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Temporary Note


Philip K. Dick

Novels
Although not all of Philip K. Dick's work is still in print, most of his best books may be found as handsome paperbacks kept in circulation by Vintage Books. We will continue to flesh this section out, adding commentary to augment the back-cover blurbs.


Solar Lottery

(w. 1953, p. 1957)

Collier Nucleus Science Fiction Classic, 1992, ISBN 0-02-023621-2; Paperback $9.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Collier 1992 edition:

The Ultimate Lotto Game! The year is 2203 and the Earth is governed by a bizarre system of random selection whereby public officeholders and the targets of political assassination alike are chosen by the luck of a mad draw. In this maniacal world Ted Benteley is an ordibnary guy with an extraordinary job. Working at the Solar Lottery he becomes a pawn in a powere struggle that changes his life forever, and the direction of his century's history. Although Benteley doesn't realize it at first, by saying no to the inhuman system he has challenged the most diabolical power broker of the age to a winner-take-all duel of psychic trickery.

Solar Lottery was Dick's first published science fiction novel. After a few dozen successful short stories, he tried to publish a few "mainstream" novels, but failing to find a buyer, he turned to full-length science fiction in the hopes of earning more than $25 per story. With the support of Ace Books editor Donald A. Wollheim, Dick published Solar Lottery. Although it was the first step in a long career of science fiction novels, Dick felt an uneasy sense of accomplishment – after all, he longed to write "real" novels, not Ace paperbacks. Solar Lottery, while still immature and lacking the psychological complexity of his later works, nevertheless reveals many of the powerful ideas Dick would later develop more successfully, and the book's central lottery brings to mind Borges' "Lottery of Babylon."

The Cosmic Puppets

(w. 1953, p. 1957)

Acacia Press, 1998, ISBN 0006482864; Paperback $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Acacia 1992 edition:

MILLGATE, VIRGINIA – IT SHOULD HAVE, BEEN THE SORT OF TOWN WHERE NOTHING EVER CHANGES....

As Ted Barton is driving through Baltimore, on vacation with his wife, he is seized with an irresistible urge to head into the Appalachian Mountains and visit the town where he was born Millgate, Virginia. But when Barton finds his way into the little valley he grew up in, he is in for a deep shock. The town called Millgate is there all right. but it is a town he has never seen before. It is a town where Ted Barton had died of scarlet fever at the age of nine....

The Cosmic Puppets was the second of Dick's Ace paperbacks. Written the same year as Solar Lottery, it was published two years later.

The World Jones Made

(w. 1954, p. 1956)

Vintage, 1993, ISBN 0679742190; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Floyd Jones is sullen, ungainly, and quite possibly mad, but in a very short time he will rise from telling fortunes at a mutant carnival to convulsing an entire planet. For although Jones has the power to see the future -- a power that makes his life a torment -- his real gift lies elsewhere: in his ability to make people dream again in a world where dreaming has been made illegal, even when the dream is indistinguishable from a nightmare.

In Philip K. Dick's unsettling chronicle of the rise and fall of a postnuclear messiah, readers will find a novel that is as minutely realistic as it is prophetic. For along with its engineered mutants, hermaphroditic sex performers, and protoplasmic drifters from the stars, The World Jones Made gives us nothing less than a deadly accurate reading of our own hunger for belief.

The World Jones Made is an intriguing little book with a very provocative plot. World peace has been accomplished through the imposition of Relativism, in which people's ideas cannot be attacked. The only problem is, anyone who attacks someone else's ideas, no matter how evil those ideas are, is arrested by the government and often executed. Into this world comes a carnival psychic named Jones, a man who is doomed to repeat every year of his life -- and so his precognitive abilities only extend one year at a time. To counterattack against the tyranny of Relativism, Jones creates a ministry of fear and paranoia equal to the McCarthy mania of the 50s. Though in this case, the evil enemy are not communists, but giant unicellular creatures floating harmlessly down towards the earth. By declaring them malicious invaders, Jones is able to play against people's fears, drawing power for his spreading madness.
One of the hidden gems of this novel is the portrayal of a government security agent named Cussick, an early prototype for the Rick Dekkard of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (a.k.a. Blade Runner). A hired gun just doing his job and trying to protect his paycheck, his cynical wife serves him as a conscience, working against the evil with which her husband's aligned himself. It's in their passages that we see traces of the "mainstream" Dick, and the scene where Cussick and a fellow agent go out on the town with their wives is both rich in character detail and psychology.

