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The Big Time (1958)

by Fritz Leiber

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Changewar (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0504314,560 (3.06)45
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 sides--"Spiders" and "Snakes"--battle endlessly to change the future and the past. Our lives, our memories, are their battleground. And in the midst of the war is the Place, outside space and time, where Greta Forzane and the other Entertainers provide solace and r-&-r for tired time warriors.… (more)
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» See also 45 mentions

English (40)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
I love to read some SF classics every once in a while, and Leiber never disappoints. While the style and language definitely reflect the time in which it was written, I think this story holds up pretty well. Although all the action takes place in one "Place", it's an engaging and fast-moving read (or listen; this was the audiobook version, excellently narrated by Suzanne Torren). Highly recommended if you want to try some older SF. ( )
  sdramsey | Dec 14, 2020 |
The Change War has been going on for along time now, an eternal conflict of altering history on many planets between two groups called the Spiders and the Snakes. Greta is an "entertainer" for the Spiders, a hostess of sorts at an R&D station for change war soldiers. When the entire station is threatened with destruction... well, you'd think a lot of character would be revealed, but actually, you'd be wrong.

Perhaps this style of writing was revolutionary in the 60s (or the 50s), but Mr. Lieber's characters are cliches and not particularly sympathetic, if that's what they're meant to be. And attitudes towards women are very difficult to overlook.

It's never made clear what, exactly it is that Great does for the Spiders. Is she a warm fuzzy therapist/ friendly figure? A prostitute? One might argue that this ambiguity allows the character not to distract from the plot, but the plot isn't interesting enough to warrant this. The temporal war -- a radical concept in its day -- is kept distant, the plot revolving around the mystery of who planted a bomb in the station, and cut the station loose into the void outside of the universe. Making this dull is quite the accomplishment.

Fritz Lieber has a lot of fans, but based on this book, I'm not one of them. I finished The Big time because it was short and I did want to find out what happened -- parts of it are gripping, but the ending disappoints.
( )
  neilneil | Dec 7, 2020 |
The Big Time won the 1958 Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette.* Like a lot of Leiber's work, it's long out of print, though I was able to get a nice-looking 2000 Tor hardcover for cheap. The Big Time was one of the first of Leiber's "Change War" stories, about a time war being raged between factions across human history; the SF Encyclopedia doesn't credit Leiber with inventing this now-familiar sf idea, but does indicate he popularized it. It's an odd book, though. Instead of confronting the idea head on (as, say, this year's Hugo winner This Is How You Lose the Time War did), The Big Time takes place entirely in the Place, a recreation and recuperation area for Change War soldiers positioned outside of time and space; we never see the Change War even close to directly.

Instead, we see a set of Change War soldiers from different eras and ideologies, all now serving a common cause, as well as recreation staff; the first-person narrator is a woman entertainer in the Place. Two different groups of soldiers arrive in the Place at once, and things go a little haywire, mostly centering around one who was a Rupert Brooke-esque World War I poet cut down in his prime, and then recruited. There are some neat concepts here, and I liked the voice of Greta, the narrator, and I appreciate that Leiber didn't come at his Change War head on... but I'm not convinced this was the best possible story to tell about this idea, and even though it's quite short (just 128 pages in my edition), it still felt a bit too long. But there is really neat stuff here, some of it quite disturbing, and I zipped right through it, and enjoyed almost all of it. A good book, good enough that I'm going to read a collection of Leiber's Change War short fiction.

* This is the only year there was a combined award for novel and novelette. A lot about the awards fluctuated early on. In 1957, the only awards were for Best American Professional Magazine, Best British Professional Magazine, and Best Fanzine. No awards for individual works at all!
  Stevil2001 | Oct 2, 2020 |
Tem bons conceitos, criatividade, uma ideia central intetessante e até mesmo alguns quotes bem marcantes. Mas falta domínio na hora de construir uma narrativa, a ponto de a história parecer mais o projeto do esqueleto de um livro do que uma obra finalizada e bem executada. Decepcionante, pra dizer o mínimo. ( )
  kk3thess | Aug 23, 2020 |
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 the book is kinda crappy. It's actually referring to the field of battle.)

So, this novel is about as far as you can get from modern SF.
It's laden heavily with a ton of interesting ideas and alternate reality sets and times thrown at you without explanation or depth, having a very quick progression of plot and and a stage as big as all time and all the spaces of an infinity of universes.

If that doesn't blow your mind, then good.

We're hanging out with the entertainment crew that services the space-time warriors that snipe big changes through history, a neutral zone that caters to the Snakes (one time-traveling faction) and the Spiders (another time traveling faction.) It's chaos, to say the least. Is it war, or is it really something else? No spoilers.

There's plenty to think about, of course. Wanna invert a huge pulsating brain or name drop the Comandant of Toronto or murder baby Einstein? It's fun as hell.

I got the impression that Heinlein's "All You Zombies" was a better Time Travel story, with more and deeper exploration of plot and character, but I'm also pretty sure that the two authors were playing with each other. Heinlein's story came out one year after this one won its Hugo. Fun fact: the 2014 movie Predestination was based on "All You Zombies".

BUT, Leiber's novel was NOT about going deep, but going really, really wide in an attempt to tackle a really big idea. What idea? Oh no. This is an easy and quick book, people. Enjoy it for yourself. :)

We zip here and there and everywhere, like a knee-jerk reaction to all the Golden-Age SF that had just come before. But Leiber takes all the old square-jawed heroes with all their can-do attitudes and amped them up to mind-blowing proportions, giving them an unlimited landscape, and then, for our "heroes" we're thrown into the minds of "normals" caught in the middle of it all.

Why is this the opposite of modern SF? Because it doesn't slow down to explore any single plotline or character in detail. So much happens so quickly that it's a delight and a blur and I feel like I need to sit down and deconstruct the living hell out of every paragraph and chortle at the wordplay and the thousands of alternate reality implications. There's SO MANY. :) It's like falling into Wonka's candy store.

Zip, zip, zip, zip. It kept a smile on my face and a snicker in my laugh for practically the entire novel. Even the late reveals reverse the fact that endless (literally) war is not quite as dark as we first thought. That immediately turns this novel into a comedy by the old traditions, and I feel like I've been needing something very light-hearted for a while, so this definitely fits the bill.

If you're getting the deep desire to have an idea-packed and an amazingly quick read, I'd absolutely recommend this novel. Fritz Leiber has such a light and clever voice! :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leiber, Fritzprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Craddock, AlanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehr, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palma, DeniseCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlück, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
von Zitzewitz, HootCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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People/Characters
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Epigraph
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Wann kommen wir drei uns wieder entgegen
Im Blitz und Donner, oder im Regen?
Wenn der Wirrwarr stille schweigt,
Wer der Sieger ist, sich zeigt.

Macbeth
Dedication
First words
My name is Greta Forzane. Twenty-nine and a party girl would describe me.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Do not combine "The Big Time" with the Ace Double Edition of "The Big Time" / "The Mind Spiders".



"The Big Time" was also published in Europe in two volumes ("The Big Time Book 1", in various languages); these should not be combined with the complete book "The Big Time".
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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 sides--"Spiders" and "Snakes"--battle endlessly to change the future and the past. Our lives, our memories, are their battleground. And in the midst of the war is the Place, outside space and time, where Greta Forzane and the other Entertainers provide solace and r-&-r for tired time warriors.

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Book description
Haiku summary
A bomb lost in time,
Twelve people, trapped together,
Friends or enemies?
(DeusXMachina)

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