Son of Man by Robert Silverberg

Son of Man

by Robert Silverberg

Form: Novel

Year: 1971

ID: 1083

Publication history:


(from Del Rey 1980)

In the beginning...

there was no Brooklyn, no St. Louis, no Shakespeare, no moon, no hunger, no death...

In the beginning...

there were no real men, no real women, nothing but dispassionately passionate ambisexuals of the lowest and highest order...

In the beginning...

the heavens, the seas and the Earth belonged to more intelligent species than a man called Clay could ever have dreamed possible in his own time

but his own time as a man had passed, and now his time as the son of man had come!


Clay is a man from the 20th Century, an educated person who considers himself open-minded. His mind is in for quite a trip when he is caught up in a time-flux and whisked untold billions of years into the future (not the beginning of time). The earth of this distant era retains no recognizable features from our time, and its population consists of wildly variant life forms. In the intervening eons, the human race has taken many forms, from squid-like aquatic creatures to tyrannosaur-like eating machines to grotesque goat-like creatures. Clay is befriended (if that's the word) by a group of humans called Skimmers, who can change form at will, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes a pale gray cloud that can travel interstellar space. All of the strange human forms are called sons of men, races descended from Homo sapiens. With the Skimmers, and in spite of them, Clay goes on a journey of discovery which takes him around the future earth into the depths of his own soul. What is it to be human? How do I fit in? These are some of the questions Clay must answer.

The technology of this distant future is pure magic, quite bizarre, and utterly fascinating. Silverberg set up a situation where pretty much anything can happen. It's a wild riot of imagination, probably not for the casual reader, and captures that rare feeling of cosmic vision, an expansive view of the universe. Everything has meanings within meanings. As an interesting sideline, James Tiptree Jr took the title of the novel Brightness Falls from the Air from a passage of this book.

Silverberg revisited this world in the story Dancers in the Time-Flux, which explains a little about the origin of the time-flux.

Other resources:

[None on record]