Robert Sheckley: Untouched by Human Hands

This collection, first published in the fifties, contains ten short stories by one of the funniest writers ever to have worked in the SF genre. Some of the stories are now a little dated in style but still they contain ideas that are fresh today.

A good example of this is "Cost of Living" in which consumers enter so deeply into debt that they have to sign over not just their own earnings but those of their children too. Today, of course, in Japan, one hundred year, three generation mortgages have become established. The story "Seventh Victim" which deals with a similar theme as the author's story "The Prize of Peril" also writes about a future that seems chillingly possible.

I recommend this collection to anyone with an interest in shorter SF stories. It is not the best available collection of Sheckley's work but it is still worth a read.

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My rating

Six out of ten. A little dated but still worth a read.

Detailed Contents

"The Monsters"
Men make first contact with an alien race and discover that radical differences in values, morals and social norms can make things difficult. 7/10
"Cost of Living"
A man always must have the best for his family and he can always sign up his income to pay the easy terms. Then, he can sign up his children's income and where will it end?" 7/10
"The Altar"
A "what might be lurking hidden and unknown in your town" horror tale. 5/10
"Keep Your Shape"
Aliens invade Earth repeatedly but they always fail. Why do the advance parties keep failing? 6/10
"The Impacted Man"
Problems with minor faults cause trouble for the construction company that builds the Earth, among other things. 6/10
"Untouched by Human Hands"
Two stranded explorers, having run out of food, find a deserted alien warehouse but how can they work out what is edible?
The watchbird is constructed as a sort of airborne robocop to keep us in line but things go wrong. 5/10
A man hears a voice in his head and it leads him to a terrible fate. The weakest story here. The idea was fine but, unusually for Sheckley, the exposition was weak. 4/10
One man is shown his rightful place in the universe. 5/10
"Seventh Victim"
Murder is legalised under certain circumstances. You apply to hunt and are assigned a victim. If you survive, you will become victim for another in your turn. This tale is the pick of the bunch. 8/10