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The Big Time

(Change War #1)

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  2,901 ratings  ·  283 reviews
Have you ever worried about your memory, because it doesn't seem to recall exactly the same past from one day to the next? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, then you've had hints of the Change War.

It's been going on for a billion years and it will last another billion or so. Up and down the timeline, the two
Paperback, ace 06219, 172 pages
Published March 1973 by ACE (first published 1958)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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Bill Kerwin

Hugo Award winner The Big Time (1958) is not only an enjoyable and memorable novel, but a disturbing one too. It was born, in part, from Fritz Leiber’s conception of time travel and the nature of the past. He did not believe at all in “The Butterfly Effect”; no, he believed that the past was more determined, more resilient. If you really wanted to change the future, Lieber thought, you would have to go back...again, and again, and again.

During “The Change War”, two groups of fighters—directed by
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I don’t like spiders or snakes”

So sang country – western star Jim Stafford in his 1974 hit single. Sixteen years earlier, SFWA and Fantasy Grandmaster Fritz Leiber released his wildly fantastic time travel, extra dimensional, Hugo Award winning short novel about – spiders and snakes.

These spiders and snakes, though, turn out to be two groups of billion-year-old time travel antagonists who are fighting a vast war to make subtle changes along parallel time tracks. Leiber describes a recreational
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1958 Hugo winner, and what an interesting surprise!

This is the Cure for the Common (modern) SF. Tired of the old rehashing of drawn-out plots and over-deep character explorations full of pathos, pathos, and more pathos? Then pick this one up. See the universes without being a Space Opera, enjoy the perks of touching all time without a time lord in sight. Drink your favorite alcohol and listen to your neighbor wax poetic. And oh yeah, don't get caught in the war across all Time. (The title of
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pre-80s-sf, sci-fi
In spite of being the Hugo Award winner for 1958 The Big Time is a fairly obscure title. Before proceeding with the review I can give you four reasons to read it:
1. It won a Hugo (not that all Hugo winners are good, IMO)
2. It is free to read in the public domain (e-book link / audiobook link)
3. The audio book is read by Karen Savage, surely savage by name only, she has such a pretty voice.
4. Fritz Leiber is a well-respected author from sci-fi’s Golden Age

The very pulpy and lurid book cover of
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

Published 1958 in Galaxy Magazine, novel 1961. (Edition Read: Ace Books, (1961), 130 pages)

Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1958.

Review by Mark Yon

This is one of those reviews I occasionally do about older books, perhaps a little forgotten.

It came about because I was thinking the other day about past Hugo winners, following a discussion over at SFFWorld about the 2013 nominees. That gave way to my remembering that, in my teens, there was a time when I
Tom Quinn
I found this title here on Goodreads and checked it out from my local library. The cover graphic looked hip and the title page said it was published in 2011, but when I started reading I was confused. The writing seemed so... dated. So I backtracked and re-read the description and amazingly found this book was published in 1958! The concept seemed so modern, so cool and contemporary, and yet the chestnut of the idea was from a lifetime ago.

3 stars out of 5. It's a really intriguing concept but
Apr 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A bunch of wooden, unconvincing characters—refugees, in a sense, from the Time War—are stuck in the Place together, a safe space outside of time that’s used for soldiers’ R&R. Except the Place has been sabotaged, and there’s a bomb and possibly a traitor in their midst and blah blah blah…man, this was boring. The characters, as I said, had all the texture and depth of my cardboard Spike stand-up, the plot was rather half-assed, and the whole thing just felt very juvenile, like the sort of ...more
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange little book. Written in 1958, it is far ahead of its time stylistically. It reads like a "new wave" novel written by say, Philip Josee Framer, Brunner or even Vonnagut (but he would have taken it much farther). It must be read at least twice (for me three times), to get the gist. At first reading, it was over just when I finally thought I might have gotten on to what was going on.
While reading this, I thought, what a great and unique scifi stage play this would make.
4.0 stars. A brilliantly conceived novel of an eternity spanning "Change War" between two extremely powerful, and extremely mysterious, groups. Arguably Fritz Leiber's best novel. Recommended!!

