Friday, March 23, 2012

Eric Frank Russell's "Seat of Oblivion" (novelette, body snatching)

This is an action packed story, but the premise didn't really work for me. There is a machine, variously called "automatic psyche-liberator", "mechanical body-snatcher", or "life-force projector". Say you set it up near a window on a higher floor. Link one end to you, & aim its "projector" at that man walking down the street. Click a button, & a moment later your body is dead here, & your "life force" is in that man you aimed at. What happens to the "life force" of the stranger is not mentioned, except that it loses the body it was so far occupying.

Machine's inventor created it with a pious aim: to reuse the body of executed criminals to host the life force of a dying surgeon, e.g. Niven's "The Jigsaw Man" was yet to be written, so the implications of mining executed criminals' bodies wasn't considered.

In any case, an escaped death row convict gets hold of the machine & has a merry-go-round robbing banks etc, discarding bodies as necessary. Until the inventor traps him...

See also.

  1. Murray Leinster's "The Mole Pirate": While the device is different, dilemma is the same. A man invents a locomotive that, at the press of a button, transforms into a machine that can move through solid matter like walls & interior of earth. So a criminal grabs it & has fun. Until the inventor traps him...

Collected in.

  1. Eric Frank Russell's "Somewhere a Voice".

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, November 1941.
Rating: B.
Among the stories edited by John Campbell for Astounding/Analog.
Related: Stories of Eric Frank Russell.