Citizen In Space

By Robert Sheckley

Rating: 5 stars

I’ve been a fan of Robert Sheckley for some years, since a friend spent a whole summer forcing as many people as he could to read Sheckley stories. I’m really glad that he did, because I’ve found the man to be consistently funny, thoughtful, weird and creepy, sometimes in the same story. It’s in the short story where Sheckley’s skills stand out, and this volume collects twelve of them. I’ve actually read almost all of them before in other books, but it’s nice to have them collected in one place.

It’s difficult to pick out highlights as the book has not a single mis-step, but amongst the gems we find The Accountant, about a family of wizards whose son is determined to become an accountant; Hands Off tells the story of some ruffians who have an encounter with an unknown alien and the perils of the unknown; while The Battle tells the story of Armageddon and the armies that fight against the legions of Hell. My favourite story in the collection is probably Skulking Permit, about a long-lost Earth colony whose single interstellar radio one day sparks back into life and the colonists suddenly have to learn to be civilised and have things like police, racism and murderers in a few short weeks. This story is funny, thought-provoking and quite sweet as it describes an interruption in Utopia in a few short, concise pages, following the village’s newly licensed Official Criminal.

Finding a book of short stories by Robert Sheckley is always an event worth celebrating and this collection shows an author at the height of his powers.

Book details

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year of publication: 1955

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