The year is 1999. The century is about to turn. The civilized world is prosperous but tense with fear about the still existing possibility of a major war. While in the large area that used to be called
underdeveloped there is a hysterical conviction that the world will come to an end with the arrival of the new century.
Into this situation floats a creature calling himself Vornan-19 — and claiming to be a visitor from 1000 years in the future... The world is ready, indeed ripe, for a sign, an omen, a new cult.
Nominated for Nebula Award for best novel, 1968. Perhaps not Silverberg's best, but a very good work nonetheless, and one that deserves to be in print. There is naturally a dated quality to the story, as there is bound to be with any book written in the 60s about the 90s. I find little difficulty setting that aside, and I think many other readers would be just as understanding. Vornan is a fascinating enigma, simultaneously wise and ignorant, promiscuous and innocent, powerful and overwhelmed. The cover blurb is inaccurate in the bit about
underdeveloped countries – that hysterical belief in imminent doom is widespread in Europe and the United States as well as Africa and South America. The Apocalyptists, as they are called, are everywhere, staging massive public saturnine orgies of excess (is that redundant or what?). Their credo is,
The world ends tomorrow, enjoy what you can today. Vornan is living proof (if he's really from 2999AD) that the world will not end with the new millennium. The 20th Century people who get caught up in the mystery man's whirlwind global tour find their lives changed in many ways, some obvious, some subtle. This book really shows the depth of characterization Silverberg is capable of. Recommended if you can find it.
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