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Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley (2012)

by Robert Sheckley

Other authors: Alex Abramovich (Editor), Jonathan Lethem (Editor)

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I knew Robert Sheckley's work from one story I'd previously read, Warm, which is included in this anthology. It's a claustrophobic, existentialist tale, beautifully written and quite dark. By and large most of the other stories in 'Store of the Worlds' are light hearted and comical in comparison, some of them actually rather funny and one or two just a bit too light and 'throwaway'. These were my favourites:

Shape: referencing, mockingly, Stanilsaw Lem's Pirx the Pilot, Pid the Pilot, is on a mission to colonise another world. It's a classic tale of shapeshifting invaders but rather amusing and with a nice twist.

Warm: as mentioned above.

The Native Problem: nicely written story of invading settlers from Earth who mistake a self-exiled misfit, also from Earth, for an alien. Interesting temporal issues to do with technology and speed of travel.

Double Indemnity: very good time travel yarn about a greedy man on a self-serving search for his ancestors.

If the Red Slayer: a poetic and dark tale about a soldier, written in the first person, with a strong message about the value of human life.

Shall We Have a Little Talk: very funny study on language, translation and understanding between alien envoys - this was probably my favourite story in the book.

Beside Still Waters: short, poignant and beautifully written end piece to the collection, in the manner of Bradbury.

Most of the rest of the tales are also pretty good, some more simplistic than others, some adventures in the vein of Heinlein, some downright silly but fun. It's quite easy to see the social message in most of them and Sheckley's interest in people foremost, rather than technology or setting, is evident. There are, however, a couple of stories that, for me, are not up to the standard of the others:

Pilgrimage to Earth is a very dated and very silly tale about love; Watchbird is an interesting premise but extrapolated to ridiculous levels; Dawn Invader was also dated, and amusing for the wrong reasons; Holdout is a very poor bit of tat about race relations and by far my least favourite story in the book. - That said, even these are worth reading to some extent.

Robert Sheckley had a way with humour in SF and this certainly comes across strongly in most of the stories here, yet at times he could also stir powerful emotions on the futility or the delicacy of human life. I think he must have been a really interesting guy and this is a great collection for those into 50s and 60s short stories. ( )
2 vote ropie | Dec 21, 2013 |
An excellent retrospective of Sheckley - an incredibly underrated and underknown early sci-fi writer - and his short fiction. Funny, moving, and incredibly prescient, he had a pulse on not the fantastic sci-fi of those who came after (although plenty of stories are indeed quite fantastic) but on the human side of the sci-fi equation. The people who go off to those planets, who create those machines, who do those things. There's real heart here and quite a lot of smart serious intense thought. Well worth your time if you're even remotely interested in the genre.

More about it at RB: http://wp.me/pGVzJ-n5 ( )
1 vote drewsof | Jul 9, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Sheckleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abramovich, AlexEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lethem, JonathanEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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