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review 2015-06-28 22:45
A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg
Time of Changes - Robert Silverberg

What is the strength or conviction of someone’s beliefs unless they are tested by temptation?

 

The Nebula Award winning novel A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg attempts to answer the aforementioned question. Prince Kinnall from the planet Velada Borthan tells his story as a memoir about how he became tempted by a substance brought by a man from Earth named Schweiz. That temptation makes him questioned his religious beliefs and changes his life forever.

 

The substance that the Earthman brought gives a person the ability to look deep into one’s soul as well as the other person who is taking with you. Since this novel was published in 1971, I could see Silverberg being influenced by the drug and hippie culture of that time and decides to put that aspect into this story. However, self-bearing or saying something that starts with ‘I’ is taboo and even considered a criminal act in the culture that Prince Kinnall belongs to.

 

I found that custom to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel and one of the fundamental questions that all believers of any religion have to wrestle with. I was reminded of these words from Jesus in the Book of Matthew, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.“ {Matthew 16:25 ESV Bible} If you are a believer (especially in the Big 3 religions of Western Culture: Christianity, Judaism, & Islam), do you give up your autonomy as a human being in order to follow God?

 

Silverberg uses the secular lens of science fiction to look at that fundamental question. As a Christian, I would disagree with his method of using a substance as a possible answer for that question. However, I can appreciate the honesty reflected through Prince Kinnall’s choice and his inevitable outcome.

 

A Time of Changes will be one of my best reads in 2015. I will admit that novels like The Sparrow, The Book of Strange of New Things, Parable of the Sower, and The Child Goddess along with this one have become my favorite genre of fiction where science fiction and fantasy concepts intertwine with religious beliefs. Even though, I believe that A Time of Changes will seem dated to some readers, I will highly recommend reading the novel. I can see why it won a Nebula award in 1972.

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review 2014-08-13 00:00
A time of changes (Panther science fiction)
A time of changes (Panther science fiction) - Robert Silverberg 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 [b:Lord Valentine s Castle] or [b:Dying Inside|968902|Dying Inside|Robert Silverberg|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1179887709s/968902.jpg|1660120]. 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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review 2013-04-08 05:59
A time of changes (Panther science fiction)
A time of changes (Panther science fiction) - Robert Silverberg Really cool concept - a society where self-denial and repression are so crucial that not only can you not talk about your feelings or yourself, it's considered obscene even to use the pronouns "I" and "me." The execution is disappointing though; mostly the characters talk about themselves plenty, but using words like "one" or "this one" instead of "I." They don't come across as a different culture so much as the same culture with very slightly different grammar (along with some oddly stilted speech patterns, given that the book seems to be set in the future). It's not terrible, but it's pretty forgettable.There's also this really weird thing happening in this book, where the author spends a whole bunch of time reminding you that sometimes people can be talking about themselves without actually saying "I am the person we are discussing here"... and then goes on to devote a LOT of scenes to his character suffering invariable premature ejaculation. (Like, a WHOLE lot.) And then reassuring the reader that you can still be a superhot stud even when you do have that problem, because, as he repeatedly explains, his character is really sexy and women totally want him. If he was trying to get me to identify with his characters by making me feel skeeved out about oversharing, mission DEFINITELY accomplished.
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review 2010-11-26 00:00
A time of changes (Panther science fiction) - Robert Silverberg now 84% done with the Nebulas...
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review 2008-09-01 00:00
A time of changes (Panther science fiction) - Robert Silverberg A gripping tale of one man's journey of self discovery and liberation from his social conditioning.
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