Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 5, 2006

Mindswap by Robert Sheckley

Nine people assembled at Charles and Willie’s home to discuss this recently-reissued classic. Also, one person submitted comments by email and another participated via telephone. Mindswap depicts a future where humans and aliens can explore each other’s worlds by swapping minds between bodies. The story follows a man whose extraterrestrial vacation goes terribly wrong, forcing him to undergo a series of mindswaps with strange aliens in strange environments. Most of us had read Sheckley before, and all had finished this book.

Several of us found this book to be a lot of fun. The prose style was easy to read. We liked how the increasingly more surreal mindswaps were explained as “cognitive dissonances.” The elements of Westerns, detective stories, and swashbuckling literature worked well. References to classics like Don Quixote and Candide were well integrated into the story. We appreciated the parodies of yippie and hippie metaphysics, complete with rambling mathematics. Some people said that reading this novel was like an acid trip. This novel was perhaps the shortest book our group has discussed, but we felt the author told the story completely and efficiently.

A couple of people expected a more classic golden age science fiction adventure from the book’s beginning, and were disappointed at the direction the novel took. This contingent felt that after the first couple of mindswaps, there was such a disconnect in story and style that they thought pages from another book had been glued in by mistake.

A few who’d read this book upon it original publication in the Sixties felt that this book felt a little dated. They felt that the concepts did not seem as mind-blowing as before, and the jokes were not as funny.

Overall we felt this was an interesting book and we had a fun discussion. At the end of the meeting, we picked new books for the reading schedule through April 2007. After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at Hyde Park Grill South.

— A. T. Campbell, III