Eye in the Sky

(w. 1955, p. 1957)

Collier Nucleus Science Fiction Classic, 1993, ISBN 0-02-023621-2; Paperback $9.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Collier edition:

While sightseeing at the Belmont Bevatron, Jack Hamilton, along with seven others, is caught in a lab accident. When he regains consciousness, he is in a fantasy world of Old Testament morality gone awry—a place of instant plagues, immediate damnations, and death to all perceived infidels. Hamilton figures out how he and his compatriots can escape this world and return to their own, but first they must pass through three other vividly fantastical worlds, each more perilous and hilarious than the one before.

The Man Who Japed

(w. 1955, p. 1956)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-375-71935-0; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

In The Man Who Japed a world that has survived a nuclear holocaust has given way to a rigid system of oppressive morality. Highly mobile and miniature robots monitor the behavior of every citizen, and the slightest transgression can spell personal doom. Allen Purcell is one of the few people who has the capacity to literally change the way of the world, and once he's offered a high-profile job that acts as guardian of public ethics, he sets out to do precisely that, but first he has to deal with the head in his closet.

Time Out of Joint

(w. 1958, p. 1959)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-375-71927-X; Paperback $13.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Time Out of Joint is Philip K. Dick's classic depiction of the disorienting disparity between the world as we think it is and the world as it actually is. The year is 1998, although Ragle Gumm doesn’t know that. He thinks it’s 1959. He also thinks that he served in World War II, that he lives in a quiet little community, and that he really is the world’s long-standing champion of newspaper puzzle contests. It is only after a series of troubling hallucinations that he begins to suspect otherwise. And once he pursues his suspicions, he begins to see how he is the center of a universe gone terribly awry.

After this final failure to establish himself as a mainstream novelist in the late Fifties, Dick returned to science fiction once and for all with Time Out Of Joint. While the subject of the book – a man discovers that he is part of a military experiment, and that the town he lives in is an hallucination – is nominally science fiction, his vivid portrayal of a Southern Californian community and his superbly drawn characters point to a deeper literary accomplishment, and reflect the unpublished "Southern California" novels more than his earlier genre works. Though the book was initially publicized as "a novel of menace," it was soon reprinted as an Ace paperback with a garish sci-fi cover sporting astronauts and hurtling moon rocks.

Confessions of a Crap Artist

(w. 1959, p. 1975)

Vintage, 1992, ISBN 0-679-74114-3; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Confessions of a Crap Artist is one of Philip K. Dick's weirdest and most accomplished novels. Jack Isidore is a crap artist – a collector of crackpot ideas (among other things, he believes that the earth is hallow and that sunlight has weight) and worthless objects, a man so grossly unequipped for real life that his sister and brother-in-law feel compelled to rescue him from it. But seen through Jack's murderously innocent gaze, Charlie and Juddy Hume prove to be just as sealed off from reality, in thrall to obsessions that are slightly more acceptable than Jack's, but a great deal uglier.

The Man in the High Castle

(w. 1961, p. 1962)

Vintage, 1992, ISBN 0-679-74067-8; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. the few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war – and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.

