Audie Award Finalist, Solo Narration - Male, 2014
Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on Dimension of Miracles: "Dimension of Miracles is probably not [Sheckley's] most famous book…. but I think it's probably his best-loved book. It's about the joys and tribulations (mostly the tribulations) of winning the lotterythe galactic lotteryaccidentally. And wrongly. Tom Carmody is awarded a remarkable prize, is taken half way across the universe to collect it, finds himself hopelessly lost, and needs to find his way home again to Earth…to this Earth, not an alternate, weirdo Earth. He's got to get back. And the price is high.
In its style of humorand even in some of the jokesDimension of Miracles is very obviously a precursor of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas actually hadn't read Dimension of Miracles until very shortly after Hitchhiker came out, when people pointed him to it, and he told me that he found the experience almost shockingit was like reading himself. He was a huge admirer of Bob Sheckley and a huge admirer of this book, and in later life, I had the privilege of introducing both of them.
Now the challenge for me with a book this funny, this strange, this perceptive was to try and find a narrator who was as iconic, somebody who could deliver the goods, somebody who could give you a book like this as it deserved to be given. And the first, and the last, and actually the only person to come to mind was John Hodgman. So I asked John, and he said yes! And he did it; he pulled it off. Listening to Johnnot just the suave, sensible, sane narrator of this book, but all the peculiar accents and incarnations that he is forced to adopt through herehe does it delightfully, he does it brilliantly, he's really, really funny. And so is this book. Enjoy your journey through a Dimension of Miracles."
Dimension of Miracles is a satirical science fiction novel first published by Dell in 1968. It's about Tom Carmody, a New Yorker who, thanks to a computer error, wins the main prize in the Intergalactic Sweepstakes. Tom claims his prize before the error is discovered and is allowed to keep it. However, since Tom is a human from Earth without galactic status and no space traveling experience, he has no homing instinct that can guide him back to Earth once his odyssey begins - and the galactic lottery organizers cannot transport him home. Meanwhile, his removal from Earth has caused a predatory entity to spring into existence - one that pursues and aims to destroy him. Carmody is on the run, and he ends up transporting from Earth to Earth - different phases and realities of the planet, which of course is not the time or condition he expects.
©1968 Robert Sheckley (P)2013 Robert Sheckley
"Hodgman, probably best known to geeks for his appearances on The Daily Show and his role as the PC in those Apple commercials a few years back, has a dryly intelligent deadpan that wonderfully counterpoints the absurd adventures of Thomas Carmody, a mid 20th-century New York everyman who’s invited to a galactic center to collect a sweepstakes prize." (Locus)
This highly entertaining comedic Sci-Fi book from 1969 prefigured Douglas Adams 'Hitchiker's Guide' in many ways; the story begins with protagonist Carmody suffering at the hands of a galactic bureaucracy etc. The source material is witty and acerbic, and the charming performance by John Hodgman really brings it to life. This is a gem that deserves repeat listenings.
"Easily The Best Title I've Encountered on Audible"
Although written beforehand, this book's humor reflects in many ways the prose in "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", but in a somewhat more mature manner.
The narration performance by John Hodgman on this fish-out-of-water story is second to none, creating the audio equivalent of a page-turner.
Highly recommend for anyone who enjoyed those old 1950's sci-fi radio shows such as "X-Minus One" and/or "Dimension X".
9.8 / 10
"Hilarious! - Could have been written this year"
This book is such fun. Yes, it reminds everyone of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy even though it was written before. I love the humor, fun characters, and especially the ending.
The whole part about creating a budget planet - EARTH. Absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud HEARTILY many times.
The planet maker scnee was a blast. Loved the whole book.
I loved the resolution in the end. This isn't a "moving" type book, but that end satisfied me.
If you like humor and don't mind irreverent books, read tis one.
"Better than expected..."
Wasn't excited about this book, but it came highly recommended. I wasn't a fan of Douglas Adam's (which his Hitchhiker books is what this one is common compared to), so I wasn't excited about this one.
Sheckley, though, excels where Adams doesn't. Where Adam's humor is campy and a bit in-your-face, Sheckley tends to be a bit more reserved. Granted, there's talking dinosaurs and goofy characters, but the humor they have is a bit smarter and enjoyable. Hodgman is the perfect narrator as he brings to life the characters beautifully.
All in all, it was better than I had expected. It's not without it's dry parts or various minor plot holes...but they are fairly short and minor and don't weigh down the reader much.
"Hitchhiker's Before There Was a Hitchhiker's"
Genius. Hilarious. Perfect.
As I said in my title, this book is the Hitchhiker's Guide's precursor. I can't imagine what Douglas Adams must have been thinking and feeling while he was reading this for the first time, apparently after Hitchhiker's had been published. They share so much of the dry, irreverent, metaphysical humor that it is hard to believe that Adams had never read Dimensions before. If you like Hitchhiker's Guide at all, GET THIS BOOK!
