Dr. Bloodmoney is Dick’s most unique collection of memorable characters in one story. I liked it even more reading it a second time.
After a few chapters set in Berkeley, California on the last day of modern civilization in 1981 we jump ahead seven years to a world trying to rebuild itself after a nuclear disaster. The mentally unhinged (and telekinetic somehow) Bluthgeld is the man responsible for raining down the nuclear bombs, and he hides out as Mr. Tree in a West Marin commune where the rest of the story takes place. The armless and legless (and also telekinetic) Hoppy Harrington, who had been held down most of his life, is able to become BMOC of this West Marin community until a showdown with seven-year-old Edie (and Bill) Keller that caught me off guard.*
On top of all this there is a man stuck in orbit, since a rocket to Mars had been launched moments before the disaster. He serves as a DJ to the inhabitants of Earth as he passes over each day. Even Stuart McConchie in this one manages to rise above the standard bland everyman in many PKD books. The whole thing comes together as one of Dick’s most accessible novels, and I would highly recommend it.
*Yes, I read this before, but my memory can charitably be described as not good.
Cast of characters
Stuart McConchie – salesman at Modern TV Sales & Service before the disaster
I was surprised I enjoyed rereading The World Jones Made, since I don’t remember thinking too much of it the first time around. Maybe I’ve built up a tolerance for Dick’s writing which has never been particularly great.*
Jones, a precog who can see one year into the future, is an interesting character in a world ruled by relativism where all absolute thought, in an effort to stamp out extremism and war, is forbidden. With his apparent proof of certainty, Jones becomes a demagogue, whipping his followers into a frenzy against the threat of amoeba-like aliens that have started to land on Earth. When it turns out these alien drifters are mostly harmless, something Jones didn’t initially know with his limited view into the future, he martyrs himself so as to blame his death on the relativists before he would have been exposed as a fraud.
The book’s two storylines don’t come together very well. The mutants being engineered to survive on Venus don’t have much to do with what is going on with Jones, but even Dick admitted the book would have been stronger if he had found a way to tie those two threads together.
Eye in the Sky is one of Dick’s first novels (published just after Solar Lottery and The World Jones Made) and the first time he took a handful of acquaintances and strangers, threw them into a world that wasn’t real and let them figure it out. He would reuse this setup later in A Maze of Death and in his classic Ubik… and he would continue the idea of ‘what is reality’ in nearly everything he wrote.
A group of sightseers at a particle accelerator falls through a proton beam when a platform collapses. As they imagine they recover they actually wake into a chain of worlds created in the mind of each individual as they regain consciousness one by one.
In the first half of the book they are trapped in the mind of war veteran Arthur Silvester whose world is ruled by an Old Testament-like god, the titular eye in the sky.* After incapacitating Silvester the group progresses through several more worlds until there is a twist around whether or not Hamilton’s wife is a Communist sympathizer, a question the book begins with when Hamilton is fired from his job at a missile research facility over the Red Scare concerns about his wife’s allegiances.
Overall a funny and thought-provoking early work.
*Originally intended to be the Biblical Judeo-Christian God but rewritten by Dick at the publisher’s request as a Muslim god of an obscure Arabic cult so as not to offend any readers of 1950’s America.
Cast of characters
Jack Hamilton – employee at the California Maintenance missile research lab
Marsha Hamilton – Hamilton’s wife
Colonel Edwards – head of California Maintenance
Charley McFeyffe – captain of security at California Maintenance
Arthur Silvester – a war veteran. Creator of universe 1 overseen by the eye in the sky
Bill Laws – the guide at the Bevatron particle accelerator
Edith Pritchet – creator of the sexless and inoffensive universe 2
David Pritchet – Edith’s son
Joan Reiss – creator of the paranoiac universe 3
Guy Tillingford – head of the Electronics Development Agency
Horace Clamp – a prophet of the Second Bab
Silky – a barfly Hamilton first meets in Silvester’s world