Dick's writing had been steadily maturing throughout the 1950s, and in 1962 he published what many critics consider to be his most important work, The Man In The High Castle. The strong appeal of this novel lay not just in its irresistible "alternate WWII" milieu, but in the vividly drawn characters, politically sophisticated themes and authoritative knowledge of German culture and Japanese ethics. Musings about the nature of good and evil in a politically and culturally corrupt world threatened by nuclear destruction, and the realistic portrait of foreign occupation and its effect on American culture, make The Man In The High Castle one of Dick's most stimulating, thought-provoking and complex works. At the center of the story lies a fictional novel, a banned book bearing the mysterious title The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Outlawed by the fascist governments, the book describes a world in which the Allied powers were victorious, and is authored by a reclusive figure situated in the last free areas of the former United States (and who bears more than a passing resemblance to Philip K. Dick himself.) The search for this author drives much of the plot, and hints at some mystical revelation that propels the novel into metafiction and places the book firmly in the postmodern tradition of self-reflectivity and indeterminacy. Unlike other science fiction tales that use an alternate Axis-dominated reality as a background for various "what-if?" plots, Dick's occupied American serves as a mirror for our own conceptions about morality, power, and sense of identity. Narrative itself is questioned, with history, fiction and perception emerging as unstable yet related elements.

We Can Build You

(w. 1962, p. 1969)

Vintage, 1994, ISBN 0-679-75296-X; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Louis Rosen and his partners sell people – ingeniously designed, historically authentic simulacra of personages such as Edwin M. Stanton and Abraham Lincoln. The problem is that the only prospective buyer is a rapacious billionaire whose plans for the simulacra could land Louis in jail. Then there's the added complication that someone – or something – like Abraham Lincoln may not want to be sold.

Martian Time-Slip

(w. 1963, p. 1964)

Vintage, 1995, ISBN 0-679-76167-5; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

On the arid colony of Mars the only thing more precious than water may be a ten-year-old schizophrenic boy named Manfred Steiner. For although the UN has slated "anomalous" children for deportation and destruction, other people – especially Supreme Goodmember Arnie Kott of the Water Worker's union – suspect that Manfred's disorder may be a window into the future. In Martian Time-Slip Philip K. Dick uses power politics and extraterrestrial real estate scams, adultery, and murder to penetrate the mysteries of being and time.

Dr. Bloodmoney

(w. 1963, p. 1965)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-375-71929-6; Paperback $13.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Dr. Bloodmoney is a post-nuclear-holocaust masterpiece filled with a host of Dick’s most memorable characters: Hoppy Harrington, a deformed mutant with telekinetic powers; Walt Dangerfield, a selfless disc jockey stranded in a satellite circling the globe; Dr. Bluthgeld, the megalomaniac physicist largely responsible for the decimated state of the world; and Stuart McConchie and Bonnie Keller, two unremarkable people bent the survival of goodness in a world devastated by evil. Epic and alluring, this brilliant novel is a mesmerizing depiction of Dick’s undying hope in humanity.

The Game-Players of Titan

(w. 1963, p. 1963)

Vintage, 1992, ISBN 0-679-74065-1; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Poor Pete Garden has just lost Berkeley. He's also lost his wife, but he'll get a new one as soon as he rolls a three. It's all part of the rules of Bluff, the game that's become a blinding obsession for the last inhabitants of the planet Earth. But the rules are about to change – drastically and terminally – because Pete Garden will be playing his next game against an opponent who isn't even human, for stakes that are a lot higher than Berkeley.

The Simulacra

(w. 1963, p. 1964)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-375-71926-1; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Set in the middle of the twenty-first century, The Simulacra is the story of an America where the whole government is a fraud and the President is an android. Against this backdrop Dr. Superb, the sole remaining psychotherapist, is struggling to practice in a world full of the maladjusted. Ian Duncan is desperately in love with the first lady, Nicole Thibideaux, who he has never met. Richard Kongrosian refuses to see anyone because he is convinced his body odor is lethal. And the fascistic Bertold Goltz is trying to overthrow the government. With wonderful aplomb, Philip K. Dick brings this story to a crashing conclusion and in classic fashion shows there is always another layer of conspiracy beneath the one we see.

