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A Time of Changes

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,015 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
In the far future, Earth is a worn-out backwater and humanity is spread across the galaxy on worlds that began as colonies, but now feel like home, each with its own long history of a thousand years or more, and each with its own unique culture. One of the strangest is on Borthan, where the founding settlers established the Covenant, which teaches that the self is to be de ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 205 pages
Published 1975 by Panther (first published January 1st 1971)
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Dune by Frank HerbertEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinRendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. ClarkeAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
Nebula Award for Best Novel
43rd out of 52 books — 227 voters
Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardDune by Frank HerbertThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinFlowers for Algernon by Daniel KeyesAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
Nebula Award Winners
18th out of 35 books — 76 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 07, 2016 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Robert Silverberg is a legend, one of the all-time greats, and among these all-time greats he is probably the most underrated. He has Hugo and Nebula Awards up the wazoo but is relatively unknown compared to the giants of the genre like Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, IMHO he belongs up there with them in term of accolades.

A Time of Changes is one of his best novels if his Goodreads page is anything to go by. However, if you have never read anything by Silverberg before you may want to start with
4.0 to 4.5 stars Another intelligent and provocative story by Robert Silverberg who seems to have a real gift for evocative stories. This strong, emotional tale involves the journey of a repressed member of a repressed society to open himself up and find his “self."

The novel is set on a distant planet (originally colonized from an Earth over-populated and polluted). The planet's population lives by the "Covenant" whose most notable characteristic is the complete and utter denial of "self." Words
Mar 27, 2015 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Time for Changes by Robert Silverberg is difficult to rate and even more difficult to review. I can begin by saying that I liked it.

Silverberg tells a good story, he’s a fine writer and his narration draws the reader in. Set in the distant future, on a planet inhabited by humans for thousands of years, but still with the knowledge of far off earth as an anachronistic home, we follow the life of Kenal, second son of a king in a strictly primogeniture hierarchy. The world is also strictly in th
This is one of Silverberg’s best novels from his most prolific and creative period in the late 1960s/early 1970s, along with Downward to the Earth and Dying Inside.

It’s about a repressive human society on a distant planet called Borthan, in which the terms “I” and “myself” are obscenities, and “self-bearing” is a serious crime. It’s the story of Kinnall Darival, the second son of a Plutarch (essentially a prince), who must leave his home to avoid being a threat to his older brother’s claim to r
Jan 18, 2015 David rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
When settlers first colonized Borthan, they set up a society and a religion called "The Covenant" that makes "self-bearing" into a taboo. People cannot share their deepest thoughts with others, with the sole exception being one's "bond brother" and "bond sister". One can never say the words "I" or "me", because that indicates a sort of self-infatuation, or "self bearing". Those words are the most terribly obscene words one can possibly utter.

This science fiction novel is written as an autobiogr
Amy Sturgis
This 1971 novel won the Nebula Award and was nominated for the Hugo, but I have to confess I found it to be quite underwhelming.

Robert Silverberg offers a first-person memoir of a future human (descended from Earthlings) on a far distant planet. In his society words like "I" and "me" are considered obscenities. Burdening others with one's individuality, sharing one's self with them, is held to be a sin that should be limited whenever possible. When he meets a man from Earth with a rare and illeg
Mar 18, 2014 Sandy rated it it was amazing
After four years of successive losses, sci-fi great Robert Silverberg finally picked up his first Nebula Award in 1972. His 1967 novel "Thorns" had lost to Samuel R. Delany's "The Einstein Intersection," his brilliant '68 novel "The Masks of Time" had been bested by Alexei Panshin's equally brilliant "Rite of Passage," '69's time travel tale "Up the Line" had succumbed to Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness," while 1970's unforgettable "Tower of Glass" had been beaten by Larry Niven's ...more
Jul 22, 2008 Matt rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Robert Silverburg, British sci-fi, or soft sci-fi
'A Time of Changes' is classic Robert Silverburg of the sort that he rightly recieves acclaim for, but it suffers in my opinion from the fact that Silverburg makes no attempt at all to really maintain the fantastic conceit which is at the heart of the story. That conceit of the story is a world where self-deprication is so esteemed as virtuous and putting oneself forward is likewise deemed immoral, that no one is allowed to refer to oneself in the first person. The pronoun 'I' therefore is a tru ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a brilliant piece of thoughtful science fiction. As has been said elsewhere, this is science fiction that is really dealing with the times in which the book was written. The story takes place in a far future where refering to one's self in the first person or sharing one's innermost thoughts is largely banned. After encountering a former resident of Earth, the protagonist learns of a drug (a drug that sounds eerily like cocaine) that allows the users to delve within each others innermost ...more
Perry Whitford
'I am Kinnall Darival and I mean to tell you all about myself.'

