My rating: ★★★★☆
Read From: 20 September 2013 - 24 September 2013
I’ve never been a huge fan of literary fiction. Perhaps it’s because I find our world to be so familiar as to be boring. These science fiction novels by Robert Silverberg were a nice compromise. They were literary in tone but set in a world a bit different from ours.
Both stories share a theme: who am I? Not in the grand mystical sense of “where did we all come from?” but in the more personal sense of “what makes me, me?”
In To Live Again, the Scheffing Institute regularly records the brain scans of the super rich. Then, after death, their scans can be implanted in someone else’s brain. The host gets to experience the memories, knowledge, insight, and personality of the dead. The dead get to experience living all over again, even if just as passengers in someone else’s head.
Some people have productive relationships with their implants while others live in near constant conflict with them. What does it mean to be “you” when there is someone else in your head? When you have two sets of memories and a voice constantly whispering in your mind, are you really the same person anymore? Silverberg uses this setting to explore maturity, ambition, jealousy, and loyalty.
The Second Trip features Paul Macy. Paul used to be Nat Hamlin, a famous and successful sculptor. Four years ago, Nat was convicted of multiple rapes and was sentenced to Rehab. In the story, Rehab is a process of completely purging the personality and then building a new personality from the ground up—complete with a manufactured past. Paul Macy is the new personality in Nat Hamlin’s body.
Nat Hamlin is gone. Or is he? The story plays out almost entirely in Paul’s / Nat’s mind, as Nat struggles to regain his own life and body and Paul struggles to establish his right to exist, even though “he’s” less than 4 years old without any true life experience. Again, there’s the theme of “who am I?” coupled with the question of “do I even have a right to exist?”. The resulting conflict is interesting to watch and spurs much thought.