Clans of the Alphane Moon

(w. 1964, p. 1964)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-375-71928-8; Paperback $13.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

When CIA agent Chuck Rittersdorf and his psychiatrist wife, Mary, file for divorce, they have no idea that in a few weeks they’ll be shooting it out on Alpha III M2, the distant moon ruled by various psychotics liberated from a mental ward. Nor do they suspect that Chuck's new employer, the famous TV comedian Bunny Hentman, will also be there aiming his own laser gun. How things came to such a darkly hilarious pass is the subject of Clans of the Alphane Moon, an astutely shrewd and acerbic tale that blurs all conventional distinctions between sanity and madness.

During the period after writing The Man in the High Castle, Dick suffered a painful falling out with his second wife, Anne, who was hospitalized and treated for mental illness. He poured a lot of this angst into the bizarrely comic tale Clans of the Alphane Moon. Although the story is apparently about a war between Earth and lunar colonists, the subtext of the work is not hard to read, and is saturated by his ill-fated marriage, Anne's mental decline, and doubts about his own sanity. (The lunar colonists are tribes descended from mental patients, with each tribe representing a particular form of mental illness such as paranoia, schizophrenia, etc.) It is perhaps Dick's most wacked-out plot, and the obvious transformation of personal events into a science fiction conceit is bitterly hysterical; one can just hear the author howling with laughter and crying with rage as he turns his own messed-up marriage into a comic-book space adventure.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

(w. 1964, p. 1965)

Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73666-2; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

In this wildly disorienting funhouse of a novel, populated by God-like – or perhaps Satanic – takeover artists and corporate psychics, Philip K. Dick explores mysteries that were once the property of St. Paul and Aquinas. His wit, compassion, and knife-edged irony make the The Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch moving as well as genuinely visionary.

In The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, povertized Martian colonists become preoccupied with Perky Pat Layouts, small sets representing penthouse apartments inhabited by a Barbie-Doll like figure and her Ken-like mate. When combined with the use of an hallucinogenic drug called Can-D, these sets can give the colonists – who live in miserable hovels – the illusion that not only that they are living in Perky Pat's luxurious apartment, but actually inhabiting her perfect body as well. A crisis is sparked when Palmer Eldritch, a missing space adventurer, is rumored to be returning to earth after being stranded on Pluto. His new hallucinogenic drug, Chew-Z, takes the form of a mystical revelation, and threatens to wipe Can-D off the market. A psychic war erupts that amounts to no less than a battle for human consciousness between Palmer Eldritch and the manufacturers of Can-D.
The novel is complex and suitably zany, leading the reader through a maze of psychic marketing men, talking suitcases that act as therapists, psychedelic Barbie dolls possessed with the ability to invade consciousness, imaginary drugs that change reality and identity, and communal hallucinations where multiple people merge into one. At the time Dick wrote this novel, he was becoming increasingly obsessed with Gnosticism, an involuted subject that would eventually dominate his life. Basically stated, Gnosticism teaches that our world exists as an illusion, and contends that it was created by a lesser deity known as the Demiurge. Various Gnostic sects differed in their belief about the nature of this Demiurge -- at best it was seen as God on a lower level of consciousness; at worst it was seen as a Satanic force meant to deceive and enslave the human spirit. Dick's Gnosticism was characterized by a fundamental split between the mundane world and the spiritual world, where the course of one's life was an obsessional desire to bridge the gap between the two. In Palmer Eldritch, he created a strange, surreal comical vision of Gnostic beliefs with all the trappings of science fiction.

The Zap Gun

(w. 1964, p. 1967)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-375-71936-9; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Scaldingly sarcastic yet enduringly empathetic, The Zap Gun is Dick's remarkable novel depicting the insanity of the arms race. Lars Powderdry and Lilo Topchev are counterpart weapons fashion designers for a world divided into two factions – Wes-bloc and Peep-East. Since the Plowshare Protocols of 2002, their job has been to invent elaborate weapons that only seem massively lethal. But when alien satellites hostile to both sides appear in the sky, the two are brought together in the dire hope that they can create a weapon to save the world, a task made all the more difficult by Lars falling in love with Lilo even as he knows she’s trying to kill him.

