In which our hero, Quellen, who has the charisma of a basset hound on Prozac, gets claustrophobic. We are in the late 25th century, and despite limits placed on procreation, the proles are crammed into single rooms inhabited by scads of people. The only way to get a little room is to climb the corporate/government ladder. But unemployment is chronic.
The only apparent diversions which have been created to escape this stifling existence are sniffer palaces, where one inbibes a potion and gets a little fantasy which is always interrupted right before it gets good. There's a little crime, but nothing detailed, and religious cults, including a cult of regurgitation, which I'd rather not go into. Let's just say it involves drug-laced dough and a big bowl.
So a guy who's discovered the trick to dropping humans into the past (literally, as for some strange reason they come out about ten feet above ground) figures he'll solve the unemployment problem and make a little cash. They want to stop him because the records show when the hopping stopped, but they don't want to alter the past, etc etc..
Quellen, as a secretary of crime, is responsible for stopping this heinous behavior. But Quellen has set up a secret hideaway in Africa for when he wants to go where nobody knows his name. There are side plots involving his brother-in-law on the dole, a fat underling who knows about his African retreat and secretly wants to be a Roman, and a world leader who get his liver replaced about as often as Firestone puts out tire recalls and is terrified that one of his ancestors will be prevented from getting back to the past to make babies. Quellen figures he'll use that fear for a little personal gain.
Robert Silverberg confronts the paradoxes of time travel in a brilliant new novel of the 25th century, when the only escape from suffocation in a totally controlled enviroment is to "hop" backward through time.
Since time hopping rearranges the past on which the structure of current existenceis based, it must be stopped-but not too quickly. For the history of the 1970's includes the arrival of hoppers who have not yet left hte 2490's - and whose departure thus must not be stopped!
"A complex, unpredictable plot...thought-provoking and throughly enjoyable."