As we get older, our faculties start to decline. Our hearing goes, our eyes get weaker, our knees get creakier... That's what is happening to David Selig. He's 41 years old and he losing a vital sense - his power to read other people's minds.
David was born with that ability and didn't realize for many years that other people couldn't do the same thing. By the time he was eight or so he had figured it out. He used to ability to protect himself, pry as needed, get through school, and get through life. But David never coped well with people - partly because he always knew what they were thinking. Although he graduated from Columbia University with a B.A., he never went into any permanent career. Now, in his early 40's, he is a ghost writer of term papers for Columbia undergrads. He has a bench where he sets up business and wait for students to come to him. And that they do. The money keeps him in a shabby apartment in a seedy area of New York City.
David's sister is ten years younger. He knows his parents had her to help make him a more adjusted person. It didn't work. Instead the two have spent their lives arguing and hating each other. She learned about his power when she was 16. Now they are trying to reconcile.
As David's talent wanes, he is going back over his life. He pulls his memories out and inspects them, trying to put his life into focus.
Whew! Although this is science fiction or paranormal, this is no fun space opera or wizards and magic type novel. Instead Robert Silverberg has given the reader a study of one man's unsuccessful life. David Selig's life had been defined by his mental ability. In Dying Inside he now examines where his life hasn't gone.
The reader gets to see an unsatisfied, unhappy man - although he doesn't admit that to himself. In some ways, David Selig reminds me of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom from John Updike's Rabbit Run even though the stories are very different. The tone of both is similar.
Robert Silverberg wrote Dying Inside in the early 1970's. Some of the style of this novel reflects the writing style of the time. There are numerous bedroom scenes that are added because that's what new authors did in the era of free love and outward sexual awareness. Some of the scenes definitely are important to what David Selig experienced. Some were added that could have just as easily been written in other contexts. The flow of Silverberg's writing fits in with the style of the time. Yet the essence of what he wrote in Dying Inside is timeless.
In many ways this is a depressing novel. Yet it is compelling. Any of us who are older have questioned our lives and our choices. We may not have the telepathic powers Selig has, but we can identify with his plight.
Notice: Strong sexual content
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