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A Short, Sharp Shock

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  311 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Kim Stanley Robinson, award-winning author of the bestselling Red Mars, Green Mars, and the soon-to-be-published Blue Mars, was called "a literary landscape artist, creating breathtaking vistas" by The Detroit Metro News. Now he confirms his reputation for brilliance and for the unexpected in this luminous short work.

A Short, Sharp Shock

A man tumbles through wild surf, hal

Hardcover, 147 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Mark V. Ziesing
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Maybe a Buddhist meditation? Maybe a thought experiment? Maybe science fiction? Maybe not? Whatever it is, I really liked it. The setting is a ribbon of land encircling an ocean world. Along this spine travels Thel, meeting odd folk and thinking about his journey. Presaging the New Weird by a decade, Robinson introduces people living in giant snail shells, "facewomen" with Mandelbrot eyes, an intertidal bridge keeper, and many more delights. Plus a few wince-worthy scenes that I'm trying to blot ...more
Guy Haley
This book's been in my collection for 15 years, according to the press release slip I found still preserved inside the cover. Fittingly, I read it on top of a cliff by the roaring sea.
A man wakes up on a beach in a strange world, next to him is a woman he doesn't recognise but who he knows means everything to him. When she vanishes, he sets off to rescue her, taking him on a mind-bending journey that is a little like the Wizard of Oz for grown-ups, but with a lot more sea and a lot more sex.
It's hard to know how to classify this book -- it has aspects of both science fiction and fantasy. It is also very retro in a way, in that I mean that it seems like it was written in the 60s rather than the 90s.

But in the end I really enjoyed it. It's very short, only 200 pages, and I finished in in a few hours. It's like reading someone's dream. It's otherworldly, hallucinatory, and has layers of meaning and metaphor that escape you upon initial reading. I think I'll be reading it again at some
Adam  McPhee
Surreal with a strange logic underlying it all. The geography of the world is fascinating: a thin peninsular continent that runs across the equator of a water world. It's populated by strange creatures: men with trees growing out of their shoulders and women with faces on their eyes. The infighting crab beach shellcottage people are the best.

(view spoiler)
In this 70 page story a man and a woman are washed ashore on a peculiar, narrow strip of a continent that stretches on and on. Both have lost their memory and after being separated the man tries to find the woman. Once they find each other together they travel along the narrow continent and encounter different communities and cultures. They are continuously being pursued by a group of dangerous villains that want to get hold of a ritual object the couple have taken from them.
This short story ma
I did something with A Short Sharp Shock which I rarely do -- abandoned it after about 50 pages. It was just too weird. Guy wakes up on beach with no memory, there's a woman there. Next morning she's gone. He goes to look for her for reasons that nobody understands. There are people made of seaweed and other people with fruit trees growing out of their heads. What, exactly, did you smoke while writing this one, KSR? Anyway, it was too weird for me.
If I would have had any clue about the ending I would have gulped this fantasy-sci-fi-literature down. Luckily I didn't and sipped it with leisure. I recommend you do the same. This book is for everyone except minors. There is some references to a particular kind of civilization that most would consider lewd. This story is deeper than what you get on the surface (pun intended for those who have read it). I don't know what took me so long to read something by Kim Stanley Robinson but I will be lo ...more
I am severely torn about this book. Kim Stanley Robinson is clearly not a bad writer, in terms of language; nor is the basic concept of this novel bad or uninteresting (I would not have picked it up if it had been). And yet... the end result bores me.

I started reading this book before Christmas, thinking I'd be able to add another finished book to 2009 year's list, but alas, I felt like trudging my way through treacle and eventually got stuck in it; putting it down for a few months and, in fact,
K. Axel
Sep 05, 2011 K. Axel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tanith lee and Neil Gaiman fans
Shelves: fantasy, full-reviews
The Story...
Try to hang on and if you have questions afterwards, well, you must clearly read the book on your own!

A man wakes up surrounded by water. He fights his way to the shore where he learns that another person has washed ashore as well. A woman. He describes her as a swimmer, built for the ocean. He closes his eyes and when he opens them in the morning, the woman is gone. She has been taken by a tribe called the spine kings. These savages are cannibals and will sacrifice the woman when
A thoroughly mystifying book, full of well-drawn and often beautiful images, of which I could make neither head nor tail. Is this a halfway house inhabited by souls between reincarnations? A simulated reality gone wrong? What Purgatory is really like?

