I ran into an old friend Friday.
I stopped by my favorite used book store after work, hoping to stock up on paper backs before the winter cold settles in. I make my way to the science fiction section way in the back, scan the shelves, picking my way past fantasy, dragons, fairies and the more hard core SF novels that are all too often series now, too long to bother with. Then my eye lands on a single slim spine, tucked away on the bottom shelf, as Silverberg usually is when filed alphabetically.
Time Of The Great Freeze by Robert Silverberg
“Oh my gosh. Hello!”
I quickly plucked the book from it’s neighbors and held it in a death grip, even though the backroom was vacant except for me. And I smiled.
This story was my first Silverberg and I’m fairly certain it was my first post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi experience. I was eight or nine at the time. I close my eyes and can see myself pulling it, in hardback, from among the stacks of books in the Public Library. The world is covered in ice! People living under cities for hundreds of years! Breaking free!
I didn’t want to take it back to the Library when I was done.
Over the years, I have often thought back to this short juvenile novel that made such an impression on my psyche. Even when a story ends, the characters can remain alive in memory. I have read many more Silverberg novels over the years, and loads more SF by many more authors, Heinlein settling in as my all time favorite long ago. This may not have been Silverberg’s best, nor was it my favorite novel among my favorite genre, yet it remains special. Something about it lit a spark that has never gone out. And I was so happy to stumble across it again by accident. Sometimes we find what we need when we aren’t looking.
The printing is 1971, and it’s in remarkable shape for being over 40 years old. I sniff and look around to see if I have been caught; it smells just the way a proper old paperback book should; woody, earthy, dusty and ever so slightly sweet. I open the book, breath in the muskiness, and am transported back. “It was late in the day – or what passed for day in the underground city of New York.”
Hello Old Friend.