Shakespeare's Planet

Shakespeare's Planet

by Clifford D. Simak

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A human space traveler trapped on a remote planet must somehow unravel a confounding alien technology—or else surrender himself to a host of incomprehensible horrors

For thousands of years, Carter Horton has been traveling across the galaxy toward a distant world capable of supporting human life. At journey’s end, awakened from his millennia-long sleep by a curiously adaptive android, he is informed that his crewmates have all perished due to a system malfunction. But worse is yet to come: Horton’s sentient ship is refusing to return him to Earth, and a strangely cordial predator is waiting for him on the planet’s surface. The repulsive creature, Carnivore, arrived here via a tunnel across the universe, as did his late companion—a human dubbing himself William Shakespeare—whom Carnivore just recently devoured. But the tunnel moves in only one direction, and if Carter is unable to reverse it, he will find himself marooned forever in this incomprehensible world, at the mercy of monsters and a terrifying, mind-freezing alien anomaly that occurs every evening in the “God-hour.”
With unparalleled verve, award-winning science fiction Grand Master Clifford D. Simak performs a truly astonishing feat of world-creation in Shakespeare’s Planet. Bursting with intelligence, imagination, and breathtaking invention, this is a gem of speculative fiction from one of the genre’s most revered and innovative artists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504013284
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/21/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 218
Sales rank: 212,475
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

During his fifty-five-year career, Clifford D. Simak produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.

Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.
Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Read an Excerpt

Shakespeare's Planet

By Clifford D. Simak


Copyright © 1976 Clifford D. Simak
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1328-4


There were three of them, although sometimes there was only one of them. When that came about, less often than it should, the one was not aware there ever had been three, for the one was a strange melding of their personalities. When they became as one, the transformation was something more than a simple addition of the three, as if by this pooling of themselves there had been added a new dimension which made the sum of them greater than the whole. It was only when the three were one, a one unconscious of the three, that the melding of three brains and of three personalities approached the purpose of their being.

They were the Ship and the Ship was them. To become the Ship or to attempt to become the Ship, they had sacrificed their bodies and, perhaps, a great deal of their humanity. Sacrificed, perhaps, their souls as well, although that was something no one, least of all themselves, ever agreed on. This disagreement, it should be noted, stood quite apart from any belief or disbelief that they might have souls.

They were in space, as was the Ship, and this was understandable since they were the Ship. Naked to the loneliness and emptiness of space as the Ship was naked. Naked at once to the concept of space, which is not understood in its entirety, and to the concept of time, which is, in the final accounting, less understandable than space. And naked, too, they finally found, to those attributes of space and time, infinity and eternity; two concepts that stand beyond the capability of any intelligence.

As the centuries went on, they were collectively convinced they would become, in all truth, the Ship and nothing but the Ship, sloughing off all they had ever been before. But they had not reached that point yet. Humanity still persisted; memory still hung on. They still, at times, felt the old identities, perhaps with some of the sharpness dulled, with the pride less bright; because of the nagging doubt that they had been quite as noble in their sacrifices as they, at one time, had been able to convince themselves. For it finally came to them, although not to all of them at once, but one by one, that they had been guilty of semantic shuffling, using the term sacrifice to becloud and camouflage their basic selfishness. One by one, it came to them in those tiny intervals when they were truly honest with themselves, that the nagging doubts which hounded them might be more important than the pride.

At other times, old triumphs and regrets came surging out of time long gone and alone, not sharing with the others, each fondled the old triumphs and regrets, obtaining from them a satisfaction they would not admit, even to themselves. On occasion they stood aside from one another and talked to one another. This was a most shameful thing and they knew that it was shameful, delaying the time when they could finally sink their own identities into the one identity that came about through the consolidation of their three identities. In their more honest moments they realized that in doing this they were instinctively shying away from that final loss of personal identity which is the one outstanding terror all sentient life associates with death.

Usually, however, and increasingly as time went on, they were the Ship, and the Ship alone, and in this there was a satisfaction and a pride, and at times a certain holiness. The holiness was a quality that could not be defined in words or delineated in a thought, for it was outside and beyond any sensation or accomplishment that the creature known as man could have conjured up even in the utmost exercise of his not inconsiderable imagination. It was, in a way, a sense of minor brotherhood with both time and space, the sense of being one, strangely identified, with the space-time concept, that hypothetical condition which is the basic pattern of the universe. Under this condition they were kin to the stars and neighbor of the galaxies, while the emptiness and loneliness, although never losing frightfulness, became familiar ground.

In the best of times, when they most nearly came to their final purpose, the Ship faded from their consciousness and they alone, the consolidated one of them alone, moved across and through and over the loneliness and emptiness, no longer naked, but a native of the universe that was now their country.


Shakespeare said to Carnivore, "The time is nearly come. Life fades rapidly; I can feel it go. You must be ready. Your fangs must pierce the flesh in that small moment before death. You must not kill me, but eat me even as I die. And you remember, surely, all the rest of it. You do not forget all that I have told you. You must be the surrogate of my own people since none of them is here. As best friend, as only friend, you must not shame me as I depart from life."

