by Alfred Bester & Roger Zelazny
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
One of the oldest plotlines in science fiction and fantasy seems to be the magical shop which sells anything and can be found by anyone when they really need it but then disappears when they go back to look for it. Such a shop is the Luogo Nero, the Black Hole of the Soul Changer, which features prominently in Psychoshop, the posthumously published collaboration of Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny.
What sets this work apart from so many of the earlier works is that they choose to examine the methods and motives of the store's owner, not just the clientele. Alfred Noir is a reporter with the magazine Rigadoon (whose name, I presume, is meant to make the reader think of the disappearing town of Brigadoon). Alf is sent to Rome to find out something about a shop his boss has heard about, the Luogo Nero.
Much of the book deals with the shop itself and Alf's relationship with Adam Maser, the proprietor and Gloria, his assistant. Eventually, towards the end of the novel, the authors begin to reveal the plot they use the majority of the book to hint about. In many ways, this ending seems almost tacked on. There were many opportunities for the authors to plant clues and foreshadowings, however they did not do so.
The novel itself is more reminiscent of the writing of Fredric Brown or Philip K. Dick than of Bester or Zelazny, while the somewhat casual and frequent references to sexual intercourse brings to mind many of Heinlein's later novels ("Okay, nothing is happening, why don't we jump in the sack.").
Psychoshop has a slightly padded feel, even though it is barely two-hundred pages. It certainly is not the strong novel one would expect to read from the authors of The Stars My Destination and Lord of Light. Nor does it have the humorous quality of Zelazny's A Night In the Lonesome October, which it almost seems to be attempting.
In his introduction, Greg Bear comments that Psychoshop is "a dark acid curio, brisk, fast, memorable, a rare improvisational duet from two of our best." While I would agree that the novel is "a dark, acid curio," I question how fast or memorable the novel is.
Purchase this book from