Two enthralling novels by Robert Silverberg about a future in which the minds of the living can be changed for a price—often with dire consequences
In To Live Again, thanks to the Scheffing Institute, death is not the end. For a hefty fee, the soul bank stores the personas of those who have died and inserts them into the brains of willing, living hosts. It’s a process that integrates the two minds, imbuing the host with a menu of highly valuable abilities, memories, and traits. The more personas one absorbs, the greater his social status. When banking mogul Paul Kaufmann dies, many people apply to receive his persona. The leading applicants—his bitter business rivals—are locked in a battle to claim his soul. The Institute follows strict rules to ensure that the host always remains in control, but of course accidents do happen . . .
In The Second Trip , Paul Macy wears the Rehab badge, the sign of healing that advertises his status as a reconstruct job. When society derides capital punishment and opts, instead, for personality rehabilitation, criminals undergo mindpick operations in which their identities are stripped and extinguished. Given a new bank of memories and a fresh identity, they are offered a second chance at life. For Paul, though, this gift comes with a price. His former self still lingers inside him, waiting for the opportunity to emerge and battle Paul’s new self for ultimate control.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
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. 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 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented him with the Grand Master Award. Silverberg is one of twenty-nine writers to have received that distinction.
Read an Excerpt
To Live Again and The Second Trip
By Robert Silverberg
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1972 Robert Silverberg
All rights reserved.
The lamasery rose steeply from the top of the bluff on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate. Feeling a faint cramp in his left calf, John Roditis got out of the car near the toll plaza and, stretching and kicking, looked across the water at the gleaming yellow building, windowless, sleek, ineffably holy as a fountainhead of good karma. It was an extraordinarily warm day. San Francisco had been gripped by an unaccustomed heat wave throughout the four days of Roditis' visit. Hot weather in the psychological sense did not trouble Roditis; he thrived on it, in fact. But when heat came to him not as a function of metaphor but as a blazing golden eye staring from above, he longed to switch on the air conditioner.
There was no way for him to change the outdoor environment to that degree. At least, not yet. Given enough minds in one skull, though, who was to say what limits a man might have?
Roditis gestured at the lamasery. "I hope it's cooler in there, eh?"
"It will be," Charles Noyes said. "The guru is cool."
Roditis scowled at his associate's pun. "Still infested with the antique slang?"
"Not me. It's—Kravchenko." As he spoke the name of the persona who shared his body, Noyes' grin turned to a grimace, and he clung to the polished railing just before him. His long body sagged. His elbows trembled and beat against his ribs. "Damn him! Damn him!" Noyes grunted.
"Have him erased," Roditis suggested.
"You know I can't!"
"When an unruly persona threatens the integrity of the host, he ought to be expelled," said Roditis crisply. "If Kozak made trouble for me I'd throw him out in a minute, and he knows it. Or Walsh. Either of them. I can't afford to have a troublemaker in my head. Can you?"
"Stop it, John."
"I'm just talking common sense."
"Kravchenko doesn't like it. He's giving me a hard time." Noyes' arm came up from the railing in a fitful jerk. "He's fighting me. He's trying to speak."
"You won't be satisfied," said Roditis, "until he goes dybbuk on you. Throws you out of your own body."
"I'd kill him and me both first!"
Roditis scowled. "You're becoming an unstable bastard, you realize it? If I weren't so fond of you I'd let you go. Come on: into the car. Mustn't keep the cool guru waiting, or he'll get hot under the toga. Or whatever he wears." Roditis, chuckling, opened the car door and pulled Noyes away from the railing. There was momentary confusion as Noyes struggled to regain full control of his limbs. Then Roditis thrust his companion into the car, got in beside him, and slammed the door.
"Finish the route as programed," Roditis said to the car.
The generator thrummed and the car backed out of the plaza area, swung around, and headed for the tollbooths. The actuarial sign over the row of booths announced the day's vehicle toll: 83¢. As the car passed through a booth, a brief data interchange took place between the bridge computer and the car's, and Roditis' central bank account was automatically billed for that amount. Onward sped the car over the elderly bridge and toward the yellow shaft of the lamasery just beyond.
