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Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckleyby Robert Sheckley
Synopses & Reviews
Robert Sheckley was science fiction’s in-house reply to the black humorists of the 1950s and 60s: Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern, and the young Thomas Pynchon were his none-too-distant relatives; Mort Sahl’s comedy, Charles Schultz’s cartoons, and Tom Lehrer’s songs all mined similar veins. Sheckley targeted the conformity and consumerism of our mid-century technotopia while it was still under construction. His new worlds, alternate universes, and future dystopias have
only become more present with the passing years, even as his career, played out both in the pulp magazines and in front-line venues like Playboy and Omni, is a glimpse of a time when “science fiction writer” could be a kind of hipster credential. Mordant, absurdist, and deadpan, the best of Sheckley’s dissident farces represent science fiction’s high-water mark as an allegorical clearinghouse for twenty-century angst.
"The late Sheckley (1928 — 2005) was known for a dark satirical style that keeps some of the more dated material in this retrospective collection fresh. At his sharpest, as in the alien-invasion tale 'Shape,' Sheckley could mix complicated world-building and nuanced politics into a 15-page story. Many of the 26 inclusions — such as the title story, which explores the intersection of the many-worlds theory and upper-middle-class ennui — could be passed off as contemporary. Despite the poorly aged gender politics of the classic 'Seventh Victim,' arguably Sheckley's most famous short work, it offers humor that still rings true. Editors Lethem and Abramowitz provide an insightful introduction but otherwise let the individual stories stand on their own (not even providing their dates or provenance). That would be frustrating for a lesser author, but in Sheckley's case, it only helps highlight the timelessness of his ideas." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An NYRB Classics Original
Robert Sheckley was an eccentric master of the American short story, and his tales, whether set in dystopic cityscapes, ultramodern advertising agencies, or aboard spaceships lighting out for hostile planets, are among the most startlingly original of the twentieth century. Today, as the new worlds, alternate universes, and synthetic pleasures Sheckley foretold become our reality, his vision begins to look less absurdist and more prophetic. This retrospective selection, chosen by Jonathan Lethem and Alex Abramovich, brings together the best of Sheckley’s deadpan farces, proving once again that he belongs beside such mordant critics of contemporary mores as Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern, and Thomas Pynchon.
About the Author
Robert Sheckley (1928–2005) is considered one of science fiction’s seminal humorists. His more than fifteen novels and roughly 400 short stories have been made into four films and translated
into ten languages.
Jonathan Lethem is the author of seven novels, and has published his stories and essays in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times, among other
Alex Abramovich has been an editor of Feed and Very Short List, and a writer for The New York Times, The London Review of Books, and other publications.
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