As a writer of science fiction from the 50s onward, Robert Sheckley has often been compared to Douglas Adams because of his wildly imaginative plots that take you all over the universe and his humorous lampooning of the human race's pretensions to greatness. Sheckley is at the height of his powers in Dimension of Miracles, a novel with a hapless protagonist who bumbles through the universe, seeing things he has never imagined.
The name of this likable everyman is Tom Carmody, and, unbeknownst to him, he has been entered in an intergalactic sweepstakes which he is not actually eligible for, since he doesn't belong to a race that travels through space or time. Before this mistake can be corrected, Carmody is whisked away from the earth, presented with the prize and left to fend for himself. He has no homing instinct which will guide him back home, and the prize is no help because all it does is engage him in witty repartee while it takes on different forms. In addition, it turns out that he is being pursued by a predator who is out to destroy him because of "the universal law of predation," a concept that's explained to him by a god he meets during his travels.
With the help of other aliens, Carmody keeps trying to get back to earth, but, although he gets there several times, he always finds that the earth he has returned to is in a different dimension from the one he came from. For example, in one of these earths, he finds that there is no one in his town, but the town itself speaks to him, treating him like an invalid. In another version of the earth, everyone in the town has turned into a movie star. In yet another version, he is back with the dinosaurs and talks to them without revealing that he comes from a time when they are extinct. Eventually, Carmody comes to realize that it's better to live in the moment than to aim for things that only appear to be great from a distance.
This is one rollicking comedy that manages to have a philosophical outlook. The character of Carmody is likable and honest, invoking the reader's sympathy, and the wide scope of the book, which pushes the limits of the reader's imagination, is engaging and keeps you wondering what will happen next.
Robert Sheckley was born in Brooklyn, New York but grew up in New Jersey. After graduating from high school, he hitchhiked to California where he did a number of odd jobs such as landscape gardening, selling pretzels and delivering milk. He then joined the army and served in Korea, returning to go to college at NYU. He continued doing odd jobs for a short while after he graduated and then struck gold with his short stories which were published in journals such as Imagination and Galaxy. After writing a number of short stories, he also started writing novels and experimented outside the sci-fi genre by tackling mystery. He married four times and had two sons and two daughters before dying in 2005 of a brain aneurysm.
Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on Dimension of Miracles: Dimension of Miracles is probably not [Sheckley's] most famous book . but I think it's probably his best-loved book. It's about the joys and tribulations (mostly the tribulations) of winning the lotterythe galactic lotteryaccidentally. And wrongly. Tom Carmody is awarded a remarkable prize, is taken half way across the universe to collect it, finds himself hopelessly lost, and needs to find his way home again to Earth to this Earth, not an alternate, weirdo Earth. He's got to get back. And the price is high.
In its style of humorand even in some of the jokesDimension of Miracles is very obviously a precursor of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas actually hadn't read Dimension of Miracles until very shortly after Hitchhiker came out, when people pointed him to it, and he told me that he found the experience almost shockingit was like reading himself. He was a huge admirer of Bob Sheckley and a huge admirer of this book, and in later life, I had the privilege of introducing both of them.
Now the challenge for me with a book this funny, this strange, this perceptive was to try and find a narrator who was as iconic, somebody who could deliver the goods, somebody who could give you a book like this as it deserved to be given. And the first, and the last, and actually the only person to come to mind was John Hodgman. So I asked John, and he said yes! And he did it; he pulled it off. Listening to Johnnot just the suave, sensible, sane narrator of this book, but all the peculiar accents and incarnations that he is forced to adopt through herehe does it delig... Download and start listening now!