure.I can see why it was so popular back in the day, but I don’t feel it’s aged as well as the best novels of the time. Certainly, I think there are some stronger Silverberg books to consider. The distance between the narrator and the reader creates an awkward gap in a novel about bringing people closer together, and reading was slow going at times. That isn’t to say the novel is without merit. It’s a very smart book that leaves you with a lot to consider, and handles limitations of the self well. The lack of “I” and “Me” reads like a serious authorial attempt and not like some gimmick. Silverberg was no slouch in his prime, nor were the Nebula voters fools. So, kind of a mixed bag: great ideas, decent execution, but there's just something lacking compared to Silverberg's other classics from this era.Full review found here.
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Reviews
Nuno Magalhães
Tempo de Mudança é um romance muito interessante e profundo de Robert Silverberg, distinguido com um prémio Nébula, um galardão concedido anualmente pelo Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) para os melhores trabalhos de ficção científica/fantasia publicados nos Estados Unidos durante os dois anos precedentes. Este livro, escrito nos inícios da década de 70 do séc. XX, no rescaldo de Woodstock e de uma década de 60 em que se assistiu a uma grande liberalização de costumes e à consequente confusão do sistema de valores individuais, vem abordar de uma forma muito inteligente, provocadora e com uma invulgar sensibilidade emocional o processo da auto-descoberta que todo o ser humano enfrenta desde a adolescência, e a construção de convicções e de um sistema de valores que sustentam a personalidade individual. Narrado na primeira pessoa de Kinall Darival, habitante do planeta Borthan, província de Salla, que foi inicialmente colonizado por um grupo de pioneiros espaciais oriundos da Terra, sob a forma autobiográfica, esta escolha narrativa permite-nos entrar mais profundamente no dilema da vida deste personagem e sentir com alguma intensidade o desespero e desânimo iniciais, fruto de uma sociedade/cultura altamente repressiva da individualidade aliada a um conjunto de infelizes circunstâncias familiares, e, em oposição, a sensação final de alegria esfuziante, plena de liberdade, resultante da afirmação dos valores que foi construindo ao longo dos eventos relatados no romance, culminando num acto final de assunção da sua responsabilidade pelas opções que tomou e pelas vidas que influenciou.A abordagem a esta temática, enquadrada num outro planeta e numa outra realidade, sustentada no género da ficção científica, permite em simultâneo desresponsabilizar o leitor ao mesmo tempo que o vai capturando num processo inevitável de auto-análise à medida que a história se vai desenrolando. Por este motivo,entendo que este livro é uma reflexão profunda, forte e muito bem escrita de um dos grandes autores deste género literário, e aconselho a sua leitura.
David
Was worried from the preface I'd find an intense and impenetrable Dalgren. The author writing that he 'never wanted to write a book with such a restrictive conciet' i.e. not allowing reference in the first person.Instead a very readable book. I, me, my are all used, but furtively, and illicitly. This is tantamount to dropping a c-bomb casually into small talk.The true story here is the journey from a very isolated existence perpetuated by social norms into one that is connected and enlightened.The pacing is distinctly off, however. the first third of the book seems very world buildy, but with little plot or progess. I understand now that it was almost nessecary to set up the narrator in relativly explicit terms in preparation for the second act, though it's length and constant taunting of 'all that changed when I met THE EARTH MAN' grew pretty tiresome and almost gimmicky to the point that when there was the big reveal it was rather underwhelming. I'm looking at you Agent Colson of S.H.I.E.L.D...Still, a good, classic style sci-fi, and as the author also says in the preface - if you think this book is about drugs, you've missed the point.
Apatt
Robert Silverberg is a legend, one of the all-time greats, and among these all-time greats he is probably the most underrated. He has Hugo and Nebula Awards up the wazoo but is relatively unknown compared to the giants of the genre like Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, IMHO he belongs up there with them in term of accolades.A Time of Changes is one of his best novels if his Goodreads page is anything to go by. However, if you have never read anything by Silverberg before you may want to start with something more immediately accessible like Lord Valentine s Castle or Dying Inside. That said A Time of Changes is indeed an extremely good and unusual book. If you are in the mood for a thought provoking (but not action packed) book by all means dive straight into this one.The novel gets off to a slow start and never really shifts into high gear. However, once you immerse into the story, characters and settings the fascination sets in, and the slow pace becomes a kind of virtue. “this planet was settled by men who had strong religious beliefs, who specifically came here to preserve them, and who took great pains to instill them in their descendants.”In a nutshell the story is set on a human colony planet called Velada Borthan where intimacy is taboo and self denial is the norm. Their society operates under a Covenant that prohibits opening up one’s feelings except to a designated bondbrother and bondsister. The usage of first person pronouns “I” and “me” is considered obscene. The title of the book refers to the protagonist Kinnall Darival’s discovery of a drug that forms a temporary telepathic link between the drinkers. After his first experience with the drug it becomes clear that the Covenant is preventing people from intimacy, and thereby from understanding and loving each other. It is actually fairly difficult to synopsize this book briefly and interestingly but it really is a wonderful thought experiment that explores human relationship, religiosity and empathy. A culture where people build walls around themselves to keep everybody at a distance and human interactions are always impersonal has far reaching implications. In some way it is an allegory for impersonal, taciturn human relationships we often encounter in real life.I hesitate to call A Time of Changes a “difficult book” as the narrative style is straight forward, and even the timeline is almost completely linear (except for the frame story at the beginning and the end) with only one plot stand and point of view. The possible difficulty lies in the unusual theme and slow, contemplative pacing. As usual Robert Silverberg writes beautiful literary prose without lapsing into excessively lyrical passages. There is even some mild humour in the “polite circumlocution” dialogue which is the norm for this planet. For example: ”I should not have said, “One would have a room,” but rather, “Is there a room to be had? ” At a restaurant it is wrong to say, “One will dine on thus and thus,” but rather, “These are the dishes that have been chosen.” And so on and so on, twisting everything into a cumbersome passive form to avoid the sin of acknowledging one’s own existence.”In writing this review I find that while I love the book I can not sell it very well because it is not a “fun read” as such, unless you enjoy pondering thought experiments. If you read this book and dismiss it as “boring” you may want to pause to examine what you want from a novel. If it is purely entertainment then this may not be the book for you. If you enjoy imagining how our society may operating under very different sets of rules A Time of Changes is endlessly fascinating. The Nebula Award (1971) for Best Novel is well deserved.
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