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The Big Time April 9, 2011

Posted by Jeff in Uncategorized.
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The Hugo Awards have their own site, see here, but I actually like Wikipedia’s entry better, see here. It has a nice tidy list of winners and the runners-up for each year. Makes for a top-quality reading list.

There’s a different (competing?) series of awards, the Nebula Awards, nominated and voted upon by their peers, the Science Fiction Writers of America, see here for Wikipedia’s list. Some of the winners intersect with the Hugo winners, but not often.

One could do worse than read any of the books on either of these lists.

Cover Art

I started reading 1958’s Hugo winner, The Big Time by Fritz Leiber. The blurb describes Fritz as a young up-and-coming writer, something I found mildly amusing as it was written before I was born. Set in a far distant future (maybe, as you’ll see) in a time of war. A Time War, between the Spiders and the Snakes, who recruit soldiers for their war from past present and future. The war is fought by manipulating events in a timeline, causing changes in that timeline. In one example in the early part of the book, Einstein is kidnapped as a baby, resulting in the Americas becoming part of the Nazi Empire. But all this takes place in the background, as the novel is set entirely in a Recuperation Station, where soldiers come for R & R. Mostly it’s of a mental/psychological sort, but the Station also serves as a medical facility. It’s staffed by a small group, also from different eras of time, including our protagonist, a young lady from Prohibition-era Chicago named Greta Forzane. Her boss is Sidney, who went to school with Shakespeare…you get the idea. Because it’s set in this one small location, the book reads like a stage play, and is heavy on dialog.

I have to be honest with you, I’m not caring much for this book, but Leiber did introduce an interesting concept, the law of Conservation of Reality. It states that any given timeline is elastic in nature, and resists big changes by eventually returning to its previous shape after a small change is introduced. This is one of the themes of the book, that the contestants must work several small changes to effect any lasting change in a timeline. That would seem to address the Grandfather Paradox to a degree. Me, I don’t have an issue with the Grandfather Paradox, because I subscribe to the multiverse school of thought.

I’m not going to use up any more space on this novel. I guess I just don’t get it, just as one doesn’t necessarily like every Oscar winning movie ever made. I’ll finish it up and move on to the next one in a day or so.



1. Neil Fein - April 20, 2011

You’re not alone; I didn’t much care for this book either. The characters were well written, and really they’re what kept me reading until the end. Have you read anything else by him? What did you think?

2. The Big Time « Magnificent Nose - April 20, 2011

[…] Related: The Big Time review by Jeff Feldstein […]

3. Jeff - April 21, 2011

Neil, thanks for your comment. Welcome to my humble abode; as you can see by the scarcity of posts, I’m just getting this project underway.
I’ve not read anything else by Herr Leiber, and if this is an indication of what I may expect my acquaintance with his work will be short-lived. It’s puzzling, because he did win two Hugo awards, and that is no mean feat. This one and another coming up on my list, the 1965 winner titled “The Wanderer.” Stay tuned for that.
I’ve known of him for many years by seeing his name as I scoured the stacks and I see that he’s been a prolific writer, but I’ve never before picked up any of his novels – greener pastures syndrome, I guess. But seeing that he’s gathered accolades from better people than I, I’m willing to keep an open mind.

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