You know, a part of me really wishes I could have pulled off the same trick the book's protagonist did for 13 years - remain a perpetual student supported by a cryogenically frozen uncle, free to expand my horizons, create Lobachevsky-worthy mathematical odes to beauty, and not ever having to graduate to the real adult world."'Let there be an end to thought. Thus do I refute Descartes.' I sprawled, not a cogito or a sum to my name."However, when the real adult world comes equipped with aliens undercover as a wombat and a kangaroo, even the prospect of potential never-ending student life pales in comparison.This Hugo and Nebula Awards nominee is a treasure hiding behind the funky 1970s paperback cover. It's wickedly smart and wickedly hilarious, and even its gimmicky structure (each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and the following chapter picks up the story a while later and eventually works its way back to the previous cliffhanger to explain what happened) did not lessen my enjoyment. The enjoyment that is solely due to the charm of the never-ending smartly funny banter inside the protagonist's head that Zelazny treats us to for much-too-short pages of this book."The hot sands had had shouted them through me all afternoon, then night’s frigid breezes had whispered the motto at the overdone lamb chop, my ear: "You are a living example of the absurdity of things."Fred Cassidy, as I mentioned above, is a perpetual student by day and an acrophiliac in his spare time (as in love of heights, or climbing tall buildings in Fred's case). Due to an apparent loophole in his not-quite-dead uncle's will he is entitled to a very comfortable life as long as he is getting a college degree full-time. For thirteen years, Fred takes full advantage of that, becoming probably the most broadly-educated man on the planet (and also acquiring very practical skills in basket-weaving, coming THIS close to completing a major in it - an a few dozen of other specialties as well)."And if somebody has put together a course on the subject, this one has probably taken it," said Charv. "Yes. Unfortunate."Finally graduating Fred becomes almost a mission of the university officials (they eventually do succeed, bestowing upon Fred a well-earned DhP eergeD ni ygoloporhtnA ). But eventually the real world of this near-future ('soft sci-fi', think aliens and occasional flying cars but otherwise perfectly recognizable 20-th century world) gives Fred a rude awakening from this perpetual studentry bliss when an alien civilization artifact goes missing, undercover wombat and kangaroo interfere, and some things are in dire need of literal reversing. And we are treated to a hilarious and humorous ride peppered with smart references (Fred did NOT waste all those undergrad years, indeed!) and clever allusions. And I loved every page of it. What can I say - I'm a sucker for smart and funny gimmicky literature goodness."While I seldom indulge in graffiti, verbal or pre-, I have always felt something of empathy for those who scale walls and make their marks on them. The farther back you go, the more interesting the act becomes. Now it may be true, as some have claimed, that the impulse was first felt in the troglodytic equivalent of the john and that cave drawings got started this way, as a kind of pictorial sublimation of an even more primitive evolutionary means of marking one’s territory. Nevertheless, when somebody started climbing around on walls and mountainsides to do it, it seems pretty obvious that it had grown from a pastime into an art form. I have often thought of that first guy with a mastodon in his head, staring at a cliff face or cave wall, and I have wondered what it was that set him suddenly to climbing and scraping away-what it felt like. Also, what the public’s reaction was. Perhaps they made sufficient holes in him to insure the egress of the spirits behind it all. Or perhaps the bold initiative involved was present in greater abundance then, awaiting only the proper stimulus, and a bizarre response was considered as common as the wriggling of one’s ears. Impossible to say. Difficult not to care."Zelazny is clearly having quite a bit of fun with the language of this book, alternating between dazzlingly poetic and smartass-y to intelligently witty to occasionally slapstick-y to pseudo-sophisticated to joyful wordplay. He does it with such ease and fun that it turned out to be impossible for me to not completely adore it."Thus, thus, so and thus: awakening as a thing of textures and shadings: advancing and retreating along a scale of soft/dark, smooth/shadow, slick/bright: all else displaced and translated to this: The colors, sounds and balances a function of these two.Advance to hard and very bright. Fall back to soft and black..."Do you hear me, Fred?" — the twilight velvet."Yes" — my glowing scales."Better, better, better..."Zelazny dabbles in absurdity, leading me to inevitable comparisons with parts of Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", but never topples into the clearly absurdist territory. He plays with turning his prose to almost-but-not-quite-poetry with all the alliteration and metaphorical language and internal rhythm of the sentences, but does not fully go down that path, either."Sunflash, some splash. Darkle. Stardance. Phaeton's solid gold Cadillac crashed where there was no ear to hear, lay burning, flickered, went out. Like me.""Drifting drowsy across the countryside, I paraded my troubles through the streets of my mind, poking occasional thoughts between the bars of their cages, hearing the clowns beat drums in my temples."Lovely and clever enjoyable little book, the one that will surely reread quite a few times in the future. 5 star-stones stars.--------------Lovely review by Carol that made me aware of this little gem of a book is this way.