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1958)
Nominee: British Science Fiction Award (Retro) for Best Novel (1958)
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great concept, with humanity serving as pawns in an eons long, cosmic wide temporal war. There are some real flashes of brilliance and excellent prose here, however the story suffers to some extent by some obtuse dialogue and the 1950's era gender and cultural stereotyping.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hugo_winners
This was quite a surprise for me.

I read this work in my personal award-winners challenge and was expecting some 50ies SF along the line of Heinlein. But this weird, surrealistic piece turned out to be a chamber drama told from the POV of a party girl who belongs to a group of 'Entertainers' whose job it is to give soldiers a bit of recreational time between their missions in a time war orchestrated by two obscure factions. The soldiers are recruted from anywhere in past and future (among them
Dec 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
i was secretary to this brilliant human being, and this is my personal favorite book of all of his remarkable titles. [the 'change wars' cycle has other goodies too]

(I have an old Ace Books edition that can't be found here, *sigh*, so I added this edition, since it looks the closest to mine.)

This is supposed to be one of Leiber's best, with a lot of philosophical stuff in the action... So I am looking forward to reading it now:-)

More later.


I have read this book now, and I am in two minds. On the one hand it is a highly intelligent and an impressively weaved story evolving around a unique blend of philosophical ideas & "hip" 1950s/60s sci-fi;
L.S. Popovich
A short, well-conceived time travel scenario, larger in scale than other time adventure stories I've read, with a compelling narrator and some unexpected fantasy creature interactions. Overall, a solid Leiber production. His work is cinematic and more flexible than other Golden Age of science fiction authors. By that I mean that you can enter his body of work almost anywhere and feel at home. At least, I felt myself wondering what the big deal was the first time I read other authors in that ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bingo17, 2018, rc2018-ne
Imagine two groups waging war against each other by time traveling and altering History in various ways to make the world be like what they want it to be.

A pretty neat premise with the type of execution that does absolutely nothing for me.

You know when you end up going to a place with a friend's or partner's friends from their work, hobby or etc and then you sit there and hear they laughing at their own jokes, making references or speaking terms that only they know what the heck it's about, and
Mike Moore
Ah the joys of pulp. One can just picture Fritz working frantically through a weekend to make deadline on this thing: throwing ideas around with reckless haste, recognizing a line as a clunker and just moving on, abandoning thoughts without revising them out of the manuscript because there's no time for perfection, dammit! Rent's due!

At least, that's how I imagine it. This book is decidedly slap-dash, half-baked and all over the place. And yet, I give it a lot more credit than some well polished
Stephen Brooke
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Other critics than I have pointed out that ‘The Big Time’ is as much a play as a novel. Leiber consciously created a stage, the ‘Place’, with actors coming, going, and making their speeches (sometimes intentionally stilted). Both the action and characterization are often presented in a dramatic shorthand. Do not expect a naturalistic novel here.

Life is a cabaret, old chum. And so is the premise of this book, set in an R&R center for warriors weary of their part in a never-ending conflict
Peter Tillman
On my reread list -- fond memories from my last read, decades ago. Here's an online copy, from Project Gutenberg:
And Neil Gaiman's perceptive review, the best I saw online:
"The Big Time is a remarkably sophisticated story, unusual for science fiction of its time period. It is Leiber's most successful science fiction novel: it contains many of Leiber's pet themes—Shakespeare and the theater, alternate identities,
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can appreciate the experiment in writing style, but I just couldn't get into this book.
M Hamed
Oct 26, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, hard-sci-fi
what does he wants to say ?
is this a mystery novel
is it time travel

is it philosophical depute about faith and doubt ,war and peace , what love can make us do

