Novels

Mary and the Giant published 1987

Dick would go on to do a much better job with a female protagonist in his last book The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

In Mary and the Giant, twenty-year-old Mary Anne jumps from job to job and man to man trying to figure out her life in the small California town of Pacific Park. She first has a fling with the black singer Carleton Tweany before getting involved with recently-arrived Joseph Schilling who has decided to open a record shop.

It’s creepy for fifty-something Schilling to have an interest in Mary Anne, but she seems to be a willing participant in the relationship until she begins to act like he’s a monster, even though he’s the only somewhat sympathetic person in this otherwise dismal book.

By the end of the story Mary Anne decides to run off to San Francisco with the idiot piano player Paul Nitz, and in the last chapter we see they started a family.

Cast of characters

  • Mary Anne Reynolds – our protagonist. A twenty-year-old girl
  • Joseph Schilling – businessman who opens a record store in Pacific Park
  • Max Figuera– Schilling’s business partner
  • David Gordon – Mary’s fiancé
  • Taft Eaton – owner of the Lazy Wren bar
  • Paul Nitz – pianist at the Lazy Wren
  • Carleton B. Tweany – black singer at the Lazy Wren
  • Ed and Rose Reynolds – Mary’s parents
  • Beth and Danny Coombs – a couple who follows Schilling to Pacific Park. Beth had a brief affair with Schilling in the past
  • Chad Lemming – a local folk singer
  • Leland Partridge – hosts a party for music wholesalers in San Francisco
  • Sid Hethel – an obese composer at Partridge’s party

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland published 1986

Dick wrote the mainstream novel Humpty Dumpty in Oakland in 1960. It was published after he died, in 1986.

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
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Al Miller, a used car salesman on a lot next to Jim Fergesson’s auto repair garage, has to figure out what to do with his life when the old man decides to sell the shop and retire. Through the businessman Chris Harman, Jim finds out about an investment in an auto repair business in the expanding area around Marin County. Paranoid Al, convinced Harmon is a crook and a swindler, does all he can to sabotage Jim’s plans.

Dick has a tendency toward over description in these mainstream books. I prefer his sci-fi when he can get a trip done with something like ‘the flapple flew from San Francisco to New York in an hour’ instead of this where he spends five pages on the old man’s uninteresting drive on the highway out to Marin County.

The book picks up once it focuses more on down-on-his-luck Al rather than Jim Fergesson. It’s not bad, but just like The Broken Bubble, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend.

Cast of characters

  • Jim Fergesson – owner of an auto repair garage
  • Lydia Fergesson – Jim’s wife
  • Al Miller – runs Al’s Auto Sales next to Jim’s garage
  • Julie Miller – Al’s wife
  • Mrs. Lane – a black realtor helping Al find a new spot for his auto lot
  • Chris Harmon – runs Teach Records. Suggests that Jim invest in a new repair shop in Marin County
  • Bob Ross – works for his father-in-law Chris Harmon
  • Boris Tsarnas – Jim and Lydia’s lawyer
  • The Dolittles – middle-class black family. Mrs. Dolittle rents to Al and Julie

The Broken Bubble published 1988

The Broken Bubble is a mainstream novel Dick wrote in 1956, although it wasn’t published until 1988 after he died.

The Broken Bubble
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A San Francisco radio DJ and his ex-wife get involved with a teenaged married couple, and in a subplot, a woman lets herself get kicked around inside a plastic ball for the amusement of some drunk optometrists at a convention party.

It lacks a hook to get excited about, although the relationships felt real. Maybe a touch melodramatic at times but definitely not terrible like I kind of expected.

Cast of characters

  • Jim Briskin – radio DJ for KOIF. Jim Briskin is also the name of the news-clown in The Crack In Space
  • Patricia Gray – Jim’s ex-wife
  • Bob Posin – salesman for KOIF
  • Art Emmanual – eighteen-year-old married kid befriended by Jim
  • Rachel – Art’s wife
  • Ferde Heinke and Joe Mantila – Art’s friends
  • Ludwig Grimmelman – mid-twenties. Head of some kind of revolutionary group that Art and his friends belong to
  • Luke Sharpstein – owns Looney Luke’s Used Car Lot. This character was repurposed for The Simulacra
  • Nat Emmanual – Art’s older brother. Owner of Nat’s Auto sales.
  • Hugh Collins – wealthy San Francisco optometrist
  • Tony Vacuhhi – Bob Posin’s acquaintance
  • Thisbe Holt – the girl in the plastic bubble at Hugh Collin’s party