That might not seem like such a momentous opening to a memoir, but if you were a citizen of Borthan, a distant planet colonized by a stoic group of Earth evacuees some two thousand years before, where the very concept of self is taboo, it's positively revolutionary.

A large but sparsely populated world where the settlers are primarily gathered on just one of its five vast continents, the people of Borthan are rigidly bound to the Cove
Mar 29, 2012 Denis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover, b-c
An excellently written novel by Silverberg. It is written in the form of a memoir by one who has gone into hiding after taking on a mission to change the ways of his world by freeing its citizens of the covenants constraint of the forbidden practice of acknowledgment of one's self. Had Silverberg come up with this idea and attempted this in the 1950's, it might have a pulpier title like, "The Man Who Dared Say "I". I'm glad the idea struck him twenty years later.
Nov 28, 2014 fromcouchtomoon rated it really liked it
Gripping on-the-run memoir of an alien from a repressed culture seeking communal enlightenment via drugs. Hippie hallmarks of sex and psychedelics, but aged well.
Marion Hill
Jun 28, 2015 Marion Hill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
3.5 Stars.

What is the strength or conviction of someone’s beliefs unless they are tested by temptation?

The Nebula Award winning novel A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg attempts to answer the aforementioned question. Prince Kinnall from the planet Velada Borthan tells his story as a memoir about how he became tempted by a substance brought by a man from Earth named Schweiz. That temptation makes him questioned his religious beliefs and changes his life forever.

The substance that the Earthman
Oct 26, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A Time of Change is told as the memoir of Lord Kinnall Darival, exiled prince of Salla who has come to know the self. On Borthan—founded by stern, stoic humans of northern stock—personal pronouns are obscene, self-concern is a sin, and the worst crime is to let loose emotions that should be buried deep inside. “I love you” is a more vile obscenity to this culture than “fuck off” is to ours. This set of social norms that prohibit acknowledgement and repress the self is the Covenant, and the rule ...more
Nuno Magalhães
Aug 08, 2011 Nuno Magalhães rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Tempo de Mudança é um romance muito interessante e profundo de Robert Silverberg, distinguido com um prémio Nébula, um galardão concedido anualmente pelo Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) para os melhores trabalhos de ficção científica/fantasia publicados nos Estados Unidos durante os dois anos precedentes. Este livro, escrito nos inícios da década de 70 do séc. XX, no rescaldo de Woodstock e de uma década de 60 em que se assistiu a uma grande liberalização de costumes e à co ...more
Dec 10, 2011 Michele rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi_general
My reactions to Silverberg are very uneven. I absolutely loved the creepy yet alluring The Book of Skulls and the dystopian The World Inside but have never been able to get into, let alone finish, any of his Majipoor series which he seems to be so well known for. This one left me ambivalent. I think sometimes he tries a little too hard with his social messages -- in this case, I suppose, the value of love (published in 1971, surprise, surprise).

The main character, Kinnall Darival, is a member of
Aug 15, 2007 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like thoughtful science fiction
Shelves: read-sci-fi
Often it's one line that makes a book. With this book it was a single concept, a world where speaking in the first person singular is taboo, to use the word "I" is the worst kind of swearing. Needless to say it's also a world where opening up oneself is a very private thing reserved for a highly select few. Into this world, as so often happens, comes a man, an earthman as it happens, with a different point of view about what is right and wrong. The fact is, throughout history, right and wrong ha ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 21, 2012 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Silverberg fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Helen, Michael and Tom's mother, was a godsend to her sons and their friends during our early adulthoods. Director of Chicago's Womens' Athletic Club downtown, she was in the position to hire people for various positions. She helped me during the summer after college and for some time after seminary by hiring me as a security guard, working days in the first instance and nights in the second. The position was wonderful, entailing very little real work beyond occasional night rounds, allowing lon ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Phil rated it really liked it
Liked it beginning to end. A reasonably believably world and premise for a story.
Sujeet Gholap
Aug 19, 2014 Sujeet Gholap rated it liked it
A brilliant concept mired by meandering narration, a spark of genius snuffed by lack of focus, I wish I could read A Time of Changes just for its core idea without having to deal with all the fluff around.

Set on an alien planet, the central theme of the book is a society where individuals are trained and conditioned into erecting impenetrable walls around their own self, closing their mind to that of others and dealing only in superficialities and of material matters. I could relate deeply with
Ана Хелс
Mar 08, 2014 Ана Хелс rated it really liked it
По-скоро философски роман, отколкото фентъзи или фантастичен такъв. Леко объркващ. Силно въздействащ, макар и в някаква степен мъничко наивистичен. Меланхоличен, тъжноват и замислящ. Дори по-скоро умислящ.

