Kirkus Star


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Following his fine Project Pope (p. 105), Simak delivers another low-key charmer--this time involving alternate worlds and human futures. English professor Edward Lansing, after consulting a talking slot machine, finds himself on an alternate Earth together with a motley collection of characters from other alternate worlds and times: a puritanical Parson, an officious Brigadier, dreamy poet Sandra, engineer Mary, robot caretaker Jurgens--and a mysterious quartet of card-playing aliens who ignore the Earthlings entirely. The world features an inn and a road and not much else; with little choice but to follow the road, the party stumbles across a number of puzzling objects: an immense but unapproachable blue cube, an abandoned crumbling city, a set of doorways to alternate worlds, a space-time transport device, a curtain of Chaos, a singing obelisk. Each object has its unseen dangers, and the casualties mount up. The Parson loses his nerve and flees into another world. The Brigadier blunders into the transporter and vanishes. Jurgens falls into Chaos. Sandra is seduced by the singing obelisk. So, in an appropriate but not altogether surprising ending, it's up to Lansing and Mary to solve the riddle of the blue cube, enter, and demand some explanations from the card-playing aliens within. Despite the plot's limitations, Simak's prose is better than ever, clean and supple and occasionally brilliant; and his alien conundrums are appealing and persuasive. A captivating, near-vintage performance overall.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Ballantine