Within the cool depths of the car, Roditis flecked perspiration from his corrugated brow and regarded the other man uneasily. He was growing more and more worried about Noyes, who perhaps was becoming a risky liability. It would be a pity to have to let Noyes go, after a relationship that had lasted so long and worked so well.
They had met in college, nineteen years before. Their roles had been reversed then: Noyes was the campus leader, tall and dashing, appropriately Anglo-Saxon, with the fair hair and blue eyes of the highest caste, and seven generations of respectable money behind him, while Roditis, the immigrant shoemaker's son who looked the part, was short, thick-bodied, dark, a scholarship student, a nobody. But Noyes had a gift for dissipating his many assets, Roditis a gift for capitalizing on what little he had. It was an attraction of opposites, instant, permanent. Now Roditis controlled an empire, and Noyes was a cog in that vast wheel. Poor Noyes. He hadn't been able to handle his own wealth, couldn't deal with a fine wife, was even making a mess of his persona transplant. Roditis hated to patronize anyone, but he couldn't help a certain feeling of smugness as he contemplated his own position vis-à-vis Noyes. Sad. Sad.
The car purred to a halt in the gravelly parking oval adjoining the lamasery. The men got out. It seemed to be at least ten degrees hotter on this side of the bridge. Reflected heat from the lamasery's polished sides, Roditis wondered? He looked up, and felt Anton Kozak within him responding affirmatively to the chaste elegance of the architecture. Roditis had become infinitely more aware of esthetic matters since taking on Kozak's persona. It had seemed odd to some that a businessman like Roditis would choose a sonic sculptor for his second transplant, but Roditis knew what he was going toward. He was assembling a portfolio of personae as another man might assemble a portfolio of common stocks—for diversity, and for ultimate high profit.
"Feeling better?" Roditis asked.
"Much," said Noyes.
"Kravchenko is pushed way down?"
"I think so. He's had his exercise for the day."
"If there's more trouble while we're here, ask the guru to help you. He'll run a few simple exorcisms, I'm sure."
Looking pale, Noyes said, "It won't be necessary, John," and they approached the building.
Sensors scanned them. They were expected; the tall Gothic doorway peeled open, admitting them. Within, all was dark, cool, reflective. Roditis caught glimpses of saffron-robed monks scuttling to and fro in the rear arcades. A great deal of money had gone into the building of this lamasery; some of the best families had contributed to the fund. They said that the late Paul Kaufmann had donated over a million dollars fissionable. It was funny to imagine a rich Jew contributing that much money to a Buddhist monastery's construction fund; but, Roditis reminded himself, Kaufmann had not been a terribly orthodox Jew, any more than these monks were terribly orthodox Buddhists. And what had a million dollars more or less mattered to Paul Kaufmann? The crafty old banker had had his motives. Roditis saw a kindred spirit in Kaufmann. He himself had reached wealth too late to aid in this place's construction fund, but now he was here to make amends for that, and for what he thought were much the same motives.
Two shaven-headed monks emerged from inner rooms. They made appropriate pseudo-Buddhist gestures, tracing mandalas in the air, touching cardinal points of their bodies, murmuring gentle welcoming mantras. Roditis, unsmiling, flicked a glance at Noyes. The tall man seemed as awed as though he stood at the threshold of God's throneroom. Once upon a time, Roditis would have envied Noyes his ability to don such a goddam sincere expression of respect, as contrasted to Roditis' own look of impassive, poker-faced piety. But now Roditis was not at all sure whether Noyes was faking anything. In these latter troubled years, old Chuck might well have turned into a believer. Stranger things had happened.
"The guru will be with you shortly," said one of the monks. "Will you remove your worldly coverings and join us in prayer?"
He indicated a room where they might change. Within, Roditis stripped away his sweat-stained clothing and gratefully shucked his shoes. His body, at thirty-seven, was tight-muscled and solid, a compact bullet of flesh still traveling unswervingly on its designed trajectory. Noyes, who was no older, still gave the illusion of lanky grace, but it was only an illusion. Beneath his clothes the tall man was thickening at the paunch, going flabby at thigh and rump. Such weakness of the flesh struck Roditis as a symptom of the decay of the will. He judged men harshly in this respect.
