Robert Sheckley: Store of Infinity
This collection, first published in 1960 contains eight short stories that first appeared in magazines in the late fifties. A lot of SF from this period has dated rapidly and is now not so appealing. That is most certainly not the case here.
Consider "The Prize of Peril", the opening story. The setting is a TV game show in which the objective is for one group of contestants to try to murder the other player on the show. By the beginning of the twentyfirst century, we have not quite got there yet but we do watch game shows where the contestants are in real physical danger and contestants have been killed in rehearsals for such shows.
The stories range from the very funny, through satire to poingant. My favourite are "The Prize of Peril" and "The Store off the Worlds". The latter tells of a future in which a man can have anything that he wants albeit for a short while and at great cost. What they want is a sad surprise but if you lived in their world you would probably want the same.
All in all, this is a fascinating and readable collection.
Nine out of ten. Still fresh forty years later.
The Prize of Peril
In the ultimate TV game show, your life is at risk if you lose. Chillingly plausible 8/10.
The cure for schizophrenia is to split the personalities into different bodies but sometimes, they want to reunite. OK but not the best here. 6/10
Three short shorts bundled as one. The funniest ever lawyer joke, a tale of clones and a robot with a survival instinct. 8/10
The Minimum Man
Sheckley gives us his own slant on the process of planetary exploration. Who else could make a case for future explorers to be inept and ill equipped? 8/10
If the Red Slayer
In war, they can bring you back from the dead as often as they want. Even if you do not want. Almost as chilling as the prize of peril. 7/10
The Store of the Worlds (aka Hearts Desire)
The Store offers you, your hearts desire at a price. But what might a man really desire? One of the best, yet saddest stories that I have ever read. 9/10
The Gun Without a Bang
What if you had a weapon so potent that your enemies never knew what had hit them? Trouble comes when the enemies fail to realise that you are nailing them. 6/10
The Deaths of Ben Baxter
The guardians of the future want to change the past in a bid to solve some of their current problems. But it does not always work out as they hoped. 6/10