The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton aka Crompton Divided by Robert Sheckley

The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton aka Crompton Divided by Robert Sheckley
The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton aka Crompton Divided by Robert Sheckley

The novel “The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton”, also known as “Crompton Divided” by Robert Sheckley was published for the first time in 1978.

Alistair Crompton works for the famous Psychosmell, Inc. industry but the remarkable professional success he has achieved thanks to his exceptional sense of smell isn’t enough to make him happy. That’s because a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder when he was a child led doctors to implant two of his personalities into artificial bodies, leaving him incomplete.

When Alistair Crompton reaches the point of no longer being able to continue with that incompleteness, he decides to ask for the Reintegration of the two personalities, as is allowed by the law. They are now two separate, adult people who live on distant planets and to reach them Alistair decides to steal some very precious essences to afford the tickets. However, a journey full of unknowns awaits him.

In 1958, Robert Sheckley published the novelette “Join Now” under the pseudonym Finn O’Donnevan, in which he told the first version of Alistair Crompton’s story and his personality’s fragmentation. Twenty years later, he published its new, significantly expanded version.

At the beginning of the novel, Alistair Crompton seems like a professionally accomplished man who, however, feels an inner void. In short, a person like many others. Robert Sheckley shows the protagonist’s life in a few words through his interpersonal relationships. In particular, in the first appearance of his assistant, Miss Anachos, he specifies that he lusted after her but attractive young women are not made for the likes of him, who is unattractive physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Robert Sheckley also clarifies Alistair Crompton’s psychic situation by explaining how in that future it’s possible to separate multiple personalities by transferring the “extra” ones into artificial bodies. The protagonist’s story after his decision to Reintegrate the other two personalities is told by mixing drama and comedy.

The underlying theme is very serious, as Alistair Crompton is literally searching for himself. In his case, it’s not an exclusively existential search but there’s also a very practical part given that his is one of the three personalities that inhabited his body when he was a child. Now, as an adult, he decided to search for the other two to Reintegrate them.

The novel tells of all the difficulties that the protagonist must face when he meets what have become two completely separate people. Each of them has something that he lacks, with the consequence that they are very different from him. Literally, Alistair Crompton can’t get along with himself.

In his search for his missing parts, Alistair Crompton travels to various planets, where he finds various societies that include aliens and very different situations. It’s here that Robert Sheckley unleashes his famous humorous streak with over-the-top inventions of the type only he could create.

All this forms a novel which in some ways is like a roller coaster due to the alternation of funny moments and dramatic moments. The story is rather uneven due to the importance of the various personalities of the protagonist and the very different settings. The ending represents a further change with an unexpected solution, but is it a real solution?

Due to its structure, “The Alchemistic Marriage of Alistair Crompton” has for decades aroused contrasting reactions between readers who abandon themselves to the protagonist’s journey and others who quickly find themselves disoriented in what they consider a jumble of uneven fragments. In my opinion, it’s worth reading it with the awareness that you’re facing a novel I would define as kaleidoscopic. It’s available on Amazon USA, UK, and Canada.

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