Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Report: Ubik, by Phillip K. Dick

I've always wanted to read something by the man who gave us Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner) and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (Total Recall). I found this in a box of books in my basement.

First, it's dated. The late sixties and early seventies are stamped all over this book, most obviously in the clothing Dick describes for his characters. It's a crazy mix of styles that put me in mind of Huggy Bear (from the Starsky and Hutch television show of my childhood). Second, it's set in 1992, and presents a "future" extrapolated from scientific and pseudo-scientific views of the time. Fortunately, my 1992 didn't look anything like this.

I don't know if this is common in all of Dick's work, but Ubik is all about playing fast and loose with the definition of what is "real." The reader is forced to accept different interpretations of reality at several points in the book. We start by accepting what we believe to be Joe Chip and Glen Runciter's objective reality, but are immediately introduced to Pat Conley, who has the ability to change the past thus rendering that reality suspect. Then during a trip to the moon, there is an explosion which kills either Runciter or Chip, Conley and a group of anti-psychics. The reader spends much of the rest of the book wondering who's dead, and what's real. Even after this is resolved, Dick throws in an ending which makes the reader suspect the version of reality the resolution made them accept as accurate.


Characters are necessarily sketchy. The plot is convoluted. The themes are worthy of doctoral dissertations. This isn't a beach read. Thought is required.

Ulysses Rating: 3 - I enjoyed this.

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