Carnivore crouched and shivered. "It is not something that I asked," he said. "It is not something that I would elect to do. It is not my way to kill the old or dying. My prey must be always full of life and strength. But as one life to another, as one intelligence to another, I cannot refuse you. You say it is a holy thing, that I perform a priestly office and this is something from which one must never shrink, although every instinct in me cries out against the eating of a friend."

"I hope," said Shakespeare, "that my flesh be not too tough nor the flavor strong. I hope the ingestion of it does not make you gag."

"I shall not gag," promised Carnivore. "I shall be strong against it. I shall perform most truly. I shall do everything you ask. I shall follow all instructions. You may die in peace and dignity, knowing that your last and truest friend will carry out the offices of death. Although you will permit me the observation that this is the strangest and the most obnoxious ceremony I have ever heard of in a long and misspent life."

Shakespeare chuckled weakly. "I will allow you that," he said.


Carter Horton came alive. He was, it seemed, at the bottom of a well. The well was filled with fuzzy darkness and, in sudden fright and anger, he tried to free himself of the fuzz and darkness and climb out of the well. But the darkness wrapped itself about him, and the fuzziness made it difficult to move. After a time he lay quiet. His mind clicked hesitantly as he sought to know where he was and how he might have gotten there, but there was nothing to give him any answers. He had no memories at all. Lying quietly, he was surprised to find that he was comfortable and warm, as if he had been always there, comfortable and warm, and only aware now of the comfort and the warmth.

But through the comfort and the warmth, he felt a frantic urgency and wondered why. It was quite enough, he told himself, to continue as he was, but something in him shouted that it was not enough. He tried again to climb out of the well, to shake off the fuzziness and darkness, and failing, fell back exhausted.

Too weak, he told himself, and why should he be weak?

He tried to shout to attract attention, but his voice would not work. Suddenly he was glad it didn't, for until he was stronger, he told himself, it might be unwise to attract attention. For he did not know where he was or what or who might be lurking near, nor with what intent.

He settled back into the darkness and the fuzziness, confident that it would conceal him from whatever might be there, and was a bit amused to find he felt a slow, seeping anger at being forced thus to huddle against attention.

Slowly the fuzziness and the darkness went away, and he was surprised to find that he was not in any well. Rather, he seemed to be in a small space that he now could see.

Metal walls went up on either side of him and curved, only a foot or so above his head, to form a ceiling. Funny-looking gadgets were retracted into slots in the ceiling just above his head. At the sight of them, memory began seeping back, and carried by that memory was a sense of cold. Thinking about it, he could not recall an actual coldness, although the sense of cold was there. As the memory of the cold reached out to touch him, he felt a surge of apprehension.

Hidden fans were blowing warm air over him, and he then understood the warmth. He was comfortable, he realized, because he was lying on a soft, thick pad placed upon the floor of the cubicle. Cubicle, he thought — even the words, the terminology, were beginning to come back. The funny-looking gadgets stored in the ceiling slots were part of the life-support system, and they were there, he knew, because he didn't need them any more. The reason he didn't need them any more, he realized, was that Ship had landed.

Ship had landed and he had been awakened from his cold-sleep — his body thawed, the recovery drugs shot into his bloodstream, carefully measured doses of high-energy nutrients fed slowly into him, massaged and warmed and alive once more. Alive, if he had been dead. Remembering, he recalled the endless discussions over this very question, mulling over it, chewing it, lacerating it, shredding it to pieces and then trying to put the pieces meticulously back together. They called it cold-sleep, sure — they would call it that, for it had a soft and easy sound. But was it sleep or death? Did one go to sleep and wake? Or did one die and come to resurrection?

It didn't really matter now, he thought. Dead or sleeping, he was now alive. I be damned, he told himself, the system really worked — realizing for the first time that he had held some doubt of it really working despite all the experiments that had been carried out with mice and dogs and monkeys. Although, he remembered, he had never spoken of the doubts, concealing them not only from the others, but from himself as well.

And if he were here alive, so would the others be. In just a few more minutes he'd crawl out of the cubicle and the others would be there, the four of them reunited. It seemed only yesterday that they had been together — as if they'd spent the evening in one another's company and now, after a short night's sleep, had awakened from a dreamless night. Although he knew it would be much longer than that — as much as a century, perhaps.

He twisted his head to one side and saw the hatch, with the port of heavy glass set into it. Through the glass he could see into the tiny room, with the four lockers ranged against the wall. There was no one about — which meant, he told himself, the others were still in their cubicles. He considered shouting to them, but thought better of it. It would be unseemly, he thought — too exuberant and somewhat juvenile.

