Visions of Paradise

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Robert Sheckley was certainly sf’s finest satirist, and he was often laugh-out-loud funny. Over the past few years I have been slowly reading the novels in the Dimensions of Sheckley collection. I reviewed Dimension of Miracles here on 8/28/04 and Journey Beyond Tomorrow on 11/9/05. Both were outstanding novels, showing Sheckley at his madcap best, combining outrageous moments with his typical biting jabs at the foibles of humans and human society.

Several such moments occurred in Mindswap. Sheckley succeeded in making a comedy out of a poor man who is evicted from his body and doomed to die unless he finds a replacement body for himself in six hours. The first two-thirds was typical Sheckley with some excellent scenes. My favorite was when the main character Flynn, desperate for a body to occupy, accepts a job as a four-legged Melden hunter of ganzer eggs on a totally inhospitable world. While there he encounters a massive adult ganzer who turns out to also be a mindswapped human from upper New York State who has entered its body for the sole purpose of hunting Meldens. The moment when the two adversaries are exchanging hometowns had me laughing out loud.

Unfortunately, the novel could not maintain this level, and shortly afterwards degenerated into a rather tedious sword and sorcery spoof which lacked the cleverness of what preceded it. In fact, I could not avoid feeling that Sheckley grew tired of the novel and quickly wrapped it up in a hasty, somewhat dull conclusion.

But the first two-thirds of Mindswap are joyous indeed, and provide one more reason to read the entire collection Dimensions of Sheckley.


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