(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Mindswap is a picaresque novel. Like several of Robert Sheckley’s other works, such as Immortality, Inc. (1959) and Journey Beyond Tomorrow (1962), it takes a naïve protagonist through a series of satirically described adventures. The structure is episodic, but important elements of the conclusion, such as the Twisted World, are set up earlier in the story.

Sheckley’s characters are great talkers. As has been said of cartoonist Jules Feiffer’s people, they are “explainers,” forever arguing, justifying, philosophizing, and most of all explaining, even or especially when their actions make the least sense.

Mindswap was intended as a crossover book, with its science-fiction elements soft-pedaled for a mainstream audience. It was first published in hardcover, unusual at the time for a science-fiction book. The mindswap process is described almost without hardware, with greater emphasis given to the philosophical question of separating a mind from its body.

The references in the book are typically to mainstream fiction or other categories. The book structurally resembles Voltaire’s Candide (1759), and there is an explicit reference to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, 1615) in the concept of “Panzaism,” in which the mind deals with the strange by falsely familiarizing it, insisting that giants are really windmills.

Sheckley also...

(The entire section is 422 words.)