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Literature / The Ugly Little Boy (1991)

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"And, alone in the dim emptiness of the sleeping forecastle he appeared bigger, colossal, very old; old as father time himself, who should have come the into this place as quiet as a sepulchre to contemplate with patient eyes the sorry victory of sleep, the consoler. Yet he was only a child of time, a lonely relic of a devoured and forgotten generation. . ."

First published in the United Kingdom as Child of Time in 1991 by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. American publication followed the next year under the title The Ugly Little Boy. This story is the Novelization of "The Ugly Little Boy" by Dr Asimov.

A prologue introduces a new element for this story; the tale of Silver Cloud, chieftain of a tribe of neanderthals, and She Who Knows, an old tribeswoman who constantly pesters him.

The story proper opens with Nurse Edith Fellowes entering Stasis Section One for the last time. She's secretly planning to help Timmie, the young neanderthal boy, escape. The story then jumps back to when Dr Gerald Hoskins is interviewing women for the job of caring for a neanderthal child. Miss Fellowes is offered the job, and the first interchapter begins.

The book continues to switch between stories; present-day Stasis Technology, Ltd., where Nurse Fellowes monitors the health and development of Timmie, while the prehistoric tribe of neanderthals believes that Skyfire Face was taken by the goddess to show her displeasure with the tribe.


The Ugly Little Boy provides examples of:

  • 1 Million B.C.: Half of the story takes place forty thousand years ago, from the perspective of the neanderthal tribe to whom the titular child belonged to. This tribe is frightened of the Other Ones who have been encroaching on their territory, and may need to go to war against them to defend themselves from complete eradication.
  • Adaptation Expansion: When Robert Silverberg undertook expanding the original Novelette to Novel length, he added several new characters, new subplots, and a new setting.
  • Billed Above the Title: Every cover of this book (including both versions of the title) publish the authors' names above the title, several covers displaying the names larger than the title itself.
  • Canon Foreigner: Due to Robert Silverberg adding sub-plots to extend the story length from Novelette to Novel, this included brand-new characters and their perspective on events forty thousand years in the past.
  • Advertisement:
  • Dedication: To Martin H. Greenberg, a double helping of dedication.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Timmie has a birthmark on his cheek that Miss Fellowes describes as a lightning bolt, and the neanderthal People call Skyfire (thus naming him Skyfire Face).
  • Epigraph: The novel is prefaced by a quote from Joseph Conrad, referencing how far back in time Timmie is taken. The original title, Child of Time is taken from this quote.
  • Facial Markings: Timmie has a birthmark on his cheek that Miss Fellowes describes as a lightning bolt, and the neanderthal People call skyfire (thus naming him Skyfire Face).
  • Humans by Any Other Name: The B-plot neanderthals call themselves the "People" and call humans the "Other Ones".
  • Market-Based Title: In the USA, the title is The Ugly Little Boy, while in the UK, the title is Child of Time.
  • Master Computer: Robert Silverberg adds to Isaac Asimov's description of the Stasis control centre, lampshading that it looks like a movie set for some ridiculous Science Fiction film with huge screens, thick black cables, and a large console of instruments.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Falling River renamed herself to She Who Knows because her husband had died at a young age and she was aging quickly. Since she couldn't join any of her tribe's groups, she took a name that created a sense of mystery and danger.
    • Goddess Women are the priests of the neanderthal tribe, who give up their old name to take on (part of) the identity of their goddess. The oldest doesn't remember her own name any longer, barely remembers the name of the second oldest (maybe), and only remembers the name of the youngest member (Bright Sky At Dawn) of their trio because they're mother and daughter.
    • Timmie (Timothy in full) is accidentally named so by Nurse Fellowes when one of the examining doctors asks her to summon him. She retroactively decides that the boy needs a name, and naming him would help reinforce that he's a person with a name, not an animal with only a description.
  • No Need for Names: Goddess Women are the priests of the neanderthal tribe, who change their name to Goddess Woman to represent them taking on (part of) the identity of their goddess.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Everything is written in a third-person limited fashion, with the "limited" changing on a chapter-by-chapter basis. The new "interchapter" perspectives gives insight into Timmie's tribe from prehistoric days, from several different character perspectives. The regular chapters use mostly Edith Fellows' viewpoint, but not exclusively so.
  • Tagline: "A novel of time and transcendence from the authors of Nightfall" — Bantam Books edition, 1993.
  • Title Drop: The title's description of Timmie is first used when Nurse Fellowes realizes that everything that Stasis will be providing for Timmie is present only at her behest; Dr Hoskins, CEO of Stasis, has set things up so that she is the only one in charge of the neanderthal project, and supplies will be not be provided unless there is a demand from her. Even Timmie seems to have intuited this in the early moments of their first meeting.

Alternative Title(s): Child Of Time