Up the Line

Robert Silverberg
Up the Line Cover

Up the Line


I like time travel books, and so I was actually looking forward to this piece of boring, dated, sexist drivel. Oh, and I left out racist. The main character refers to his always "magnificently oiled" black friend as Sambo.

Silverberg wrote it when he was in his early thirties and it was published in 1969. Maybe he was pissed that he was just a little too old for the summer of love and all the drug-inhanced screwing he imagined went on then. In any case with Up the Line he took his always libido-heavy prose in absurd new directions. The mid 21st century is not so much sexually liberated as it is in constant rut. This is a time when pedophiles can casually admit their preferences, and a father can watch a grossly fat molester grope his thirteen year old daughter and think the experience might do her some good. His fourteen year old son, meanwhile, is frequently screwing a woman ten years his senior during the morning orientation sessions this small band of time-traveling tourists gets from their increasingly irritated guide. He's grumpy because he would rather be sneaking back another century in time to screw a distant relative named Pulcheria. (Did Silverberg get these names from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?)

The book is untroubled by plot until the last fifty pages or so. Tour groups are given two week visits to the history of Byzantium, catching all the high points of plunder, high court ceremony, and of course public rape. As a history lesson, John Julius Norwich's three volume history of Byzantium could not possibly be a tedious as the first 200 pages of Up the Line.

Up the Line was nominated by both the Nebula and Hugo. The juries that year must of been composed of adolescent boys looking for jack off material.