История за свят отвъд звездите, в някаква форма на търговска империя със щипка технология, но без приложение на космически пътешествия или вариативна генетика. Има телефон и нещо като бронетранспортьори, но пък няма пистолети или интернет. Умовете са ограничени от един северен манталитет на зат
Aug 26, 2011 Bookbrow rated it really liked it
One of the better Silverberg novels, one that makes you respect Silverberg's knack of telling people stories within a sci-fi conext, the world building here reminds one of the valentine's castle novels, a rich tapestry that is both old and new. This book is surely one of the highlights of Silverberg's career and far more timeless than some good efforts like Dying Inside, etc. Recomended even for reader's who don't normally read spec fiction.
L. Reed
Dec 01, 2014 L. Reed rated it liked it
Robert Silverberg’s 1971 Nebula Award-winning novel “A Time of Changes” is considered a classic of science fiction. His use of language, especially the original idea of writing a novel where the characters don’t use “I” or “me” to describe themselves and the diary style of writing, makes this a worthwhile read. However, I’m disappointed in his use of a theme that seems to me to be prevalent in science fiction writing, and that is that the future is a time of women who have nothing better to do t ...more
Jeff Adams
Mar 09, 2014 Jeff Adams rated it it was amazing
One thinks this was a fascinating book. One would highly recommend it to fans of the Sci Fi genre.

OK - the phrasing of those comments make sense only if you've read the book.

Set in an alien world that was colonized by humans many generations ago, this story is written as a personal memoir. It tell not only his story, but the story of their culture, which at its founding, adopted a religious "Covenant" that forbids sharing of one's self, to the point where even the use of personal pronouns are
Pavlina Kutsarova
Jan 18, 2014 Pavlina Kutsarova rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me this book meant more than to others, because I had personal connection with it even before I started reading. I found it in my dad's things an year ago. He had a bookmark on page 136, and I believe he hadn't read more of it after that point. So I decided I should, at least, read as much as he did.
While I was reding, I felt as if I was connected with him again in a way... Not the way it is described in the book, but I felt as if he was still here. The year was 1993 (this edition was publis
May 11, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Silverberg is the closest thing I can think of as a living human writing machine. Insert idea, out comes a story. Genre is inconsequential. He has written probably anything that one can be paid to write: short fiction, novellas, novels; mystery, western, erotica, non-fiction, and of course, science-fiction. Take a look at his "quasi-official" site of, and you can see the mind-boggling amount of wordage he has churned out.

This book is from the period when he returned to s
Jul 10, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Was worried from the preface I'd find an intense and impenetrable Dalgren. The author writing that he 'never wanted to write a book with such a restrictive conciet' i.e. not allowing reference in the first person.

Instead a very readable book. I, me, my are all used, but furtively, and illicitly. This is tantamount to dropping a c-bomb casually into small talk.

The true story here is the journey from a very isolated existence perpetuated by social norms into one that is connected and enlightened.

Alice Lee
This is really closer to 2.5 stars than 3, but well.

Oh, I suppose I would've liked it more if I had grown up in the 70s, or witnessed the transition in American culture from the 60s to the 70s. Or maybe I'd like it more if the writing was better. It wasn't bad, it just lacked a certain quality that I was expecting out of Silverberg - more artful prose, for one. The narrator's voice throughout was pretty dry, at no point was it compelling enough for me to temporarily forsake my knowledge of rece
Marc Goldstein
Feb 04, 2013 Marc Goldstein rated it liked it
A human colony world where the dominant religion bans individual expression. People are only allowed to express personal feelings to their bond-brother or bond-sister, or to a “drainer” – a professional clergyman who listens to confessions for a fee. Narrator journeys from prince to pauper and back again. His greatest unspoken desire is his romantic desire for his bond-sister. He runs into a merchant from Earth, who causes him to question his religion. The merchant introduces the narrator to a d ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Jon rated it really liked it
This book won the 1971 Nebula award for Best Novel, so I read it as part of my project to read all such award winners. I vaguely recalled starting to read it before and never being able to make it through.

Well, I got to the end, and then remembered reading the whole thing. Can't remember when -- 5 years ago or 20?

The middle is very nice -- pure Silverberg world-building in the style of Lord Valentine's Castle (aside: this book won the Nebula, and none of the Majipoor books was nominated??!). Th
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Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth and Lord Valentine’s Castle, as well as At Winter’s End, also available in a Bison Books edition. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Sc ...more
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“In every man's life there is something he feels driven to do, something that pricks him at the core of his soul so long as it remains undone, and yet as he approaches the doing of it he will know fear, for perhaps to fulfill the obsession will bring him more pain than pleasure.” 1 likes
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