Dimension of Miracles

By Robert Sheckley

Rating: 4 stars

I was introduced to Robert Sheckley when I was in my 20s, by a friend who was keen to promote him. I took to Sheckley a lot and devoured pretty much everything my friend had, although I don’t remember this one from back then. Incidentally, this is the first Sheckley book that I’ve encountered that hasn’t been second hand. I thought all his work was out of print, so I’m very glad to see this available, and hopefully it’ll help introduce a new generation to his work.

Carmody, a human, is randomly selected in an interstellar sweepstake to win a prize (sorry, Prize). He collects this, and then has to set off on an epic voyage to return home, encountering gods, dinosaurs, parallel worlds, and, most terrifyingly of all, bureaucrats, along the way.

Once we’re off the Earth, the majority of the book is a sort of travelogue of Carmody’s attempt to get home, accompanied only by his not-so-trusty sentient Prize while being chased by a Predator tailored to him. He has conversations about the purpose of godhood; about the invention of science; and the meaning of death.

Sheckley is, first and foremost, a humorist. His work has been compared to Douglas Adams and, stylistically, it’s easy to see why. The humour is easy and unforced but present in just about every page, combined with satire regarding the world he saw around him. Like Arthur Dent, Carmody is an everyman (although less tea-obsessed), and he even meets a person whose profession is building planets (including the Earth) – all over a decade before Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series.

There’s an awful lot to enjoy here, and there’s a surprisingly poignant ending. I’m glad to have rediscovered Sheckley and hope that there’s more on the way (although I do think that his best work was in short stories, rather than the longer form).

Book details

ISBN: 9780241472491
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year of publication: 2020

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


By Robert Sheckley

Rating: 2 stars

When one picks up a Sheckley novel, one expects it to be weird. This book, however, went so far beyond weird that it was almost sensible. I don’t have the literary criticism language to describe it but it appeared to be a musing on hallucination and the effect of psychoactive drugs and as such was immensely disjointed. It started off with an astronaut’s ship being disabled and making it to an alien planet where a cache of spare parts has been located. He goes out to acquire the part with a survival robot and, um, then the drugs kick in.

Although there are indications of drugs and hallucination early on, the middle section of the book is entirely disjointed with random vignettes having no bearing on what comes before or after them. There is a coherent section towards the end although that eventually peters out.

All in all, I found the book disappointingly incoherent and difficult to read. Although the oddness and disjointed structure are something that I normally enjoy about Sheckley’s books, I found it completely overwhelming here and it removed any enjoyment I got from the book.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586067116
Publisher: Grafton Books (London)
Year of publication: 1975

The Robert Sheckley Omnibus

By Robert Sheckley

Rating: 0 stars

It’s been a while since I read any and I’m glad to say that it’s as good as I remember. Sheckley’s promised presence at WorldCon 2005 was a major draw for me, and I’m sorry that ill health meant that he had to withdraw, just months before his death, meaning that I never got to meet him.

This volume is effectively two books in one, containing one novel, Immortality Inc. and enough short stories to form a book in their own right. I’ve always thought that Sheckley is at his strongest in short stories, so I skipped the novel and went straight there.

I don’t think I found anything that I hadn’t read before, but familiar stories like Specialist (Humanity finds its place in the co-operative community of the galaxy), Ask A Foolish Question (a device is built that can answer any question, but only if framed correctly), Pilgrimage to Earth (a colonist travels to Earth in search of true love) and many more are a joy to read and re-read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575016774
Publisher: GOLLANCZ

The Wonderful World of Robert Sheckley

By Robert Sheckley

Rating: 4 stars

I was introduced to Robert Sheckley some time ago as a very surreal and edgy author whose works left you feeling like like your mind had been through a washing machine on spin cycle. This collection of fairly early short stories is different. The edginess feels missing in a lot of these stories — they seem more ‘gentle’ than some of his other work. This is in no way a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I was expecting and surprised me. However, some observant jabs at capitalism and taking trends to extremes make for entertaining reading.

Book details

ISBN: 9780553129052
Publisher: Bantam
Year of publication: 1979

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