My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are a writer, there is a sadness in completing a masterful work. It is that surety, the cold knowledge that you will never write anything so important, or so simply. That is my unfiltered reaction to having completed Dying Inside. Silverberg filled his book with an absolutely miserable, self-pitying, abhorrent human being. He did little but wander through his current and dim past life, showing us his wallowing failures at holding normal relationships with people.
He has a “gift,” does David Selig, one that makes him — as he considers himself to be — a Superman. However, as we watch his life, and especially as his gift begins to fail him, and disappear, we become aware, as he never does, that it is not a gift. He can read minds, as only a few others can. But it does him no good. He squanders the gift, which oddly, isolates him from society. He doesn’t need to interact, he can “learn” them without their input. There are one or two others with the gift, and they fare slightly better, but it is still pointless.
So, I read about David, the whiny, wheedling, racist, protagonist, and secretly rooted for him to die. He does not, and I’m not certain he ever becomes likable, but I couldn’t help but enjoy the book. Silverberg’s prose is a masterful mix of simplicity and lyricism. And though we don’t like David or anyone in his world — there isn’t a single likable character in the book — we are drawn in by Silverberg’s storytelling enough not to care.
We read the book, not because we care about the character, but because we care about the book. And that, my friends, is a masterwork.