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Out of Their Mind by Clifford D. Simak

Out of Their Mind (original 1970; edition 1983)

by Clifford D. Simak

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355546,389 (3.13)2
Title:Out of Their Mind
Authors:Clifford D. Simak
Info:DAW (1983), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, science fiction

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Out of Their Minds by Clifford D. Simak (1970)



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Showing 5 of 5
Out Of Their Minds is pretty old SF compared to what I usually read, written in the 70s. Reading it now, most if not all of the ideas aren't new to me, but I imagine they were a lot fresher back when it was written. At first it seems to be quite serious, with the careful set up and slow build up, but it doesn't surprise me that it becomes more ridiculous as it goes along -- that's the way humans think, after all, and the crazy beliefs we've had in the past don't have to make that much sense. It's always interesting to me to read fiction that is about fiction. I especially liked that Don Quixote was a part of this world -- although that is probably at least partially because I just read Don Quixote myself. I also liked the point about Gettysburg, and therefore war in general... how we fictionalise it, when we try to imagine it now, and the fictions of 'dignity in death' and so on.

It's interesting to read as early SF (early as compared to what I usually read), and it isn't a bad story in itself. It's easy to read; the prose is a little slow/dense in places, but not so much so that it actually caused a problem for me.

It does hurt the brain a little when you think what the point of it was from the thought-creatures' point of view: our new ways of writing fiction adding underdeveloped characters to their world. Now, somewhere in that imagined world, Horton and Kathy must be eternally wandering around as outsiders in a world they are actually a part of. I don't know if it's intentional or not that Horton and Kathy kind of add to those undeveloped, not-good-or-bad characters -- Kathy is hardly developed as a character at all, and Horton, for all his background, we never get a clear picture of. I kind of doubt it, and then I remember that them author guys sure are clever. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
A pioneering novel of the "what if the creations of imagination became real" genre.
  Fledgist | Dec 23, 2009 |
This review of Out of Their Minds by Clifford Simak takes the form of a summary of the first part of the book, from which it should also become clear that I didn't like it, and to some extent why not.

We start off with the ominous words of the wise old friend of the protagonist shortly before his death in a mysterious car accident: "mankind since its early days in the caves is haunted by primordial fears ...". Our protagonist, Horton Smith, is musing over this as he drives to revisit his childhood home somewhere in the back of beyond, but he is also worried as dusk falls that he has lost his way, as the road is getting worse and worse, but he can't readily turn back, because it's so narrow and on the side of a steep hill. Then he sees a large ceratopsian dinosaur charging towards him along the road. He desperately tries to swerve off the road up the hill but instead gets stuck in a narrow ditch and can't restart the car. Luckily, the dinosaur has disappeared. He then apparently hallucinates an evening with a couple in a nearby house: in the morning, he's in a den of rattlesnakes. Well, the book is called Out of Their Minds, so he's maybe the first of many to go out of his mind? But this is Simak and the title can be read another way, so we have to fear the worst.

He escapes, restarts the car easily and finds his way to his destination. The local store-owner remembers him as a child and brings him up to date date with the local gossip. We are in a small, pretty well isolated community featuring poverty, ignorance, superstition and bigotry, and we are expected to approve of this. So we think, OK, this is how it is, this is where Simak wants to set the story or part of it — get on with it already. But no, just in case we've missed anything, Smith's internal monolog subjects us to a rant about the evils of modern, comfortable, tolerant big-city America as contrasted with the simple virtues of the golden age when everybody grubbed along like the folks here.

He picks up his mail, which he has had forwarded, and takes a room in a motel by the river. The mail contains a large envelope with photocopies of papers written by the deceased wise old friend, which the friend's nephew thought would interest Horton, and he immediately begins to read what seems to be the last one written. "The evolutionary process (the document began) is a phenomenon which has been of special and absorbing interest to me all my life ...". What a pity, then, that he did not trouble to learn anything about it. "... And the thought must occur to one that through all this ... there must have run a single central core of evolution pointing to some final form." He does not, however, believe that man is that final form, but that man will be superseded. In fact: "I believe the superseder is already in existence", namely, the accumulated beliefs and the imaginative products of humanity, which have somehow taken on an independent existence. Horton decides that he needs to use his contacts in Washington to get this vitally important information to the right people.

At a social event that evening he gets to know the town schoolmistress, Kathy Adams, but also experiences antagonism from some local louts. The next day he goes fishing in a canoe on the river. It is becoming clear that the superior entity considers it necessary to keep its existence secret by arranging the deaths of those who suspect its existence: the episode with the rattlesnakes was a sort of pre-emptive strike because the vital letter was waiting for him. Its next attempt is by making it appear that he killed one of the louts so that a lynch mob starts looking for him. The schoolmistress, Kathy, manages to find him first and he sets off down the river to escape, but first he gives her the deadly manuscript for safe keeping, but with a strict warning not to read it — guess whether that works.

After paddling down the river for a while, he is attacked by an imaginary river monster. He is able to seriously discommode it by getting a very nasty fish-hook into its throat. It pulls him along down the river for a while, then disappears. Late at night he reaches a small town and he phones Kathy from a bar which is still open. She has read the paper, so she's in danger, so he urges her to come and pick him up and they will drive to Washington. After he leaves the bar, which is closing, he is approached on the deserted street by more and more wolves, which he recognises as werewolves, though how he knows and why werewolves are worse is not clear. Before they attack, a spokesbeing for the imaginary world tells him that, having escaped three attempts on his life, he is now safe under the rules, unless he wants to volunteer to face three more which would otherwise be for Kathy. Since he blames himself for putting her in danger by giving her the paper, he accepts this deal. While he is just about holding off the wolves with a baseball bat which was luckily lying in the street, Kathy turns up in her car, runs down a few wolves and rescues him.

Now they have more adventures, together and separately, with fantasy scenarios, but Horton eventually reaches Washington and talks to the President and it's all going to be all right.
  jimroberts | Jul 9, 2009 |
Simak often goes where no fantasy writer has gone before. this incorporation of cartoon characters as real life people will stay in my mind until death. ( )
  andyray | Feb 16, 2008 |
Reality and dreamland collide in this engaging tale. Similar to a Clive Barker tale but not quite as dark. ( )
  horacehive | Sep 29, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clifford D. Simakprimary authorall editionscalculated
Colson, GérardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, Kelly, 1922-2005.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janda, MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kindt, AnnemarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennington, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reß-Bohusch, BirgitTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rogoff, Herbert NortonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Immer wieder kam mir mein alter Freund in den Sinn und das Gespräch, das wir bei unserem letzten Zusammentreffen geführt hatten.
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A writer finds himself trapped in an isolated village where anything imagined becomes reality in this wildly inventive contemporary fantasy Hoping to write his book in quiet and seclusion, Horton Smith has returned home to Pilot Knob. Here, in the tiny village where he passed so many carefree childhood years, he is untroubled by the pressures of the big city and can freely answer the call of his muse. Of course, back in the city Horton didn't have to run from dinosaurs. There were no cartoon hillbillies offering him moonshine, Don Quixote was content to confine himself to the pages of a book, and the Devil himself was not on Horton's tail. Something very, very unusual is going on in Pilot Knob, and Horton Smith is determined to get to the bottom of it-if his own imagination doesn't kill him first! In Out of Their Minds, science fiction Grand Master Clifford D. Simak changes gears, treating his readers to a delightfully satiric flight of fancy and fantasy. An award-winning author renowned for his remarkable visions of the future, Simak brings creatures and characters from humankind's collective imagination to breathtaking life in this fast-moving and unforgettable tale.… (more)

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