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Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – May 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Robert Sheckley wrote tightly crafted, whacked-out social satire in the form of science-fiction stories, using the conceit of future worlds to provide an alienating vantage point on the present. . . . He illuminates standard sci-fi's cutout characters and quasi-magical contraptions with a hallucinatory, Technicolor vibrancy, spinning yarns more fabulist than plausible, banged out as permutations of his own pet obsessions, among them mind control, extraterrestrial psychology, and the cruelties of love. — Ed Halter


“Sheckley is . . . powerful . . . fantastic . . . brilliant . . .his wry twistings of reality . . . are absolutely unique.”  — Roger Zelazny

“Because Sheckley leavened his darkest visions with wit and aburdist plotting, he is considered one of science fiction’s seminal humorists, a precursor to Douglas Adams.”
— The New York Times

"The late Sheckley was known for a dark satirical style that keeps some of the more dated material in this retrospective collection fresh….Editors Lethem and Abramovich provide an insightful introduction but otherwise let the individual stories stand on their own."   —  Publishers Weekly

"….collection of classic sci-fi stories from the '50s and '60s, which melds the wit of Ray Bradbury with the philosophical undertones of Philip K. Dick….comic and thought-provoking gems."   — The Bookseller (UK)

"Science fiction’s premier gadfly." —Kingsley Amis

"Witty and ingenious . . . a draught of pure Voltaire and tonic." — J. G. Ballard

“If the Marx Brothers had been literary rather than thespic fantasists, they would have been Robert Sheckley.” —Harlan Ellison

"Sheckley is my hero" —William Nye

 "One of the few acknowledged humorists in SF, and by far the funniest, Sheckley plays with myths the way Mel Brooks plays with classic movies.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Mr. Sheckley—as might be expected of a writer who can wring praise from as diverse a group of peers as Kingsley Amis, Harlan Ellison, John le Carre and J. G. Ballard—has an engagingly madcap manner all his own." —The Wall Street Journal
“Sheckley is one of SF’s all-time masters of the humorous or satirical short story. . . . much of Sheckley's work has been hard to come by for a good many years” —Booklist

"Let’s say you are a devoted fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, love the sardonic comeuppance stories of John Collier and Roald Dahl, own all of Edward Gorey’s little albums and enjoy watching reruns of 'The Twilight Zone.' Where else can you find similar instances of sly, macabre wit, of such black-humored, gin-and-tonic fizziness in storytelling? The answer may be unexpected: among the many masters of satirical science fiction and fantasy. Robert certainly a leading example."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590174941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590174944
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By The Ginger Man VINE VOICE on May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
NYRB continues to select excellent yet neglected authors for publication. Robert Sheckley is a personal favorite of mine. He wrote 13 novels and 104 science fiction stories mostly in the fifties and sixties. His humorous and darkly satiric stories were described in the New York Times as disarmingly playful with a nihilistic subtext. His obit in the Times in 2005 contrasted Sheckley's work with that of his contemporary, Ray Bradbury. The latter author mourned the failure of man to live up to his dreams, suggested the Times, while Sheckley's work mocked the self-delusions that led to those dreams in the first place. In a more lofty comparison, however, this same obituary states that while Sheckley's fiction presages that of Douglas Adams, his short stories also resemble those of Franz Kafka.

Store of Worlds contains 26 stories, 21 of which were written between 1953 and 1959. Included is The Seventh Victim, made into an Italian movie in 1965 with Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni. After the fourth world war (or sixth depending on which historian is counting), governments decide that another process must be developed to drain man's excess aggression. To achieve this, the ECD (Emotional Catharsis Bureau) conducts a game in which citizens can register to kill and be a potential victim 10 times. Big wars are thus eliminated to be replaced by hundreds of thousands of small ones. This story contains elements later used in The Running Man and Hunger Games.

An entry called "Warm" echoes themes found in Kafka's stories as a voice helps a man who is about to propose to his girlfriend instead literally deconstruct reality.

In most of Sheckley's stories, the main characters resemble people we know although their situation may be slightly askew.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Ettner on May 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you've never read anything by the great Robert Sheckley and wonder if he's worth a try, then hearing about some comparables might be helpful -- even when, strictly speaking, there is no one comparable.

Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda, in his review of STORE OF THE WORLDS, listed these: Kurt Vonnegut's books, the sardonic comeuppance stories of John Collier and Roald Dahl, Edward Gorey's little albums, and reruns of "The Twilight Zone." Other respected practitioners of science fiction have compared Sheckley (when he's at his best) to Voltaire. The opinionated writer Harlan Ellison has said, "If the Marx Brothers had been literary rather than thespic fantasists ... they would have been Robert Sheckley."

I'd add this advice: If you enjoy anthropology as a mind-stretching experience (those strange other tribes are not us and yet are us), and if your brand of humor includes satire rooted in the age-old lesson, Lord what fools these mortals be, then this guy Sheckley's for you.

So a first foray into Sheckley's world should begin where? I think STORE OF THE WORLDS is an ideal port of entry.

Don't be misled by the fact this volume appears under the imprint of New York Review Books, whose reputation is built on the resurrecting of out-of-print literary gems. Sheckley may not be a "literary" writer at least not as that term is generally understood. Not to worry. Your reward as a reader is not the quality of his prose (although he is no slouch in that regard). No, your reward is spending time inside a playful, fertile mind -- a mind that births ideas like some boundless cornucopia, ideas sometimes antic, typically sardonic, always honest.
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Format: Paperback
There's a few periodicals out there that publish genre short stories. They seem to be harder to find that they used to be - packets of short stories of fantasy, mystery, science fiction - but they're still out there. If you were ever a fan of them, you remember the excitement of the new issue, sucking up the wood pulp aroma and plowing through the stories one by one. Many of the material wasn't very memorable but if you remember ones from the science fiction collections, Robert Sheckley's stories have a high memorable factor. Short, sweet, to the point and the punchline ... well, his stories weren't jokes exactly but they inevitably had some twist of plot that stuck to the mind.

This NYRB edition is a collection of 26 of his stories, originally published from 1953 through 1978 in pulp magazines such as "Analog Science fiction" and "Galaxy Science Fiction" on up to glossier publications like "Playboy". The bulk of the stories were published in the 1950s.

Each one is a pure gem of the kind of story you used to find in those old pulp science fiction magazines. That's the upside.

Of course, it's also the downside. Character development except in the advancement of the plot to the twisting point is minimal, as is descriptive prose. Some of them haven't aged as well as you might have hoped; some of the plot mechanics are a bit too transparent. You need to approach them as story-teller's craft, and as signposts for the fascination of a culture. Sheckley avoids most of the space opera clichés if you happen to be allergic to those.

If you're OK with these caveats and ready for a collection of classic short science fiction stories from the '50s and beyond, you'll probably enjoy this book.
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