|Cover artist||Paul Gamarello|
|Series||Canopus in Argos|
|Genre||Novel (science fiction)|
|Published||1979 Alfred A. Knopf, US; Jonathan Cape, UK|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|LC Class||PZ3.L56684 Sh 1979 PR6023.E833|
|Followed by||The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five|
Shikasta is a 1979 science fiction novel. The full title is Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta. British Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing wrote it as the first book in her five-book Canopus in Argos series. Alfred A. Knopf published it first in the United States in October 1979. Jonathan Cape published the book in the United Kingdom in November 1979. Shikasta is also the name of the fictional planet featured in the novel.
The book has a subtitle, "Personal, psychological, historical documents relating to visit by Johor (George Sherban) Emissary (Grade 9) 87th of the Period of the Last Days". 'The novel is the history of the planet Shikasta under the influence of three galactic empires: Canopus, Sirius, and their shared enemy, Puttiora. The book is a series of reports by Canopean visitors to Shikasta. They record what happens on the planet which is very similar to Earth. The novel shows the Earth's prehistory, how things became worse, the "Century of Destruction" (the 20th-century), and the Apocalypse (World War III).
Shikasta uses stories and images from the Old Testament and is influenced by spiritual and mystical themes in Sufism. Lessing had become interested in this Islamic belief system in the mid-1960s. The book was a major shift of focus in Lessing's writing, from realism to science fiction. Many of her readers were unhappy with the change. Critics gave the book both good and bad reviews. Some were impressed by the way the book showed a wide view of humanity and the universe. One reviewer called it a brave "and disturbing work from one of the world's great living writers". Others reviewers disliked the novel because it was depressing and humanity had no free will. People's lives were controlled by galactic empires.
The story of Shikasta is retold in the third book of the Canopus series, The Sirian Experiments (1980). In that book, the story is told from the point of view of Sirius. Shikasta appears again in the fourth book in the series, The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1982). The Zones that are briefly mentioned in Shikasta are the subject of the second book in the series, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five (1980).