Friday, February 01, 2008

A Month of Pure Dick

I’m not exactly the world’s greatest expert on science-fiction but I decided to dive headfirst into a rather unsettling experiment. I would read four books by Philip K. Dick back to back to back to back. By the end of the month, my brain hurt, but I think that’s because it expanded a good deal. I’m still a little unsure out what to make of some of the themes and ideas in Dick’s books, but I always say that's a good sign. Here's a quick overview of the 4 novels I tackled.

The Man in the High Castle
As I understand, this is seen by many to be Dick’s masterpiece. It is both epic and approachable (did I just use wine terminology?). The comic book fan will enjoy the What If?/Elseworlds feel to it as Dick does paint a pretty convincing picture of how WW2 might have ended. The book brought Stephen King’s The Stand to mind, as they both deals with macro issues trickling down to a micro level. I am still fascinated by the Japanese obsession with Americana that Dick so vividly described. It is hard not to see him as being quite prescient. A fine read that I’d recommend to anyone, not just nerds.

Dr. Futurity
As I understand this is a fairly minor work by Dick, but I enjoy it immensely. The complexities of time travel and its impact on the future (or present, as it were) are explored here and I was left contemplating some pretty big issues. It’s not as grand or sweeping as some of his other books, but it is an enjoyable read and left me quite satisfied.

Dr. Bloodmoney
This is a rambling epic with certain similarities to The Man in the High Castle, as people contend with a very uncomfortable post-apocalyptic future. Survivalism and anarchy are two of the major themes here, but the main thread that runs through the book is greed, or is it jealousy? Or is it bigotry? Or is it genetic & ethics? What I am getting at is that the one shortfall of this book is that too many major themes are explored, and none are resolved in a satisfying way. The whole time I was reading it, I thought ‘this would have made a great movie in the 70s’, but I’m guess I would have been disappointed with the ending. The concept is great, and the execution is good but somewhat flawed.

The Eye in the Sky
After reading this mind-bender, I had to take a break from Dick. It is perhaps the most challenging of his books that I’ve read. The challenge is that the narrative is somewhat obtuse and the ideas being explored here (mostly question of perception of realities) are doomed to leave the reader search for more satisfying answers. I am glad that it made my brain expand a little bit, but I kind of wish I has read it as an undergrad. My streetcar commute and solipsism do not mix well.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Man, back in the summer of '77, after graduating high school but still pretty much incapacitated from a rather serious bout with Crohn's Disease (not that it was diagnosed till some 11 years later), I read no less than 12 PKDs -- Counter-Clock World, Crack in Space, The World Jones Made, Solar Lottery, The Game-Players of Titan, Galactic Pot-Healer, Now Wait for Last Year, Ubik, The Man Who Japed & Our Friends from Frolix-8, in addition to two that you mention: Eye in the Sky & Dr Bloodmoney.

I haven't been the same since. (Actually, I'm not sure I was the same before that, either, having read -- & done a 7th-grade book report on! -- Time Out of Joint at age 12 ...)