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"The Big Time" > The Big Time (1958) *No Spoilers*

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message 1: by Dan (last edited Jun 21, 2019 11:11AM) (new)

Dan | 57 comments Mod
This begins the topic discussion of our summer read of the novel The Big Time. Every once in a while you will run across a reference to this book being published in 1957. That's not true. It first appeared serialized in the March and April 1958 issues of Galaxy Science Fiction. It appeared in book form for the first time three years later as an Ace Double. Flip the book over and you'd be reading "The Mind Spider" and five other short stories by Fritz Leiber. The neat thing about this particular Ace Double is that the six short stories in the other half were related to the feature novel. That didn't happen very often with the Ace Doubles. The other six stories are all sequels to The Big Time, written, published, and finally collected in the time since the novel appeared three years earlier. All seven stories are part of the Change War series begun by the novel that we are preparing to read.

Good news! The novel is free for Kindle readers. No big investment required. Not even time. At just 128 pages, it's a short novel. To acquire it, follow the link provided here. It's also available at Project Gutenberg and there's a free Audiovox version. Not sure I recommend audio listening to rather than reading this book. From what I see about The Big Time on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big...), the novel is pretty complicated. Several reviewers complained it was hard for them to follow. That might make it hard to track by audio.

This book won the 1958 Hugo Award for best novel, which rather surprises me since the book has a relatively low GoodReads rating, just 3.27. Also, one seldom hears of this book. As famous as Sranger in a Strange Land, another Hugo winner, it's not. Why is that? Maybe I'll grok why after I commence reading.

I should mention that as with most things Leiber internal Change War series chronology order is different from publication order. In 2012 Snakes & Spiders: The Definitive Change War Collection was published, establishing internal story order as follows:

1 • The Oldest Soldier • [Change War] • (1960) • short story
17 • Damnation Morning • [Change War] • (1959) • short story
29 • The Big Time • [Change War • 1] • (1958) • novel
119 • Try and Change the Past • [Change War] • (1958) • short story
125 • A Deskful of Girls • [Change War] • (1958) • novelette
149 • Knight to Move • [Change War] • (1965) • short story
157 • When the Change-Winds Blow • (1964) • short story
165 • No Great Magic • [Change War] • (1963) • novella

As you can see, two stories precede the novel and five come after. So please know by reading the novel first, assuming you plan to read the rest of the series afterwards, you are committing to reading in publication (if any) order.


message 2: by Charles (last edited Jun 21, 2019 06:50PM) (new)

Charles | 56 comments Mod
"The neat thing about this particular Ace Double is that the six short stories in the other half were related to the feature novel." That's pretty nifty. I may have to see if I can locate a copy.

"Several reviewers complained it was hard for them to follow." I did not find this to be the case, but individual mileage will vary. Either way, the effort is worth it. The story is also part mystery, so as with most mysteries, the how-dun-it is not supposed to be easy to discover until the big reveal.

"This book won the 1958 Hugo Award for best novel, which rather surprises me since the book has a relatively low GoodReads rating, just 3.27." This surprises me too but for different reasons. I'm surprised it is not rated higher. Perhaps, it is not translating well for a modern audience. Personally, I rate it fully Hugo worthy. It is a 5-star story.

Enjoy, everyone!


message 3: by Dan (new)

Dan | 57 comments Mod
Charles wrote: ""The neat thing about this particular Ace Double is that the six short stories in the other half were related to the feature novel." That's pretty nifty. I may have to see if I can locate a copy."

If you have the good fortune of finding one, then our new masthead will look very familiar to you. The image is taken from the back side of that Ace Double. It was too cool to resist.


message 4: by Charles (new)

Charles | 56 comments Mod
David wrote: "Would it make sense to create separate threads for spoiler-free and spoilery discussions of The Big Time? I'm already finding noteworthy passages."

I second this.


message 5: by Charles (new)

Charles | 56 comments Mod
The Big Time is a novel set in the Changewar. A little bit of background on the Changewar by Earl Wajenberg can be found at The Scrolls, and if it helps, I have a Glossary of Changewar Terms at the Scrolls of Lankhmar as well.


message 6: by Dan (new)

Dan | 57 comments Mod
This novel can be listened to in three hours and forty-one minutes here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUCPu...

I start my reading of it tonight!


message 7: by Charles (new)

Charles | 56 comments Mod
One of the things folks should keep in mind while going into this reading is that the story is not told in a naturalistic fashion as many of us may be used to with modern storytelling. In fact, Leiber wrote it as if it was a play. Leiber was the son of two Shakespearian actors and those experiences reflect in many of his works. But he does not just let us stumble in blindly. He does, in fact, give us two vital clues at the beginning of the first chapter: first, a quote from Macbeth, and second, the chapter title in the form of stage directions, "Enter Three Hussars."


message 8: by Dan (last edited Jul 29, 2019 09:05AM) (new)

Dan | 57 comments Mod
I postponed my reading of The Big Time a bit. Having three months in which to read it is nice. I can pick the time I'm most in the mood for some science fiction. I'm resuming it now, but I became curious about reading the Changewar series in internal chronology order rather than publication. I found most of the series here for free: https://archive.org/details/changewar...

It's Changewar, a collection of the short stories of the Changewar. The book starts with "Try and Change the Past", which seemed to me a great introduction to Leiber's concept for the entire series, a very logical place to start - 4 stars.

The next story is "The Oldest Soldier" a very exciting chase story that lets the reader know something of the stakes involved. I really like it because we're getting an outsider's perspective on the Changewar. It's a way of dipping one's feet into the water to test the temperature. It's also a suspenseful story. The only thing I might have wished for was to be at the bar to hear more of Max's stories. - 5 stars.

The next prequel story both collections agree is "Damnation Morning". It's a good story, but asks more questions than it answers - 4 stars.

After that, it's on to the main event with The Big Time. If you've not started with the novella, I recommend reading these three short stories first. They form a great introduction to Leiber's concepts on time travel and the nature of the time stream. The Big Time just throws you into the water as your first swimming lesson.


message 9: by Kateblue (new)

Kateblue | 31 comments I didn;t realize I had 3 months to read it. I read the very beginning and then got sidetracked into another book and forgot all about it. So we are supposed to be done in Sept?


message 10: by Dan (last edited Jul 28, 2019 10:36PM) (new)

Dan | 57 comments Mod
You can always (as I am) read the entire Changewar series over the three months of summer (June 22 - September 21).


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