The Masque Of Manana
by Robert Sheckley
Review by Steve Sawicki
Nesfa Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 1886778604
Date: August, 2005 List Price $29.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It's a wonder that Robert Sheckley managed to carve a career out of writing science fiction satire when the field so often self reports that no one buys it. There are forty one examples of Sheckley's short fiction contained in this book, including award winners and nominees and a few he wrote under aliases. The book also contains all of Sheckley's AAA Ace Interplanetary Decontamination Service series. Dave Hartwell provides the introduction and Bob Eggleton the cover painting.
Sheckley is simple a master of style when it comes to humor. Whether it is in the way he has written something or the way it is presented the humor is present often in subtle ways but sometimes no more subtle than a pie in the face. Sheckley seemed to have a way of looking at things sideways, of seeing things that none of the rest of us saw but then making us aware of them after the fact through his writing. Take for example a line taken totally out of context; "Girls don't talk that way, but spies always do." How can you not want to track down this story simply to find out what Sheckley was on about? And what about "The planet, in the heart of the East Star Valley, had recently been bought by a real estate speculator."
One of the best known stories is "Pilgrimage to Earth" where individuals can return to the mother planet where nothing is denied and everything is for sale. This is Sheckley at his best, poking fun at all the institutions of the modern age and doing it in a short story to boot. Masterful stuff. If you've read Sheckley before then you'll want to get this volume just to have it on your shelf to pluck off and wander through at will. If you've never read Sheckley then you simply must buy a copy to find out what you've been missing. NESFA Press has been producing books in commemoration of Worldcon Guests of Honor and Boskone Guests of Honor for a long time now and this book is a fine addition to their library, which also includes Dimensions of Sheckley which was published a few years ago.