A Time of Changes
Author: Robert Silverberg
Nebula Award Winner 1971
A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg feels very dated reading it today, but this was still a story that I enjoyed overall. This is a quick read (my copy was just 183 pages), and there’s enough chapter breaks that it felt every three pages or so had a decent sized page gap. The story is a first person narration by a man on an alien planet, thousands of years in the future from now, he is a descendent of a group of humans that moved across the stars to practice their strict religion without the negative influence of self-barers. Essentially, the people of this civilization use the pronoun “one” instead of “I” and speak in a much more passive voice; in addition to that, they don’t share their true selves with anybody except their bond brother and bond sister (a male a female that are their same age, each person getting one of each that they can share everything with except intimate relations).
Kinnall is much like any other person on this distant planet, with a few exceptions. First, his family are basically the folks in charge, and when his dad dies, his must leave his home in order to not be a threat to his older brother that has ascended to the role of leader. He also has an unusual fascination with Earth men (who occasionally visit this distant planet). Finally, he is in love with his bond sister Hallum, and can’t tell anybody about it (because of their culture) and can’t tell her because their love is forbidden. When Kinnall meets an Earth man who wants to introduce him to the locally grown plant that allows two people to completely open themselves to one another, Kinnall’s life is turned upside down.
I mentioned the book reads dated, and the primary reason why is the presence of the mind altering substance that free your mind to totally like, connect to another person man. The book was published in 1971, and just like much of Heinlein’s best (and worst) work from the era, it reads like a hippy love fest at times. Silverberg’s story develops quickly enough however, that the occasional mind orgy scenes don’t derail what is otherwise a pretty interesting story.
This book won the Nebula Award for 1971, and I can see how many readers would take away enjoyment from this story. There are no real bad guys in the book, with the exception of a snitch at the end who only reveals the faults of a group otherwise thought to have been perfect beforehand. Instead all of the characters are people that act based on very human motivations and concerns with fitting in. My biggest complaint is that because the story is written by a narrator after the worst parts have taken place, what should be the most shocking moment in the story had been spoiled 100 pages earlier by unnecessary foreshadowing.