Thoughts on “The Status Civilization”

This is the book that I remembered and which got me to read the other Sheckley works that I’ve looked at. Will it hold up on re-reading? There may be spoilers, so I’ll continue below the fold:

The work follows Will Barrent, who wakes up without his memory on a spaceship and, once he disembarks, is told that he is a criminal convicted of murder and sentenced to spending his life on Omega, a prison planet, given over to the control of criminals. He has to navigate the strange social and religious customs that grew out of this, many of which are murderous and dangerous, and tries to return to Earth to find the person who informed on him.

Sheckley continues with his rather rushed style, but in this book it really, really works. Given that we get a strong attachment to Barrent from the beginning, this helps to get us interested in him, and the style works to, essentially, take us along with him as he lives his life. Thus, some of the things that don’t get mentioned or highlighted come across as more “These are not the things you care about when you talk to a friend about what’s going on” rather than as things skipped over. Dramatic things happen out of almost nowhere, but they come up out of natural things that could happen and happen that quickly to him, whether that be his getting an invitation to try out a dream drug or being arrested for not following the rules. They thus seem natural and often unavoidable, and are also often lampshaded with hints that if Barrent doesn’t start fitting in things will happen right before they do. I would have liked to see more scenes when he returns to Earth to develop that more, but then again the format chosen was and would be starting to get old by the time it all gets resolved.

In my opinion, this is a really, really good book. The set-up works, the descriptions of the civilizations work, the plot, though quick, is interesting, Barrent is an interesting character, the twist works really well, and the ending is fitting. It is definitely as good as I remembered.

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One Response to “Thoughts on “The Status Civilization””

  1. Re-reading the Belgariad … | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] just nostalgia, or if the older books really were better than the newer ones. That was a reason to re-read “The Status Civilization”, after having already re-read Zelazny’s Amber series because I needed to remind myself of […]

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