Arrayed now in loose, billowing robe and soft sandals, Roditis said, "It's certainly more comfortable this way. If men were saner they'd dress like this all the time."
"It wouldn't be practicable."
"No," Roditis agreed. "It leads to undue relaxation. A slackening of striving. Are we supposed to wait here for them to come back and get us?"
"I suppose," said Noyes.
The room was bare of furniture, but for the two saddle-backed benches on which they had left their worldly clothes. The walls were of some dark, highly reflective stone, slabs of black marble, perhaps, or possibly onyx. If onyx could be had in such quantities, Roditis thought. There was an inscription in inlaid letters of gold leaf on each wall. The one facing Roditis said:
If so far you have been deaf to the teaching, listen to it now! An overpowering craving will come over you for the sense-experiences which you remember having had in the past, and which through your lack of sense organs you cannot now have. Your desire for rebirth becomes more and more urgent; it becomes a real torment to you. This desire now racks you; you do not, however, experience it for what it is, but feel it as a deep thirst which parches you as you wander along, harassed, among deserts of burning sands. Whenever you try to take some rest, monstrous forms rise up before you. Some have animal heads on human bodies, others are gigantic birds with huge wings and claws. Their howlings and their whips drive you on, and then a hurricane carries you along, with those demonic beings in hot pursuit. Greatly anxious, you will look for a safe place of refuge.
They read it in silence. Roditis said, "That's a lot of gold to waste on such nonsense. Recognize it?"
"The Bardo Thödol, of course."
"Yes. The good old Book of the Dead, eh? A hot line of revelation straight from the Himalayas."
Noyes pointed to the inscription on the rear wall. "What do you make of that one?"
Roditis turned, narrowing his eyes. It read:
He who lacketh discrimination, whose mind is unsteady and whose heart is impure, never reacheth the goal, but is born again. But he who hath discrimination, whose mind is steady and whose heart is pure, reacheth the goal, and having reached it is born no more.
A muscle twitched in Roditis' cheek. He said bleakly, "It's pure nirvana-propaganda. Subversion. I thought they didn't try to push that concept in the Western world."
"They can't help allowing a little of the orthodox theory to survive," Noyes said, sounding apologetic.
"Why not? We've adapted all that Oriental foolishness to our own purposes. And our own purposes don't include nirvana at all. To be swallowed up in the cosmic all? To be born no more? That's not our object at all. To live again, that's what we want. Again and again and again. So why do they put that up?"
"They pose as the heirs to Eastern mysticism," said Noyes. "Catering to Western pragmatism. In theory, rebirth is undesirable, freedom from the wheel of existence is the highest goal. Yes?"
"Yes. In theory. Not for me."
A monk entered. "The guru now will see you," he murmured.
Roditis shuffled forward through clouds of incense, his sandals sliding on the smooth stone floor. Over the arch of the door he found another slogan in letters of gold:
It is appointed unto man once to die.
Yes, he thought. Once to die: I'll grant that. But many times to be reborn. He felt the warm presence within him of Anton Kozak and Elio Walsh, who lived again because he had chosen their personae from the soul bank. Had they hungered for nirvana's sweet oblivion? Of course not! They had bided their time in cold storage, and now they walked the world again, passengers in a busy, well-stocked, active mind. Roditis would leave nirvana to real Buddhists. He preferred the Westernized version of the creed.
The guru looked like a salesman of motel appliances who had seen the light. Not even his shaven skull and saffron robes could conceal the blunt, earthily American features, the jutting jaw, the prominent lips, the glossy, somewhat hyper-thyroid blue eyes, the domed vault of the forehead. He was squat of physique, even shorter and stockier than Roditis, and was perhaps sixty years old, though it was difficult to be certain of that. The only creases in the holy man's face were those of its youthful geography made deeper: the deep valleys alongside the strong nose. His skull, newly mown, was pink and smooth. It had a curious occipital bulge.
