** disclaimer: this book was originally published in 1978. we have different terms and interpretations for mental illness now than we did then. i reminded myself of that when i read this book and i'd advise anybody who might read it to remind themselves of same and that it is a work of speculative fiction.
when alistair crompton was just a kid, he did some pretty horrifying things. when his parents finally undertook to get him treatment, they were told that he had "viral schizophrenia" and it had been caught too late. the only hope for alistair (so They said) was a procedure where his brain would be analyzed, and his new array of personalities physically split, the wilder ones ousted and thrust into human simulacra while what was perceived as the most stable persona was allowed to remain in his body, still to be called alistair, alone. he was told that future integration with these personalities was possible but highly discouraged and to ensure that he didn't raise his hopes or make an attempt, the other parts of him were sent to distant corners of the galaxy.
despite the disapproval and the distance, one fine day he decides he can't take it anymore, decides to find himself, and bring himself all back together.
here again, robert sheckley woos me with his endless invention and creativity. but this time he marches me down the aisle with a rock-solid anchor of a premise, and that ballast makes the whirling dervish writing here something really significant -- he amuses you, bemuses, and underneath it all reminds you of the loneliness of the human experience, of the self, and the desire for marriage: to be completed, to be more than just that small stolid little self in our heads. the reader might lose sight of this at times, in the bacchanalia and riot of ideas and scenes and smirking innuendo but it is always there, and when i read the final page i thought i saw what he thinks of it all.
i nodded in assent. of course, i thought. that makes sense.
4.78 stars, i think. i'd split the different three ways, but these things have a way of multiplying.