What if you could read anyone’s thoughts? And what if you could use them to your advantage without anyone else knowing? For forty-one-year-old term paper grifter, David Selig, this is his all-seeing, all-knowing reality. That is, until his life-long ability begins to wane. And when telepathy is no different from any other drug, its user is prone to the same kind of withdrawal, superpower in tow or not.
Born with this telepathic ability, David grew up assuming everyone else wielded it. It wasn’t a power at all, just a normal function of being alive. Though, as a precocious youngster, he began to read the thoughts of others, finding their faces told a story different from their thoughts. And then the epiphany arrived: he was a freak, and he had to hide his ability at all costs. Of course, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t make good use of it first.
Spying on others turned into an obsession, one that serves him and his college term paper venture well. Understanding the thoughts of his clients informs his plagiarizing, and it delivers satisfying results. That is, most of the time. But he can’t exempt his personal life from his own prying mind, which is determined to experience it all.
Entering his lovers’ thoughts during climax is a high that nothing else can offer. It brings him a euphoric sense of control while also drawing him closer to his partners. But it also pushes them further away, including one of the great loves of his life, Toni. And with a fading power that’s decimated his relationships and clouded his decision-making, David is left to ask: can I still find purpose in my life?
Considered by many to be Robert Silverberg’s magnum opus, Dying Inside is a deeply heartfelt and philosophical text that underscores the inevitability of aging and coming to terms with one’s own mortality. But for as much as Silverberg’s anti-hero suffers like an addict coping with a great loss, it’s only with that loss that he is allowed to forge a path forward no longer bound by an obsession at the root of all his problems.
It’s also a novel that set the standard for introspective exploration. Silverberg asked the kind of distinguished questions that the genre had often been maligned for not posing: how do we adjust to losing a piece of ourselves; are we lesser beings for it; and can we still manage to find meaning in our lives when none seems to exist? He shows that even someone with a superhuman ability is not immune to the same neuroses that affect the rest of humanity. Nor does it make one a rational thinker. David is still human, so his gift is as much a blessing as it is a curse.
This new edition of Dying Inside features an introduction by Robert Silverberg and two interviews with Robert Silverberg by Darrell Schweitzer and a new dustjacket and three interior illustrations by Joe Wilson. In addition, the book’s frontispiece is a reprint of Jim Burns’s cover for the 1980s Bantam paperback, here reproduced in gorgeous full color.