Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, February 27, 2012

1968: Dimension of Miracles (Sheckley, Robert)

Not only silly, but intelligent and thoughtful (4/5)
From March 14, 2011

As can be expected from a silly science fiction book, there aren't laughs from cover to cover. More realistically, the first quarter is pretty good producing a good amount of laughs and head shaking. The half has some giggles but nothing more. At the end, it's an odd smile and an occasional shrug. Needless to say, the steam of hilarity is quickly dissipated in the steep chimney of story telling... but it was still easy enough and stomachable enough to finish off in one morning.

Rear cover synopsis:
"EARTH HUNT. It had to somewhere, Carmody knew that much. It was waiting for him, just as he had left it. But where? He only knew he was in the center of a galaxy in a universe of galaxies. Within them lay endless varieties of the planet Earth. And there was only one way to find his Earth again. He would have to visit each one. And he would have to hurry. Because his search for home had turned into a race with death..."

Like other silly science fiction books (i.e. Norstilia and Arrive at Easterwine - both of which I gagged over), a major crutch the author uses is spontaneity, which sometimes manifests as just ridiculous randomness. Sheckley, however, keeps a close tab on his randomness and the silliness doesn't stray too far into juvenile absurdity. Puns are another unfortunate staple of what some authors consider to be funny novels. Again, Sheckley is self-disciplined only allowing one glaring pun on the words cards and way.

Aside from being a silly novel, it feels like Sheckley put lot of his personal credo in the pages. It's really quite an impressive list, however blatant some of it is: free will/human error, creation/death, conceptions/reality and touches on religious hypocrisy, law of diminishing returns and law of predation. Further, Sheckley has some interesting and thoughtful ideas about the differentiating between sanity and insanity, the boredom an omniscient being would experience and how waste could be a memorial to our needs.

Far from being one of the worst humorous science fiction stories out there (I think the short story E van S by Piers Anthony takes THAT prize), Dimension of Miracles is a thoughtful exposé of an intelligent man's personal philosophy, a comical feature of a witty man's humor and a keen unfolding done by the hand of one man's literary experience. Four stars is a little high for this but I'll round it up from 3.5 stars

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