Don’t be deceived, this isn’t the kind of joyless, soul-rending exercise you might expect from a novel titled Dying Inside. It’s a rather overlooked work from acclaimed science-fiction author Robert Silverberg. It tells the story of David Selig, a cynical and almost misanthropic man who can delve deep into the minds of others, but quickly finds that his unique gift grows weaker by the day.
The term ‘sci-fi’ is used loosely in the context of this novel—similar to other speculative fiction pieces like Flowers For Algernon or V.A.L.I.S—the book opts to use its central MacGuffin to explore the protagonist and their development as a human being. This is the strongest aspect of Dying Inside, and I dare say unlike Charlie or Horselover Fat, David Selig stands out distinctly as a character: we cringe at his despicable outlooks, his pathetic behavior, and his feeble will.
Each day his power wanes, twisting him further inside. It’s an enjoyable fall, as Selig isn’t a nice man, and his vile sense of humour only complements the karma he receives. Dying Inside is Robert Silverberg at his best: shrewd, conniving, tiring, cynical, funny, and melancholic. I really think it deserves to be propped alongside the classics of character-driven speculative sci-fi.