The novel “Psychoshop” by Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny was published for the first time in 1998.
Alf is a journalist tasked with investigating a strange shop in Rome where apparently you can make out of the ordinary transactions such as exchange parts of your personality with other ones. As if that activity didn’t appear strange enough already, it’s rumored to have been going on for twenty-five centuries.
Alf meets Adam Maser, the store owner, who brings him to visit his activity. The journalist finds something incredible, which extends in space and time and is also frequented by people definitely out of the ordinary.
Alfred Bester had started writing “Psychoshop”, sadly he died in 1987 leaving it unfinished. Roger Zelazny was asked to finish the novel, a taks far from easy given that most of it had yet to be written. Zelazny accepted and managed to finish it before he died too in 1995. The novel was eventually published in 1998, a case perhaps unique of a novel written by two different authors and published after the death of both of them.
“Psychoshop” is written in first person from the perspective of Alf, a journalist who investigates the most unique shop in Rome. The plot is a bit loose and mainly concerns the gradual discovery of the store by Alf and his relationship with its owner, the mysterious Adam Maser, and his assistant, another character truly unique.
Especially the first part of the story can be hard to follow but later you will understand where it’s going. In the final part of the novel, after collecting many clues, Alf eventually starts discovering what’s really behind Adam Maser’s strange activities to reach an intriguing end.
“Psychoshop” is in some ways a comedic novel but it’s difficult to give it precise labels. Greg Bear called it jazz science fiction for the peculiar style of both Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny and the fact that this novel is weird even by their standards.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed by “Psychoshop”. Maybe I was expecting something more from a collaboration between two great authors such as Bester and Zelazny, although the circumstances in which this novel was written were complicated so it’s not a typical story written by two authors.
Actually, I can’t say that there are major flaws in “Psychoshop” but it gives me the impression that it needed a better editing to better emphasize its plot and characters. Partly it’s my limit because to fully appreciate the story you have to tune into a peculiar sense of humor.
The combination of Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny’s styles created a novel that has an uneven rhythm that mixes many different elements that sometimes are contradictory. For example, it’s a novel with a strong humorous base but at the same time there there’s a base of pessimism.
Because of these unusual features, the subjective component in appreciating “Psychoshop” is greater than with a normal novel. However, I personally can’t help but thinking that if Bester and Zelazny had had more time to work on this novel they would’ve been able to get a much better result. Maybe they would’ve been able to give greater consistency to the plot and develop the characters better.
In general, “Psychoshop” still has a good reputation because most of the readers can at least in part to keep up with the changing pace and the sequence of story elements. Even most of the readers who appreciate this novel, however, admit that it’s not the best work written by Bester and Zelazny.
In my opinion, to appreciate “Psychoshop” you must let go and follow the strange pace of the story, just as if you were listening to jazz music. Especially for Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny’s fans that should be simple enough.