Robert Sheckley

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Robert Sheckley in the mid-1990s.jpeg

Robert Sheckley (July 16, 1928December 9, 2005) was a Hugo- and Nebula-nominated American author.


Immortality, Inc. (1959)[edit]

All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Bantam Books
  • Still, no matter how commonplace, one’s death is the most interesting event of one’s life.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 1)
  • Corpses shouldn’t be forced to answer questions. Death was man’s ancient privilege, his immemorial pact with life, granted to the slave as well as the noble. Death was man’s solace, and his right. But perhaps they had revoked that right; and now you couldn’t evade your responsibilities simply by being dead.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 7)
  • And yet, Blaine thought, mankind showed an historic ability to avoid the extremes of doom as well as the extremes of bliss. Chaos was forever prophesized and utopia was continually predicted, and neither came to pass.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 9)
  • The deed of dying transcends class and breeding. It is every man’s patent of nobility, his summons from the king, his knightly adventure, the greatest deed of his life. And how he acquits himself in that lonely and perilous enterprise is his true measure as a man.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 71)
  • Reilly was fairly sure he’d survive after death; but he saw no reason to take chances. Also, Mr. Kean says that the very rich, like the very religious, wouldn’t enjoy a hereafter filled with just anybody. They think that, by suitable rites and symbols, they can get into a more exclusive part of the hereafter.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 91)
  • Blaine remembered how strange, dark, atavistic and noble Hull’s lordly selection of death has seemed. Pretentious, of course; but then, life itself was a pretension in the vast universe of unliving matter.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 148)

The Status Civilization (1960)[edit]

All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Signet Books
  • “I’m afraid not. According to the law, you must leave here at once.”
    “But they’ll kill me!”
    “That’s very true,” Frendlyer said. “Unfortunately, it can’t be helped. A victim, by definition, is one who is to be killed.”
    “I thought this was a protective organization.”
    “It is. But we protect rights, not victims. Your rights are not being violated.“
    • Chapter 3 (p. 19)
  • On Omega, the law was kept secret. Older residents used their knowledge of the law to enforce their rule over the newcomers. This system was condoned and reinforced by the doctrine of the inequality of all men, which lay at the heart of the Omegan legal system. Through planned inequality and enforced ignorance, power and status remained in the hands of the older residents.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 26)
  • “Evil,” the priest said, after he had settled comfortably into Barrent’s best chair, “is that force within us which inspires men to acts of strength and endurance. The worship of Evil is essentially the worship of oneself, and therefore the only true worship. The self which one worships is the ideal social being; the man content in his niche in society, yet ready to grasp any opportunity for advancement; the man who meets death with dignity, who kills without the demeaning vice of pity. Evil is cruel, since it is a true reflection of the uncaring and insensate universe. Evil is eternal and unchanging, although it comes to us in the many forms of protean life.”
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 28-29)
  • All his studies had been for extraterrestrial exploration. There was no place for him on Earth; and now he was barred from space.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 41)
  • On Omega, the law is supreme. Hidden and revealed, sacred and profane, the law governs the actions of all citizens, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. Without the law, there could be no privileges for those who made the law; therefore the law was absolutely necessary. Without the law and its stern enforcement, Omega would be an unthinkable chaos in which a man’s rights could extend only as far and as long as he personally could enforce them. This anarchy would mean the end of Omegan society; and particularly, it would mean the end of those senior citizens of the ruling class who had grown high in status, but whose skill with a gun had long passed its peak.
    Therefore the law was necessary.
    But Omega was also a criminal society, composed entirely of individuals who had broken the laws of Earth. It was a society which, in the final analysis, stressed individual endeavor. It was a society in which the lawbreaker was king; a society in which crimes were not only condoned but were admired and even rewarded; a society in which deviation from the rules was judged solely on its degree of success.
    And this resulted in the paradox of a criminal society with absolute laws which were meant to be broken.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 50-51)
  • His friends, who had been waiting for the death announcement, came to congratulate him. They were eager to hear the complete details of the Trial by Ordeal; but Barrent had learned now that secret knowledge was the road to power. He gave them only the sketchiest outline.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 52)
  • They were shunned, and they had reacted to exclusion by exclusiveness.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 56)
  • “The law,” he said, “is above the criminal and the judge, and rules them both. The law is inescapable, for an action is either lawful or unlawful. The law, indeed, may be said to have a life of its own, an existence quite apart from the finite lives of the beings who administer it. The law governs every aspect of human behavior; therefore, to the same extent that humans are lawful beings, the law is human. And being human, the law has its idiosyncrasies, just as a man has his. For a citizen who abides by the law, the law is distant and difficult to find. For those who reject and violate it, the law emerges from its musty sepulchers and goes in search of the transgressor.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 65)
  • “Do you have any papers for Will Barrent?”
    “None,” the lawyer said. “His case is in different hands. I’m afraid it might not be completely processed until after the Games are over.”
    “But I’ll probably be dead then,” Barrent said.
    “That, I can assure you, won’t stop the papers from being properly served,” the fat lawyer said proudly. “Dead or alive, you will retain all your rights.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 77)
  • Remember, the inevitable inefficiency of a huge bureaucracy will be working for you.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 84)
  • “Would you define Good for me, Citizen Abbot?”
    “Certainly. Good is that force within us which inspires men to acts of conformity and subservience. The worship of Good is essentially the worship of oneself, and therefore the only true worship. The self which one worships is the ideal social being: the man content in his niche in society, yet ready to creatively advance his status. Good is gentle, since it is a true reflection of the loving and pitying universe. Good is continually changing in its aspects, although it comes to us in the... You have a strange look on your face, young man.”
    “I’m sorry, Citizen Abbot. I believe I heard that sermon, or one very much like it.”
    • Chapter 27 (p. 115)
  • What had he been taught? For the social good, you must be your own policeman and witness. You must assume responsibility for any crime which might conceivably be yours.
    The face of the informer stared impassively at him. It was Barrent’s own face, reflected back from a mirror on the wall.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 123)

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