Absolutely everything. Neil Gaiman hit the nail square on the head when he asked John Hodgman to narrate this book.
I loved this book. I found it to be funny and witty and thought provoking. The story was suburb and the characters were charming and well rounded. I started listening to it again as soon as I finished it the first time and I plan on getting any and all other Robert Sheckley books that Audible has to offer.
"Light & Amusing"
I picked this up when I had some cash on my account that was about to expire. It caught my attention, because it was one of the Neil Gaiman Presents selections. I really like Gaiman’s work and I figured I would probably also like a book that he recommends. I was right.
Dimension of Miracles was amusing, witty, and well-written. In many ways, it was like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only it came first. It begins when Tom Carmody is whisked away from his New York apartment upon accidentally winning the galactic lottery. In his exploits thereafter, he meets a number of strange characters on several interesting worlds as he attempts to return to Earth.
My favorite part was probably when Tom was transported to Earth during the dinosaur age and proceeds to have a very charming conversation with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
John Hodgman was an excellent choice to narrate this novel. I thought his tone perfectly embodied the author’s dry wit.
Overall, the novel was quite enjoyable. The story was light and amusing, but still had some deeper points as well. It won’t go down as my all-time favorite, but it was still a fun read that I would recommend to anyone looking for a comedic sci-fi story.
"The Intelligent City"
I thought this short novel was fantastic. The plot is quite thin and easy to grasp: Tom Carmody, an Earthling, mistakenly receives a prize in the Intergalactic Sweepstakes. Having been teleported to a far-off planet, he is left stranded with little knowledge of how to return. He then travels from planet to planet, and from dimension to dimension, in search of home.
Along the way, he encounters a strange City, one of my favorite parts. It seems uninhabited, until the City itself begins to speak and interact with Carmody. It explains that it was built to facilitate health and comfort in the lives of its citizens. Carmody wonders why no one currently lives in the City, but he accepts the comfort that it provides him; or, rather, that it insists upon him. And though the City may have good intentions, Carmody soon finds that its nagging perfectionism and constant "suggestions" are overwhelmingly annoying.
Carmody eventually refuses to listen to the City. He understands that, for example, the costs of smoking a cigarette far outweigh the benefits; but there comes a point where Carmody's ability to make a choice becomes more important to him than the effects of the choices he makes. The intelligent City reveals something beautifully complex about people: even with clear evidence that a certain choice is the most correct or logical, a person is driven to maintain a sense that their choice (whatever it may be) is possibly the right one, even if it is quite apparently wrong.
Absurd yet enlightening moments like this make Dimension of Miracles an engaging and fulfilling listen. Narrator John Hodgman does a fantastic job as well. He gives a relatable exasperation to the main character and an ironic realism to all of the extraterrestrials he meets. It's quick, it's funny, and it really caught my ear.
"Great short read"
This book is funny as well as thought provoking. If you loved Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy you will really appreciate this book.
"Douglas Adams' predecessor"
It's hard to believe that this was written before Hitchhiker's Guide. All of the tropes that we ascribe to Adams are here. The weary time traveler, the morose robot, the finicky planet builder (Oh Slartybartfast!), and the cynical humor that leaves you chuckling after the book is over. It's a gem and I'm glad that Gaiman added it to his collection. Hodgman's narration is the icing on the cake.
"Metaphysical, Philosophical, Satirical, Comical SF"
Everyman Tom Carmody is melancholically living his unsatisfying life in NYC in our present (more or less) when he unexpectedly wins the Galactic Sweepstakes and goes to Galactic Centre to receive his Prize, thinking that being a winner must bring with it privileges like wealth, prestige, women, or knowledge. It develops that Carmody won his Prize, a sentient shape-changing being with an attitude, due to a computer deciding to exercise its free will by committing a one in five billion error by incorrectly choosing him. The rest of Sheckley's 1968 novel Dimension of Miracles depicts Carmody's attempts to return to home and to avoid being eaten by his own unique and persistent predator.
As Carmody converses with his Prize, meets various beings (like an unfulfilled and jaded God, an engineer who creates worlds like earth, an agent of the Galactic Placement Bureau, and an overly solicitous city), and visits various alternate earths, Sheckley revels in philosophical, metaphysical play and sharp satire. He targets racism (via dinosaurs!), religion, gods, human pretension, science fiction, and especially consumer culture. On one earth people wear clothes with the designer labels visible and converse in advertising catchphrases as they try to increase their consumer ratings, while on another an artist-designer has just made the first Museum of Human Waste: "We consume, therefore we are."
The novel percolates with interesting and funny lines:
--"Comparative knowledge is one of the few deficiencies of godhead."