Now Wait for Last Year

(w. 1965, p. 1966)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0-679-74220-4; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Dr. Eric Sweetscent has problems. His planet is enmeshed in an unwinnable war. His wife is lethally addicted to a drug that whips its users helplessly back and forth across time – and is hell-bent on making Eric suffer along with her. And Sweetscent's newest patient is not only the most important man on the embattled planet Earth but quite possibly the sickest. For Secretary Gino Molinari has turned his mortal illness into an instrument of political policy – and Eric cannot tell if his job is to make the Male better or to keep him poised just this side of death. Now Wait for Last Year bursts through the envelope between the impossible and the inevitable. Even as ushers us into a future that looks uncannily like the present, it makes the normal seem terrifyingly provisional – and compels anyone who reads it to wonder if he really knows what time it is.

Counter-Clock World

(w. 1964, p. 1967)

Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0375719334; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

In Counter-Clock World, one of the most theologically probing of all of Dick’s books, the world has entered the Hobart Phase – a vast sidereal process in which time moves in reverse. As a result, libraries are busy eradicating books, copulation signifies the end of pregnancy, people greet with, “Good-bye,” and part with, “Hello,” and underneath the world’s tombstones, the dead are coming back to life. One imminent old-born is Anarch Peak, a vibrant religious leader whose followers continued to flourish long after his death. His return from the dead has such awesome implications that those who apprehend him will very likely be those who control the fate of the world.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

(w. 1966, p. 1968)

Del Rey, 1996, ISBN 0345404475; Paperback $13.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Del Rey edition:

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep.... The even built humans. Emigrants to Mars recieved androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to "retire" them. But when cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.

Thanks to Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? has become Dick's most widely read novel. Here, the android replicants are distinguishable from other humans only through the Voigt-Kampff scale, an empathy test which poses questions largely concerning the suffering of animals. When Rick Deckard, a professional android hunter, fails to feel any empathy for the artificial humans that he tracks and kills, doubts are raised about his own humanity. Androids also includes the religious movement Mercerism (sadly left out of the film), a Gnostic-flavored cult that also appears in Dick's short stories. Mercerism combines doubts about reality (Wilbur Mercer, whose presence is experienced in trance-like states by his followers, is rumored to be an actor in a television studio) with a subversive force, much like Palmer Eldritch, the VALIS system, and the verboten novelist of The Man In The High Castle. The novel raises questions about identity, memory, and morality; questions that are not easily dispatched and remain haunting the reader long after the book is finished.

Ubik

(w. 1966, p. 1969)

Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73664-6; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Glen Runciter is dead. Or is everybody else? Someone died in an explosion orchestrated by Runciter's business competitors. And, indeed, it's the kingly Runciter whose funeral is scheduled in Des Moines. But in the mean-time, his mourning employees are receiving bewildering – and sometimes scatological – messages from their boss. And the world around them is warping in ways that suggest that their own time is running out. Or already has.

Philip K. Dick's searing metaphysical comedy of death and salvation (the latter available in a convenient aerosol spray) is a tour de force of paranoiac menace and unfettered slapstick, in which the departed give business advice, shop for their next incarnation, and run the continual risk of dying yet again.

In this comic novel, a group of people witness their employer, Leo Runciter, get killed in an accident, and subsequently believe that he is communicating to them from beyond the grave. Soon, they are shocked to realize that it was they who have actually died, and Runciter is attempting to prolong their ties to the real world through the use of a drug called Ubik. As in many of Dick's novels, there is a mystical dimension even to the wildest science fiction conceit. In this case, the moratorium where the newly departed are kept in order to prolong their after-death existence is inspired by the Bardo Thodol of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, an ancient Buddhist text describing the journey of the soul from the deceased physical body to the next incarnation. As Runciter guides his dead employees through a weird landscape that seems to be moving backwards in time, their life-forces gradually begin to diminish. Only Runciter's mystical Ubik, which he introduces into their hallucinations in the form of spray-paint and snake-oil unctions, can keep their minds and souls from completely dissipating into the void.

