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THE BIG TIME
The artist's signature/initials "JW" were visible at bottom right on the 1972 original version of this cover, which had the colored part of the artwork on a white background.
The Big Time - a novel by Fritz Leiber, which won the 1958 Hugo award. Serialized in Galaxy March & April 1958. It's kinda short, and I think it reads like a play - since most events occur in "the Place." Highly recommended. Here's the flap-copy from a hardcover, which gives a reasonable summary or set-up:
Have you ever worried that your memory didn't seem to conjure up exactly the same image of the past from one day to the next? Have you ever been afraid your personality was changing because of forces beyond your control? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream?
If so, you've had hints of the Change War—the Big Time—which started far in the future a long time ago... a war fought throughout the ages, in our universe and in parallel universes that may or may not exist, depending on the final outcome a billion or more years from now.
The antagonists are the Spiders and the Snakes—the former being the good guys, supposedly, the latter generally considered a power out to pervert and enslave the cosmos.
But when you've been cut from your own lifeline shortly before your death and resurrected in the Big Time, it hardly matters which side you're on. There are serious adjustments to make and preconceptions to shed. Like the idea that the slightest change in the past will transform the whole future. It won't. So the changes have to be pretty drastic— and pretty violent—to have any noticeable effect.
The one real similarity between the Change War and lesser conflicts is that it's hell.
That's why the Places exist—combination field hospitals and nightclubs outside space and time. They offer temporary refuge to those who carry out the Spiders' and Snakes' devastating strategies, courting death—and resurrection— over and over again.
And because those carefully maintained pockets of safety are so vital, the staff and guests of Sid Lessingham's Place of Entertainment and Recuperation are shocked when three Soldiers stagger in bringing the full horror of the War with them—not just a harrowing account of their latest mission, but a tactical nuke that had been intended for ancient Alexandria.
Has the tide of War turned against the Spiders? Have the rules altered so drastically that not even the Places are safe? If that's the case, the Big Time may very well destroy them all, everywhere, and everywhen.