--"How do you expect us to run it [the galaxy]? We're only sentient."
--"Intelligence counts for nothing more than claws and hooves."
--"Any creature that doesn't know its own location should never leave home."
--"How do you tell a god what his function should be if you're an atheist?"
--"The most fundamental fact in the universe. . . is that species eat other species."
--"Men remain inexorably true to themselves and their interests. They stay in character, even if that character is suddenly transported to Timbuktu or Alpha Centauri."
--"The secrets of the universe are overrated."
John Hodgman reads the novel with amusing aplomb, changing his voice for the various characters (and for the various voices of the Prize), including monotonously intoning (almost in a religious chant) as a computer and singing as the Prize when it's flute-shaped and doing a fine proud T-rex. Just several times rather early on a disconcerting quick scratching noise in the audio occurs, a bit like on an old vinyl record. The audiobook ends with an interview between Neil Gaiman (the book is an entry in the Neil Gaiman Presents line) and reader John Hodgman, humorously offering insights into the novel and into Hodgman's mindset and approach to the novel as its audiobook reader.
Because Sheckley's novel is a picaresque, galactic travelogue, one gets the feeling that it could run longer or shorter. A conversation between the Prize and Carmody regarding the former's being a "self-eater" goes on a bit too long, given the short length of the novel. A few times Sheckley may try a bit too hard to be funny, as when he has the Prize "talking away like a senate sub-committee," or has Carmody say, "'Sounds good to me' in exactly the same tones that Napoleon used when he was shown Ney's dispositions for the Battle of Waterloo." (Hey, maybe that one is pretty funny. . .)
Finally, although Dimension of Miracles may not be quite as funny as it's reputed to be, its small space is packed with interesting and innovative ideas, riffs, and features, and I like its satisfyingly anti-Wizard of Oz ending. People who like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would probably like it (as would people who like Douglas Adams, though I haven't yet read his work).
"Not Quite What I Expected..."
It just lacked ongoing appeal for me and I wasn't in a tremendous hurry to resume the story following interruptions.
The ending was just OK. It didn't leave me wanting more, but was fine for the story as written.
The voices, tone, and inflection were great.
No, not really.
I loved many of the transient characters, but just never fell in love with the protagonist.
"If you liked Hitchhiker's Guide..."
On listening to this book I was struck (as many have been) by the echoes of Douglas Adams' 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' - but I knew this book had pre-dated that. In fact on further research I discovered Adams hadn't read this book, and was shocked when he did at how similar it was.
I say this as a recommendation - if you liked the slightly anarchical & surreal humour of one, you'll love the other.
John Hodgman is a great choice for the narrator too - less well known to UK audiences perhaps, but he inhabits the characters well, and seems to offer the 'baffled everyman' perspective that the lead character exhibits throughout.
"A Hitchhiker Ahead Of His Time"
The story of a man mistakenly being awarded a prize in an intergalactic sweepstake sounds very much like the sort of thing that would have come from the mind of Douglas Adams, except that it was published ten years earlier and Adams was unaware of it until after he had completed The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.
It is, by turns, humorous and philosophical and, to a lesser degree theological. Going to collect the prize is easy for Thomas Carmody; it is the journey home that proves a challenge.
The absurdist nature of this sci-fi comedy will, of course, appeal to fans of Adams work. Some of the more rambling sections can seem overlong and a touch pretentious, as though Sheckley has devised a philosophy and is running with as far as he can, whilst trying to show how clever he is, but on the whole the story moves along at a satisfying pace and you wonder just where Carmody and his cheerful and metamorphic prize will end up next.
John Hodgman presents the narrative in a compelling and occasionally over-the-top fashion and could have you listening from beginning to end in one go without pause or interruption (assuming you have the time). His delivery is nigh on perfect and he has clearly thought about each character and what nuances to add to flesh them out. At times he even reminded me Andrew Scott's insanely eccentric Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock.
All-in-all, a wonderfully madcap adventure that deserves much, much more exposure.
I love quirky sci fi!
The humour and the narration
It made me laugh
Can't believe Douglas Adams was only introduced to this story years after he wrote the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy. If you like the HHGTTG series (a trilogy of 5 books) you'll love this too.
"A muddled, mediocre story, read well by Hodgeman."
If you're a big fan of the randomness and lack of structure of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, then you may get something out of this.
I generally listen to history books, and am currently listening to An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O'Farrell.
It started well enough, as did Hitchhiker's.
Pretty much all of them, as none of them made any sense.
To me this book, like Douglas Adams' famous series, is essentially what happens when you write a book without any idea where it will end up. What follows is a series of increasingly bizarre sequences, some of which are mildly amusing, but most are just odd and random.There's little story arc here, which to me makes the book just feel rather pointless.
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