In “Mindswap,” Robert Sheckley plays with his favorite theme of man versus bureaucracy. Whether you are human, or some other form of intelligent life, there will always be obstacles to clog up your path to happiness. In the future, a popular form of recreation is to switch bodies with aliens from other planets. Sounds like a simple and fun thing to do, right? Well, maybe not. It’s a very funny premise that remains fresh and quirky since the novel’s first release in 1966.
Sheckley’s humor is not only unique in science fiction but it is unique, period. It is baroque, erudite, and absurd. At times, it rises to the level of poetry. Like a slam dance, you have assorted titles, rules, and terms fly in the air to demonstrate a world gone mad.
Mel Brooks used to love to claim that, when naming a funny character, the letter K was the funniest. Sheckley proves that wrong as his funny characters end up with the funniest names, K or otherwise. Consider Tom Carmody from “Dimensions of Miracles.” And consider this novel’s main character, Marvin Flynn. It’s both funny and memorable. And the name is stretched to its very limits as it is used in various wordplay throughout our story.
The very notion of reality is opened up for all it’s worth when you’ve got your main character literally leaving behind all he knows, including his own body. What could possibly be worth it? Nothing. But Marvin Flynn needs to see for himself.
The big joke here is that Marvin Flynn ends up engaging in a poor man’s alternative to a vacation to a truly exotic locale. He simply can’t afford to fly over and visit Mars. However, for a reasonable fee, he can temporarily swap his body with that of a Martian who seeks similar thrills on Earth. You know, it’s sort of like apartment swapping but on a metaphysical scale. What could possibly go wrong?
You know those vacations from hell? When everything goes wrong? Imagine you lose your luggage and need to make do. Now, imagine you lose your body. Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? So, sit back and enjoy Flynn’s troubles. He does go on an adventure but it’s not what the travel agency had promised. If he’s lucky, he may learn to take better care of the things that matter most, like his very own mortal coil.
“Mindswap” is available through Amazon and you can find it here.