what the fuck is it !!!!!
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Big Time is a fairly inscrutable novel, burdened by a concept far too large for its scant 140 pages. Yet, for all of its flaws -- a poorly voiced narrator, a cast of quickly sketched characters, an antiquated understanding of gender relations -- there's something bizarrely compelling about this book. It is, after all, the story of a war that spans all of time and extends to every corner of the universe, but is set entirely in a single room. Crediting Leiber with audacity alone, The Big Time ...more
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
TT done right, not used as just a gimmick, even though the other aspects of the book aren't wonderful I should read it...
Ok done. Short. Weird. There's a mystery, but we're not given the clues. There's a lot of *L*iterary ambition. Reads more New Wave than Golden Age. Also reminds me of a stage drama, you know, those ones that take place just in one or two rooms. Recognizes women as full-fledged people(!). Has all sorts of references to things the reader doesn't necessarily know about (for
Kelsey Cretcher
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
(4/63) In my Hugo Read-Through
The Big Time by Fritz Leiber won the fourth Hugo Award for novel in 1958. It’s my fourth stop on my read-through and so far, my least favorite.
This book... frustrated me to no end, I was extremely disappointed and the back is hilariously wrong at it's description.

For those who haven't read my reviews, I'm very rambling and don't always have a clear path in my thoughts, however it's my honest rant style opinion of the book, so hopefully someone will
The Big Time is a short book. It's written in the first person and narrated by Greta, an Entertainer who works in The Place. The Place acts as a kind of rest-stop for the soldiers fighting in the Change War. They go there to spend some relaxation time and briefly escape from the never-ending war. The Entertainers offer release and recuperation through various means including sex, music and booze. They also act as nurses, therapists, and surrogate mothers/sisters if needed.

'Entertainment is our
Storyline: 1/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 2/5
World: 2/5

I'm not a big fan of time travel books because they're too hard to control. Resolving the paradoxes and being consistent with principles and your own timeline, if at all possible, are difficult to do too and few time travel authors perform their duties convincingly. It is obvious here in Leiber's book that he wasn't going to be intimidated or slowed by such concerns. He brings in huge ideas with untold possibilities without any attempt to
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An odd, stilted book (novella?) with big ideas and patchy execution. You're dropped into a domestic squabble in a capsule serving as temporary shelter for participants in a universe-spanning Time War. Other than a hugely interesting and philosophical speculation about the Nature of Man in three-dimensional space and higher which occupies less than a page, that's about all you'll get.
Larry Daffner
A time travel novel where we don't see any time travel, a character study with very little character, and a tense thriller with very little thrill or tension. This book is technically well done - it tells a story efficiently, but that story doesn't seem to have much of a point. It feels more like background material for a better novel.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Man, I couldn't get into this at all. After 40 pages I was still saying, What the f*** are you talking about?
S. Naomi Scott
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a war taking place, between the forces of the Spiders and the Snakes, that is changing history around us and stretching the fabric of reality to breaking point. This is the Change War, and this short novel tells the story of one small part of that war and how it affects the participants involved.

The narrative takes place in The Place, a bubble of reality drifting through the Void outside the cosmos. This is where Soldiers come to recuperate and heal, where they're tended to by
Jul 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr. was one of the more interesting of the young writers who came into HP Lovecraft's orbit, and some of his best early short fiction is horror rather than sf or fantasy. He found his mature voice early in the first of the sword-and-sorcery adventures featuring the large sensitive barbarian Fafhrd and the small street-smart-ish Gray Mouser; he returned to this series at ...more

Other books in the series

Change War (4 books)
  • The Mind Spider and Other Stories
  • Changewar
  • The Big Time / The Mind Spider and Other Stories
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“Maud chuckled proudly and Erich shouted, "Welcome back from the Void, Kamerad," and then, because he's German and thinks all parties have to be noisy and satirically pompous, he jumped on a couch and announced, "Heren und Damen, permit me to introduce the noblest Roman of them all, Marcus Vipsalus Niger".” 3 likes
“… if you assume a big enough conspiracy, you can explain anything, including the cosmos itself.” 0 likes
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