The Big Time

Published: 1957

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Synopsis

Greta Forzane is an entertainer at a recuperation station called The Place outside of time and space in the “biggest war going” on, the Change War. Greta was recruited into this war as many are, by being pulled out of the normal flow of time and being shown their moment of death. She accepted that Faustian deal and now lives and works in the Big Time, that medium which allows travel between points in time and space in the Small Time.

The Change War is fought between two factions known as the Spiders and the Snakes. Both sides use their time traversing abilities to alter history to their ultimate advantage. Earth is just one planet in this conflict that spans the whole universe. Time soldiers undertake missions in the Small Time to exact historical changes that ripple throughout history. Unfortunately for the soldiers but fortunately for everyday existence, reality resists change and requires persistent efforts to make progress.

Greta tells the story of a near mutiny that occurred at The Place during a period in the war where recent missions were going badly for the Spiders, and the stress on the soldiers was on full display. One of the soldiers, a British poet from World War I, is disillusioned with the war efforts and upset with how the operations distort and destroy the much-loved achievements of civilization and with an impassioned speech, implores the others to take a stand. Erich, a Nazi officer, wants no part of Bruce's ideological, mutinous call to action and takes his own radical action to prevent it.

The Big Time explores the philosophical issues of total war and the psychological impacts not just of war but of the time distortion, erasures, and augmentations on the memories of the participants and the victims. Even though Greta describes herself as a “party girl” and narrates with a chin-up demeanor, the lives of all in the Big Time are battle-scarred, beaten and buffeted by the Change Winds, with memories fractured, rearranged, and stitched in by changes wrought by the time-operations. Their sense of self is under constant assault, and their emotions are repeatedly pummeled by memories of loved ones still in the Small Time, a de facto war zone. Being invited into the Big Time may mean life, but it is a life of abuse or abusing as is mirrored by Greta and Erich's abusive relationship.

Awards

  • Hugo, Best Novel (Win) (1958)

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Virgil Finlay Virgil Finlay

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