To Live Again

Robert Silverberg
To Live Again Cover

To Live Again


In the near-future world Silverberg postulates for this 1969 novel, anyone with enough money may pay to have periodic backups of his or her persona recorded and filed away so that upon their death, he or she may go into an pool of available personae other people, again with sufficient funds, can have incorporated into their own personalities. Why would anyone think this was a good idea? When I started the novel, I could imagine that a dead rich guy might want to live forever inside another's body, but his presence there is going to be purely secondary. He sees all but feels nothing. His new carrier's motives baffled me until it was explained that these secondary personae enriched one's experience. You might go to them for advice, worldly wisdom, and I guess even a kind of companionship. An artist in your head could make you a more aesthetically attuned person. A playboy might give you a better chance with the ladies. The world's most successful financier could come in really handy.

It is the fate of Paul Kaufmann's persona that propels this novel. He was the patriarch of the powerful Kaufmann dynasty. A noveau riche upstart named Roditis wants him bad. Mark Kaufmann, Paul's nephew, is determined to see that this doesn't happen. There is much maneuvering among Silverberg's cast of characters and even a murder to be solved. It is all pretty silly but fun. The chief hurtle for reader's today remains Silverberg's traditionally adolescent sexual obsessions. There are two female characters, and we seldom encounter them without a detailed description of their breasts, thighs, and voracious sexual appetites, appetites always used to gain power over the poor schmucks they offer themselves to. Silverberg was thirty-five years old when he wrote this, but his libido is still that of a wide-eyed pre-teen looking at the Little Annie Fannie cartoons in Playboy Magazine.

This is a story of decadent rich people who have taken this bizarre new technology as their birthright and wield it as a weapon in an endless games of one upmanship. They also live in danger of having their new personae overpower them, a process known as going dybbuk. Actually everything about the process seems more trouble than its worth, but as Roditis points out, these are just a bunch of high society types with nothing else to do. One couple, Charles and Elena, goes slumming to an amusement park aimed at the lower classes, a pleasure dome where you can throw explosive darts at genetic mutations or rent sex rooms by the hour. Elena has never touched money before and is delighted with a souvenir one hundred dollar bill. Needless to say, she slips it between her ample breasts.