Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg is the painfully intimate portrait of David Selig, a man who has been blessed (or cursed, as he might say) with the gift of telepathy. He has learned to live with the ability, but now finds that his amazing power is slowly disappearing, leaving him ordinary again. Throughout the novel, Selig is literate, insightful and self-deprecating as he mercilessly dissects his own life. I found him less than likable, but completely fascinating. He leads an almost meaningless life, has no friendships and hardly any real relationships, and despite being worldly and erudite, he is also depressingly small-minded.
Getting such an intimate view into Selig’s mind is at times a painful experience: despite his pettiness, sexism and occasional racism, you can’t help but feel for him. The bitter irony of Dying Inside is that this man, who is able to read people’s thoughts, is so completely self-centered and small-minded that he is incapable of having a meaningful relationship with anyone.
Dying Inside is beautifully written, using a series of flashbacks to tell Selig’s story as he thinks back on his life. Robert Silverberg’s prose is gorgeous, perfectly reflecting his character’s thoughts and full of often inwardly directed irony. After reading this book, you will feel like you know David Selig. You might not like him very much, but he will be real to you.
Dying Inside is an excellent novel, recommended both to science fiction fans and to people who usually don’t read the genre. This is one of those books you’re almost guaranteed to end up thinking about for a long time after turning the final page.