Galactic Pot-Healer

(w. 1968, p. 1969)

Vintage, 1994, ISBN 0-679-75297-8; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

What could an omnipresent and seemingly omnipotent entity want with a humble pot-healer? Or with the dozens of other odd creatures it has lured to Plowman's Planet? And if the Glimmung is a god, are its ends positive or malign? Combining quixotic adventure, spine-chilling horror, and deliriously paranoid theology, Galactic Pot-Healer is a uniquely Dickian voyage to alternate worlds of the imagination.

The Glimmung is a Jabba-The-Hut-like creature, weighing 40,000 pounds, living on a remote planet but being capable of physical projecting himself by unknown means to other planets bundles up his small group of artisans from Earth (including Joe Fernwright, the Pot-Healer of the title who can restore antique ceremaics) to come to his home planet to raise the ruins of the ancient temple of the Fog-Things, known as Heldscala, from the ocean floor to restore the ancient way and bring peace back to the planet.
The planet itself is controlled by the Kalends, insect-like wraiths who have written a book in changing script that is a pre-recorded history of the planet. The history (the text of the book) keeps changing as people take different courses of action. As soon as Joe reaches the planet, he gets a copy of the book of the Kalends, and reads that the Glimmung will fail in his raising of the temple and that Joe himself will take a course of action that will lead to the Glimmung's death.
Philip K. Dick was just years away from the writing of his most gnostic works (VALIS, The Divine Invasion, etc.) and here we can see a science fiction pot boiler having loads of fun with religion, mysticism, metaphysics and gnostic theology. A strange hybrid. An odd novel. But also a fun and quick read.

A Maze of Death

(w. 1968, p. 1970)

Vintage, 1994, ISBN 0-679-75298-6; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Fourteen strangers came to Delmak-O. Thirteen of them were transferred by the usual authorities. One got there by praying. But once they arrived on that planet whose very atmosphere seemed to induce paranoia and psychosis, the newcomers found that even prayer was useless. For on Delmak-O, God is either absent or intent on destroying His creations.

Our Friends from Frolix 8

(w. 1968, p. 1970)

Vintage, 2003, ISBN 0-375-71934-2; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

For all the strange worlds borne of his vast and vivid imagination, Philip K. Dick was largely concerned with humanity’s most achingly familiar heartaches and struggles. In Our Friends From Frolix 8, he clashes private dreams against public battles in a fast-paced and provocative tale that ultimately addresses our salvation both as individuals and a whole.

Nick Appleton is a menial laborer whose life is a series of endless frustrations. Willis Gram is the despotic oligarch of a planet ruled by big-brained elites. When they both fall in love with Charlotte Boyer, a feisty black marketer of revolutionary propaganda, Nick seems destined for doom. But everything takes a decidedly unpredictable turn when the revolution’s leader, Thors Provoni, returns from ten years of intergalactic hiding with a ninety-ton protoplasmic slime that is bent on creating a new world order.

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

(w. 1973, p. 1974)

Vintage, 1993, ISBN 0-679-74066-X; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

On October 11 the television star Jason Taverner is so famous that 30 million viewers eagerly watch his prime-time show. On October 12 Jason Taverner is not a has-been but a never-was – a man who has lost not only his audience but all proof of his existence. And in the claustrophobic betrayal state of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, loss of proof is synonyms with loss of life.

Taverner races to solve the riddle of his disappearance, immerses us in a horribly plausible Philip K. Dick United States in which everyone – from a waiflike forger of identity cards to a surgically altered pleasure – informs on everyone else, a world in which omniscient police have something to hide. His bleakly beautiful novel bores into the deepest bedrock self and plants a stick of dynamite at its center.

