I heard of Lafferty in a roundabout way during the past two years and decided to see if I could find any excerpts of his on-line. One book, FOURTH MANSIONS, had an incredible opening was insanely beautiful and unique, and was like nothing I ever read. I felt I had to read something of his soon, but for some reason I left the other book and went with this book instead (I admit I was intrigued by the title). Subsequently NOT TO MENTION CAMELS is the first book of RA Lafferty I ever read, and it was unique in a very good way, but I just don't think it is the best book of his to start with. The story (which is at times violent, gory and completely iNsAnE) is like nothing you'll find on any other shelf anywhere: it involved a man named Pilgrim (or variations of that name) who is a world-jumper. He has developed the ability to cheat death by allowing his consciousness to pass to different variations of Earth into different variations of himself, thus making him able to live multiple lives at a time. (All of these planets and minds are inter-connected like webs of a spider, by the way) Whenever Pilgrim's consciousness arrives on a new planet he goes about to set up a cult for himself in order to make himself a god and to spread himself out across all of time and space in the minds of millions of followers. But will such an audacious plan work?
As story go, it's a pretty complex and amazing as well as haunting and unforgettable. But I can't help but feel that the story ultimately goes nowhere. I wasn't disappointed, bored and I would consider the book `satisfying' (that vague term so many reviewers like to use), but I just can't help but feel that the book was written with no clear purpose in mind and builds up to nothing in particular, except a dour ending that would have been more powerful if the main character was easier to sympathise with (indeed, I sympathise more with his friend, the 'umbrella seller', who must be his friend against his will). Also the prose lacked some of the crazy energy that other excerpts of his prose (as well as some short-stories that are freely available on-line) had, and I'll admit it was that factor that attracted me initially to Lafferty (the short story SLOW TUESDAY NIGHT is an incredibly fun and unique read, by the way).
They say the best place to start with Lafferty is with his short story collections. Having liked what I read here I'm certain that I'll explore his short-story collection LAFFERTY IN ORBIT next, probably. Taking an educated guess (and not having read it myself) it seems that's the best place for you to start.