Taking Roditis' hand with his left, Noyes' with his right, the guru offered a blessing and a wish for many lives for them both. Roditis was reassured. He had no interest in being fobbed off to nirvana while reincarnations were available.
"To my study?" the guru suggested.
Hideous Tibetan scrolls defaced the walls. Roditis eyed them with displeasure; within him, Anton Kozak surged with delight, but Elio Walsh, the bluff old philistine, voiced distaste even stronger than Roditis'. There was a desk, and on it a very secular-looking telephone with vision and data-transmitting attachments. Beside the telephone lay a book expensively bound in full morocco. The guru, smiling as he noticed Roditis' interest in the volume, handed it to him.
"A priceless first edition," said the holy man. "Evans-Wentz, the original translation of the Bardo, 1927. You won't find many of these about."
Roditis caressed the book. Its cool binding held a sensual appeal for him. Opening it with care, as though he expected pages to spring free of their own will, he eyed the familiar text with its lengthy burden of prefaces, its endless table of contents. He turned to the first section, the Chikhai Bardo. "HEREIN LIETH THE SETTING-FACE-TO-FACE TO THE REALITY IN THE INTERMEDIATE STATE: THE GREAT DELIVERANCE BY HEARING WHILE ON THE AFTER-DEATH PLANE, FROM THE PROFOUND DOCTRINE OF THE EMANCIPATING OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS BY MEDITATION UPON THE PEACEFUL AND WRATHFUL DEITIES."
Nonsense, Roditis knew, and Elio Walsh echoed the sharp judgment while Kozak registered mild annoyance. On a different level of his mind Roditis admitted that it was useful nonsense, in its way. How mumbo-jumbo from the icy plateaus of the yak country could be a guide to American man was a complex matter, but so it had befallen, and Roditis, comforted by his multiple personality, was flexible enough to accept and reject in the same moment.
"It's a beautiful volume," he said.
"A gift from Paul Kaufmann," the guru replied. "One of his many kindnesses to our establishment. His loss is truly a great one."
"Luckily, only temporary," Roditis pointed out. "It can't be long before a transplant of his persona will be awarded."
"Quite soon, now, I understand."
"Oh?" Roditis lurched tensely forward. "What do you know about that?"
The guru looked startled at Roditis' eagerness. "Why, nothing official. But he has been dead several months now. The family period of mourning is over. Surely they have processed the applicants for Kaufmann's persona by now, and a decision soon will come. So I assume. I have not been told anything."
Relaxing, Roditis saw Noyes' quick glower of disapproval. He knew he had acted in bad form, blurting like that. Too damned bad. Noyes had nicer manners; but Noyes wasn't hungry for Paul Kaufmann's persona. Sometimes there was a strategic advantage to a seemingly accidental tipping of your hand. Let the guru know what he wanted. It couldn't hurt.
Roditis said, "Kaufmann was a great man and a great banker. I don't know which aspect of him I admire more."
"For us his greatnesses were combined. He favored us with many donations and sometimes with his presence at our rites. Shall we pray?"
A couple of sandaled monks had slipped into the room. Roditis heard the soft chanting of the great mantra: "Om mani padme hum." Beside him Noyes' voice took it up. Roditis, too, unselfconsciously began to repeat the catchphrase. They said it was the essence of all happiness, prosperity, and knowledge, and the great means of liberation. Om. The liberation they talked about was one Roditis did not seek: nirvana, oblivion. Marti. No one sought that, really, except possibly in places like India, where rebirth meant yet another breaking on the wheel of karma. Padme. Hum. Om. Who wanted liberation from existence? First a man wanted nourishment, and then strength, and then power, and then long life. And then rebirth so he could savor the cycle once more. Om mani padme hum. Roditis participated in the chant but not in any wish that the chant be fulfilled, and he suspected that of those about him only Noyes might seriously feel otherwise. Om.
The religious interlude was over.
It was time to talk business.
Excerpted from To Live Again and The Second Trip by Robert Silverberg. Copyright © 1972 Robert Silverberg. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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