I own the book. Maybe I should try reading it again. If I do, I'll modify this review as appropriate afterwards.
Dione Basseri
If you are interested in artistic writing, without much worry about highly-contained plot or logic, then this story might fit you perfectly, but it left me less than satisfied.

Dream-like and flowing, this story follows a man who has been shipwrecked on an expansive island. Taken in first by a tribe of people with trees growing from their skin, he sets out to save their fellow tribesmen and a woman who was lost in the shipwreck. The captors, known as the spine kings, are ruthless, and their anger
This book, a quasi-magical quasi-SF novel about a man with no memory, finding his way on a bizarre planet, was totally enthralling and absorbing. After finishing it, my perceptions of reality had changed, and it took a while before I was able to relate to the real world again! Robinson's writing in this work, more than most of his other novels, is artistic and literary, almost Kafka-esque. I would also compare A Short, Sharp Shock to a similar book, also a surrealistic fantasy written by an SF a ...more
The author painted beautiful landscapes and great pictures in my mind while I listened to this audiobook. However, by the end I was left wondering what the point was. Not a big deal, but as a reader I felt there was no closure. Interesting, yet strange story.
Tyrannosaurus regina
Beautiful and strange with a dream-like quality. It was at times gentle and at times brutal and it is best read without trying to impose a standard sense of logic on it. Somehow, this story just is, and it is exactly as it should be.
Michael Rhode
I kept thinking of Roger Zelazny as I read this novella, but not in a good way. Unlike Zelazny's short works, this reads like a fragment of a longer piece.
Briane Pagel
Simply phenomenal. I read it a year ago and can't stop thinking about how great it was. It should be read and re-read, a lot.
Dreamlike. I enjoy reading stories that are unusual, set in times or places that I could not experience in ordinary life.
Gulliver meets Heinlein. Poignant and extrapolated commentary.
Jul 04, 2008 Alsha rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, or surreal adventure stories.
I found this one in a 50c bin in a used book store a couple weeks ago. A lovely story - much more lyrical and fantastical than KSR's Mars trilogy, which are the only other books of his I've read. He has always shown a knack for beautiful imagery coupled with the detail and expertise of a scientist, and this story exemplifies his style. There were some truly inspired passages in this one - mostly about the past; it was in great part about the past, including a series of different creation myths a ...more
A bizarre story which reads easily enough but of which I'm sure I'm missing the deeper meaning
I am sure there is some deeper meaning in this book that I just did not least I am hoping so, otherwise it really is just a collection of creation myths from a world that doesn't exist. And not even really interesting myths. This should have been an entertaining story of a travel through a foreign land, with discussions on all the weird and interesting peoples that inhabit this world....but instead, it is just a meandering story that doesn't seem to go anywhere.
C.M. Muller
A brilliant and puzzling short novel which will leave you wondering just what in the outer limits you have read. My brain has been on fire not only in trying to figure out the predicament of the amnesiac protagonist, but also with the surrealistic imagery on display. Cats, what a fever dream!
Apr 28, 2008 Graham rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sci fi and fantasy fan, kim stanley robinson fans
This book is a trip. It is a fantasy, it takes you to another world that has one continuous ring of land circling an ocean world. There is a jungle, a man who does not know how he got there, a young woman he helps. A great way to forget current concerns.
Jun 18, 2009 Shauna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of literary science fiction or of Kim Stanley Robinson
On a metaphorical level, this short book works and is reminiscent of some medieval literary works. The beautiful language is also satisfying. As a story, though, I found it somewhat frustrating because the main story question is never answered.
Zachary Jernigan
OBJECTIVE RATING (my best stab at looking at the book's merits, regardless of whether or not I enjoyed it all that much): 3

PERSONAL RATING (how much the book "worked" for me personally): 5
Jim Black
It started out promising but overall I was disappointed with it. My full review will be appearing on my Science Fiction Times blog ( this week.
Sep 08, 2012 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kim Stanley Robinson/Sci-fi fans
Shelves: 2012
This is a weird one for Kim Stanley Robinson. It is not like his usual works, but it was an interesting read.
Greg Martin
This was perhaps the most creative work of fiction I have ever read. Loved it.
An odd read with no closure but some lovely imagery.
Thomas Baughman
I thought this was pretty good.
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Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer, probably best known for his award-winning Mars trilogy.

His work delves into ecological and sociological themes regularly, and many of his novels appear to be the direct result of his own scientific fascinations, such as the 15 years of research and lifelong fascination with Mars which culminated in his most famous work. He has, due to his
More about Kim Stanley Robinson...

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