He reached out a hand to the latch and pulled down on it. It operated stiffly, but finally he got it down and the hatch swung out. He jackknifed his legs to thrust them through the hatch and had trouble doing it, for there was little room. But finally he got them through, and twisting his body, slid carefully to the floor. The floor was icy to his feet, and the metal of the cubicle was cold.

Stepping quickly to the adjacent cubicle, he peered through the glass of the hatch and saw that it was empty, with the life-supports retracted into the ceiling slots. The other two cubicles were empty as well. He stood transfixed with horror. The other three, revived, would not have left him. They would have waited for him so they all could go out together. They would have done this, he was convinced, unless something unforeseen had happened. And what could have happened?

Helen would have waited for him, he was sure of that. Mary and Tom might have left, but Helen would have waited.

Fearfully, he lunged at the locker that had his name upon it. He had to jerk hard on the handle once he had turned it to get the locker open. The vacuum inside the locker resisted, and when the door came open, it opened with a pop. Clothing hung upon the racks and footwear was ranged neatly in a row. He grabbed a pair of trousers and climbed into them, forced his feet into a pair of boots. When he opened the door of the suspension room, he saw that the lounge was empty and the ship's main port stood open. He raced across the lounge to the open port.

The ramp ran down to a grassy plain that swept off to the left. To the right, rugged hills sprang up from the plain and beyond the hills a mighty mountain range, deep blue with distance, reared into the sky. The plain was empty except for the grass, which billowed like an ocean as wind gusts swept across it. The hills were covered with trees, the foliage of which was black and red. The air had a sharp, fresh tang to it. There was no one in sight.

He went halfway down the ramp and still no one was in sight. The planet was an emptiness and the emptiness seemed to be reaching out for him. He started to cry out to ask if anyone were there, but fear and the emptiness dried up the words and he could not get them out. He shivered in the realization that something had gone wrong. This was not the way it should be.

Turning, he went clumping up the ramp and through the lock.

"Ship!" he yelled. "Ship, what the hell is going on?"

Ship said, calmly, unconcernedly, inside his mind, What's the problem, Mr. Horton?

"What's going on?" yelled Horton, more angry now than frightened, angered by the supercilious calmness of this great monster, Ship. "Where are all the others?"

Mr. Horton, said Ship, there aren't any others.

"What do you mean there aren't any others? Back on Earth there was a team of us."

You are the only one, said Ship.

"What happened to the others?"

They are dead, said Ship.

"Dead? How do you mean, dead? They were with me just the other day!"

They were with you, said Ship, a thousand years ago.

"You're insane. A thousand years!"

That's the span of time, said Ship, speaking still inside his mind, we have been gone from Earth.

Horton heard a sound behind him and spun about. A robot had come through the port.

"I am Nicodemus," said the robot.

He was an ordinary robot, a household service robot, the kind that back on Earth would be a butler or a valet, or a cook or errand boy. There was no mechanical sophistication about him; he was just a sloppy, slat-footed piece of junk.

You need not, said Ship, be so disdainful of him. You will find him, we are sure, to be quiet efficient.

"Back on Earth ..."

Back on Earth, said Ship, you trained with a mechanical marvel that had far too much that could go wrong with it. Such a contraption could not be sent out on a long-haul expedition. There would be too much chance of it breaking down. But with Nicodemus there is nothing to go wrong. Because of his simplicity he has high survival value.

"I am sorry," Nicodemus said to Horton, "that I was not present when you woke. I had gone out for a quick scout around. I had thought there was plenty of time to get back to you. Apparently, the recovery and reorientation drugs worked much more swiftly than I'd thought. It usually takes a fair amount of time for recovery from cold-sleep. Especially cold-sleep of such long duration. How are you feeling now?"

"Confused," said Horton. "Completely confused. Ship tells me I am the only human left, implying that the others died. And he said something about a thousand years ..."

To be exact, said Ship, nine hundred fifty-four years, eight months and nineteen days.

"This planet," said Nicodemus, "is a very lovely one. In many ways like Earth. Slightly more oxygen, a bit less gravity ..."

"All right," said Horton, sharply, "after all these years we are finally landed on a very lovely planet. What happened to all the other lovely planets? In almost a thousand years, moving close to the speed of light, there must have been ..."


Excerpted from Shakespeare's Planet by Clifford D. Simak. Copyright © 1976 Clifford D. Simak. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Shakespeare's Planet 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DirtPriest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bit anti-climactic after Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, but a decent SF read. The longish review on the book page sums it up nicely. Excellent setup, very intriguing, but a bit of a hollow unfinished feeling about the abrupt finish. Still, I enjoyed it, perfect for those times when you are killing off a few days waiting for a mail-ordered book. I finally forked over a few bucks for The Inextinguishable Symphony, I'll read that right away, then off to study Robert Graves. By the way, that weird alien on the cover is a perfect representation of Carnivore's description in the text. So often the cover art is kind of close but not really quite right. The only thing missing is his catlike whiskers. And his maleness was 'aggressively obvious', to quote the text.