A Scanner Darkly

(w. 1975, p. 1977)

Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73665-4; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, Fred takes on the identity of a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D – which Arctor takes in massive doses – gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize he is narcing on himself. Caustically funny, eerily accurate in its depiction of junkies, scam artists, and the walking brain-dead, Philip K. Dick's industrial-grade stress test of identity is as unnerving as it is enthralling.

The early 1970s were a traumatic period for Dick, with all the personal problems of the sixties further complicated by his growing status as a cult figure. His third wife had left him, and his Northern California home had become a crash pad and commune for junkies and runaways. His fragile sanity fared no better than his relationships, and he became buried in his own paranoia, hiring hit men to protect his drug-addicted friends and becoming convinced that the FBI was watching his every move. He began experimenting with a variety of pills, and continued pursuing a string of relationships with neurotic or broken young women, many of whom he seemed to identify with his dead sister. Eventually, there was a break-in at his home. His filing cabinet was forced open and many papers, including all his tax records and cancelled checks, were stolen.
Rumors that Dick himself orchestrated the break-in are legendary, spurred by the basic plot situation of his brilliant novel A Scanner Darkly (p. 1977). In this convoluted work, a schizophrenic police agent goes deep under cover as a dealer of a new and powerful hallucinogen, developing an addiction to the drug along the way. So successful is he at forging a secret identity, he eventually lands the assignment to begin investigating himself. The resulting story is a nightmare journey through a world of fractured identities and paranoia; made more sharply poignant by Dick's closing dedication to fifteen friends lost as drug addicts and acid casualties.

Radio Free Albemuth

(w. 1976, p. 1985)

Vintage, 1998, ISBN 0-679-78137-4; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

In Radio Free Albemuth, Philip K. Dick ... produced a wild, impassioned work that reads like a visionary alternate history of the United States. Agonizingly suspenseful, darkly hilarious, and filled with enough conspiracy theories to thrill the most hardened paranoid, Radio Free Albemuth is proof of Dick's stature as our century's greatest science fiction writer.

In the early months of 1974 Dick experienced hallucinations, dreams, synchronicities and Gnostic visions that he collectively referred to as "2-3-74," shorthand for "February/March 1974." Dick came to believe that an alien intelligence/technology (that could quite possibly also be God) was communicating to him through an interface he called the Vast Active Living Intelligence System, or VALIS. This system took the form of a ship in outer space, delivering highly concentrated doses of information to him through beams of pink light. Dick himself described it as an "invasion" of his consciousness "by a transcendentally rational mind." He also came to believe that coexisting within himself was a "plasmate." Dick believed that his plasmate was an early Christian, who, though very much alive in the First Century, was simultaneously interpenetrated into Dick's body and mind-space. Like many of the protagonists from his own novels, Dick believed in the possibility that he was hallucinating his current life, and was really living in another place and time, in this case the Roman Empire. (This is the origin of the haunted phrase frequently found in his later writing: "The Empire Never Ended.") He also experienced a series of voices that fed him information, telling him things that he couldn't possibly know otherwise, including a just-in-time medical diagnosis of his new-born son – whose life was saved by an emergency hernia operation.
Four astonishing novels came out of the whole experience. Radio Free Albemuth was his first attempt to grapple with VALIS through fiction. In the novel, Dick bestows his own 2-3-74 experience onto a Berkeley record store employee named Nicholas Brady. After being exposed to the pink beams of compressed information, Brady turns to his friend for advice and help, a science-fiction novelist named Philip K. Dick. Following clues passed to them by VALIS, the two begin to unravel a conspiracy hatched by a politician named Ferris Freemont, a thinly veiled Richard Nixon. In an attempt to oppose the police state Freemont wishes to impose upon the country, Brady and Dick encode secret messages into the lyrics of pop songs. The novel is colored by the manic and paranoid political atmosphere of California during the Nixon years, and in many ways serves as an elaborate counter-culture response to Watergate.
Filled with mystical interpretations of rock music, schizophrenic delusions of alien technology, and biting political satire, Radio Free Albemuth is Dick's most daring work, and one of his most autobiographical. However, when his publisher returned it with suggestions for a rewrite, Dick scrapped it completely and started over again, a decision which resulted in the VALIS trilogy. Radio Free Albumuth was later resurrected an published in 1985, three years after his death.

