Saturday, March 23, 2013

11. The 10th Victim by Robert Sheckley

I did a bit of research and learned that this book is an adaptation by Robert Sheckley of the Italian movie that was in turn an adaptation of Sheckley's short story from Galaxy magazine called The Seventh Victim.  I'm curious to find the original and read it just to see how much it changed and if the movie (which was highly stylized, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress) influenced him at all.

It's a great setting: the near future where war has been eliminated in favour of an ongoing, global game of voluntary human hunt.  The rules are simple.  You offer yourself up and then you have a total of 10 kills to succeed, 5 as the Hunter and 5 as the Victim. It's totally legal as long as you don't injure any non-participants.  It is all televised and a major part of the culture.  If you do make it to 10 kills, you become a high-status person in your community.  The book begins with a few example kills and then focuses on two people, both heading to their tenth kill.  Catherine Meredith is a New York executive with a big media organization behind her.  Marcello Polletti is a feckless middle-aged Italian man who doesn't seem to care about the hunt at all.

When I was an adolescent, I got into Killer big-time.  It was a game where you played assassins trying to take out your friends with dart guns, squirt guns, bombs that were notes etc.  It was a brief phenomenon in the '80s, I guess on college campuses.  We lived in a small town and were only like 12 or 13 but we had some pretty good games, including one that took place in the woods behind my house (with my uptight neighbour freaking out about us making noise and screaming into the woods that there was a cougar sighting earlier that day).  This book was a huge influence on the original game.  This is why it has been on my list for so long.

However, the tone of the book is actually quite light, almost sardonic, which was far from the way I as an intense, nerdy 12-year old boy thought about how assassination should go down.  I'm quite glad I didn't read it back then, as I wouldn't have gotten it and probably been kind of annoyed and disappointed.  Today, I find it a fun read, doing some nice satire of the media and our culture of violence.  The Marcello character is quite funny.  It's just all a bit light and kind of goes nowhere in the end.  But I guess that is not too surprising given that it really was just a short story.  There are two sequels.  I am at least curious to know how Sheckley followed this story up.

5 comments:

jesse said...

The original short story is public domain:

http://www.sffaudio.com/podcasts/Seventh%20Victim%20by%20Robert%20Sheckley.pdf

OlmanFeelyus said...

Oh great! Thanks a lot, Jesse.

Doc said...

The original short story (The 7th Victim) is here: http://ebookbrowse.com/seventh-victim-by-robert-sheckley-pdf-d224520398.

Redwing said...

"The rules are simple. You offer yourself up and then you have a total of 10 kills to succeed, 5 as the Hunter and 5 as the Victim. It's totally legal as long as you don't injure any non-participants. It is all televised and a major part of the culture. If you do make it to 10 kills, you become a high-status person in your community."

This sounds like a good start to a D&D game, where thieves play this as a sort of initiation/rite of passage, winners get into the guild...

Sounds like a cool book.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yes, could be a great campaign set-up. Would the PCs be going against each other though? And how would you deal with PC death?