IMMORTALITY INC. (1958)
Alternative title: "Immortality Delivered"
Thomas Blaine is involved in a car crash, but a split second before his death he is pulled through time into the 22nd century. He finds himself inhabiting a new body. In this world the afterlife been scientifically proven to exist,but the corporations have taken it over and it costs a fortune to get there (unless you fancy doing twenty years of yoga).
The plot of this one is pretty ingenious, with plenty of unexpected twists. However, the mix of darkness and humour seems less satisfying than later novels, especially "Dimension of Miracles." ***
Film: FREEJACK (1992)
A very loose adaption of the novel, slaughtered by the critics. It's quite good fun actually, especially a cameo by Amanda Plummer as a nun with guns (not in the novel but it should have been!).
Alternative title: An abridged version was called "Journey of Joenes"
Joenes leaves his idyllic Fijian island in search of adventure in America. A classic case of the innocent abroad, people are soon taking advantage of him. His tales are told 1000 years later back in Fiji, where Joenes has become a mythical figure. Inevitably the facts have become somewhat murky.
Obviously the work of a short story writer, the sequence of related tales are told by a variety of narrators. In one of these Joenes is lost in the Octagon, a government building so secret it is being continuously rebuilt just so no one will ever have an accurate map! Very funny, and one of the best unexpected endings ever. ****
In the near future anyone may enter a game called the Hunt. One player is designated Hunter, the other Victim. The Victim does not know who the Hunter is, merely that someone is trying to kill them, and they must kill that person first! The sexy but cold Caroline Meredith is brilliant at the game and seems destined to be the first woman to reach ten kills - the only way to win this game. Her tenth victim is the relatively amateurish Marcello Polletti, what could possibly go wrong?
Short, fast moving and hilarious, this must be one of the most readable books of all time. Includes the classic opening where Caroline guns down her victim with shots from her metal-plated bra. *****
Companion novels: VICTIM PRIME, HUNTER/VICTIM.
Film: THE TENTH VICTIM (1965)
Originally this film was based on Sheckleys' short story "The Seventh Victim" (1953). Subsequently he expanded the story into the accompanying novel. This Italian film is highly rated but I haven't seen it.
Thomas Carmody wins the jackpot in the Intergalactic Sweepstakes and finds himself at Galactic Centre to recieve his prize. The only problem is how does he get back to Earth? He has to find Earth (Where), then get to the right time (When), and then make sure he's on the right Earth (Which). While he searches he is being chased by a creature designed specifically to devouring Carmodys.
This novel is incredible! As Carmody gets ever closer to home the worlds he finds just seems to become more and more insane!! It's dark, funny and memorable, perhaps Sheckleys' finest hour. *****
Alternative title: "The Alchemical Marriage of Alastair Crompton"
As a child Alastair Crompton suffers from virus schizophrenia. Two dangerous aspects of his personality are separated from him and continue their lives in artificial bodies. Loomis contains all Cromptons' lust and is grossly self-indulgent. Stack contains all Cromptons' anger and is dangerously violent. Left behind, Alastair is healthy but deeply dull. He must reintegrate himself!
The premise is pretty mind boggling even for Sheckley. Alistair, moderate and prim, is sickened by Loomis and Stack, yet knows he needs their lust and anger to be whole. He is probably Sheckleys' most developed character. A unique novel. ****
Country boy Harold Erdman sets out on a hazardous trip to the island Esmerelda. There he can join the Hunt, where Hunters and Victims try to kill each other for prize money. He needs this money to send back to save his dying home town. Harold isn't exactly streetwise, but luck seems to be on his side.
Described as a companion novel to "The Tenth Victim", this puts new characters in a situation similar to its' predecessor. A slightly lazy ploy perhaps (Sheckley running out of ideas?), but still an extremely enjoyable effort. ***