VALIS

(w. 1978, p. 1981)

Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73446-5; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

VALIS is the first book in Philip K. Dick's incomparable final trio of novels (the others are The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer). This disorienting and bleakly funny work is about a schizophrenic hero named Horselover Fat; the hidden mysteries of Gnostic Christianity; and reality as revealed through a pink laser. VALIS is a theological detective story, in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime.

After scrapping Radio Free Albemuth, Dick wrote VALIS, a complete reworking of his 2-3-74 experience. The protagonist who now undergoes Gnostic illumination is Horselover Fat, a schizophrenic twin of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. (Philip being Greek for "Horselover;" and Dick being German for "fat," or "thick.") The basic themes of Albemuth are intact, but the mood is less playful, more solemnly immersed in Gnostic considerations and theological debate. Although less easily mapped onto his exact 2-3-74 experiences than Albemuth, VALIS is also sharply autobiographical, incorporating Dick's experiences in mental clinics, his suicide attempts, and the most personal aspects of his spiritual life.

The Divine Invasion

(w. 1980, p. 1981)

Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73445-7; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

In The Divine Invasion, Philip K. Dick asks: What if God – or a being called Yah – were alive and in exile on a distant planet? How could a second coming suceed against the high technology and finely tuned rationalized evil of the modern police state?

Since the mid-Sixties, Dick's fiction had been drifting more into the labyrinth of Christian Gnosticism, and with The Divine Invasion, he attempted to drive the ideas back into the sheath of science fiction, but with a more refined vision and literary mastery than ever before. In The Divine Invasion, God causes himself to be reborn into the womb of a female astronaut; but trying to smuggle her child back to a hostile earth, she is killed. Mentally damaged from the accident, the young boy has to struggle to remember that he is God, and has been exiled from earth for two thousand years. By befriending a little girl, he manages to restore the spiritual balance of the earth – the girl is non other than the Greek goddess Diana, his spiritual twin. Despite the presence of such divine principals, the protagonist of the book is really one Herb Archer, a comfortably Dickian character with passionate obsessions for Mahler and Finnegans Wake. His spiritual growth and reflections form the heart of the work, one of Dick's most hopeful.

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

(w. 1981, p. 1982)

Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73444-9; Paperback $12.00. [Browse/Purchase]

From the back of the Vintage edition:

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, the final novel in the trilogy that also includes VALIS and The Divine Invasion, is an anguished, learned, and very moving investigation of the paradoxes of belief. It is the story of Timothy Archer, and urbane Episcopal bishop haunted by the suicides of his son and mistress – and driven by them into a bizarre quest for the indentity of christ.

Dick's final novel, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, is a thinly veiled account of the last years of Episcopalian Bishop James Pike. A personal friend of Dick's, Bishop Pike became briefly famous in the 60s when he claimed to be in psychic contact with his dead son. On a personal voyage to the roots of his own changing faith, the Bishop perished during an ill-prepared hiking expedition in the deserts of the Dead Sea. The novel gave Dick the chance to reflect upon the pain, sadness and religious pleasure of death, perhaps as a form of therapy after a decade of watching several close friends die.


Go To:

Main Page -- Back to the main Philip K. Dick page, with biography and links.

Stories -- A list of Philip K. Dick's short story collections.

Multimedia -- A list of films, music, and fictional homages inspired by Philip K. Dick and his writing.

Criticism -- A list of criticism and biography.

Bibliography -- A PKD bibliography.

--Richard Behrens
& Allen B. Ruch
10 April 2003

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