Novels

The Simulacra published 1964

Set in 2041. I never realized, before I started reading a lot of PKD books back to back to back, how fascinated he is with Nazis and World War II Germany. Three of the last five books I read (this one, The Penultimate Truth and Lies, Inc) dealt with Nazi Germany in some way.

The Simulacra
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Dick threw nearly everything he could think of into this one. The main storyline has an concept similar to The Penultimate Truth involving a simulacrum of the President, although the rest is stuffed with multiple subplots that include psionics, Neanderthals and an attempt to cure Hitler by sending a psychoanalyst back in time.

This novel has a million characters to keep track of, but the anxiety-causing commercials that buzz around like flies, used-car salesman who sell jalopies that travel to Mars and primitive alien life forms used on Earth as components in recording devices are all great.

The conclusion focuses on the least interesting subplot as a group of Neanderthals called chuppers from some different branch of the evolutionary tree gather around a television and watch as Homo sapiens destroy themselves in a war. The few Homo sapiens in the room with them have the grim realization this is the moment the chuppers have been waiting for. Just short of a classic as it doesn’t all come together in the end.

Cast of characters

  • Richard Kongrosian – a Soviet pianist who plays Brahms and Schumann with his mind
  • Dr. Egon Superb – a psychoanalyst
  • Bertold Goltz – head of the Neo-nazi group Sons of Job
  • Wilder Pembroke – commissioner of the National Police
  • Rudolf Kalbfleisch – the current der Alte. A simulacrum
  • Nicole Thibodeaux– the First Lady. Has a stature greater than the president in their matriarchal society
  • Emil Stark – Prime Minister of Israel
  • Janet Raimer – Chief White House talent scout
  • Garth McRae – Assistant State Secretary
  • Harold Slezak – White House A & R secretary
  • Hermann Göring – founder of the Gestapo, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s successor in World War II
  • Vince Strikerock – works for Karp u. Sohnen
  • Chic Strikerock – brother of Vince. Works for Frauenzimmer Associates.
  • Julia Applequist– ex-wife of Vince Strikerock
  • Maury Frauenzimmer – Chic’s boss. Owner of Frauenzimmer Associates
  • Felix and Anton Karp – father and son owners of Karp u. Sohnen
  • Ian Duncan – aimless member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Al Miller – Ian Duncan’s former friend and jug band partner. Works for Loony Luke’s jalopy business
  • Patrick Doyle – skypilot for the Abraham Lincoln apartments
  • Edgar Stone – scheming member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Nat Flieger – works at Electronic Musical Enterprise
  • Jim Planck – employee of EME
  • Leo Dondoldo – owner of EME
  • Molly Dondoldo – Leo’s daughter

Other things to know

  • USEA – United States of Europe and America
  • McPhearson Act – outlaws the practice of psychoanalysis in favor of drug therapy
  • der Alte – German for “the old man.” The president. Has been a simulacrum for the last fifty years
  • Karp und Sohnen Werke – German for Karp and Sons. Built the Kalbfleisch simulacrum
  • the Ges – Geheimnisträger. The upper social class. Possessors of the secret that der Alte is a simulacrum
  • the Bes – Befehlträger. The lower social class
  • Frauenzimmer Associates – simulacra construction company
  • von Lessinger equipment – used for time travel

The Penultimate Truth published 1964

The Penultimate Truth is set in 2025, thirteen years after the end of World War III. Most of the population though believes the war is still ongoing and lives below ground. The war, between the Wes-Dem countries and the Russians of Pac-Peop, was fought mostly by two factions of leadies, autonomous robots that can survive the radiation from the nuclear fallout of the atomic weapons.

The Penultimate Truth
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Those who live below ground build leadies for the U.S. war effort. Above ground, in large estates in areas of the U.S. no longer contaminated by radiation, live the Yance-men. They are responsible for continuing to propagate the lie, for those trapped underground, that the war still continues.

This is a dense book with some heavy world-building and quite a few twists and turns. We have a precog as well as some kind of time manipulation that isn’t exactly time travel, although it isn’t explained too well either. The story tends to suffer as it splits its focus among Joseph Adams, Nicholas St. James, and Webster Foote who are all broadly similar in the way of a lot of Dick’s leading men.

Part of the book is a sly commentary by Dick on the world of publishing. He sets the Agency at 580 Fifth Avenue, New York City, the address of his real-life literary agent at the time. The Yance-men, hacks who spread lies to the general population, feed their speeches to the Megavac 6-V, a computer that alters and then disseminates them through the Yancy simulacrum to the tankers. Dick is identifying as one of these Yance-men, in particular Joseph Adams, who has a crisis of confidence after he encounters the brilliant speechwriter Dave Lantano.

Cast of characters

  • Joseph Adams – works for the Agency. Speechwriter for Yancy
  • Nicholas St. James – President of Tom Mix
  • Stanton Brose – Minister of Interior. More artiforg than man
  • Dave Lantano – a Yance-man and speechwriter who acquires the land above Tom Mix near Cheyenne
  • Webster Foote – a precog who runs a PI agency
  • Talbot Yancy – the Protector / political and military leader on the surface. Turns out he’s a simulacrum programmed by the Megavac 6-V computer… or is he?
  • Louis Runcible – an architect. Builds the conapts to house those who return above ground from the ant tanks
  • Dale Nunes – Political Commissioner of Tom Mix. Human link between the underground and the Estes Park Government above ground
  • Maury Souza – chief mechanic in Tom Mix. Dies from pancreatitis
  • Vern Lindblom – Agency artist. Constructs the models of U.S. cities and later the artifacts planted in Runcible’s dig site in Utah
  • Dr. Carol Tigh – head of the Tom Mix clinic
  • Rita St. James – Nicholas’s wife
  • Marshal Harenzany – top Pac-Peop military leader
  • General Holt – Wes-Dem military leader

Other things to know

  • Tom Mix – the name of the World War III antiseptic subsurface communal living tank established in June of 2010. These underground “ant tanks” produce leadies for the surface. Tom Mix was a silent movie star in Westerns from the early 1900s
  • Wes-Dem – the Western Democracies
  • Pac-Peop – the Soviets
  • Leadies – robots originally built to fight WWIII
  • Recon Dis-In Council – A group of leadies that form the high court of the world, above both Wes-Dem and Pac-Peop, located in Mexico City/Amecameca
  • Webster Foote, Limited – London-based planetwide private police investigation agency
  • Artiforgs – Arti-Gan Corporations plastic artificial organs

The Man Who Japed published 1956

Set in 2114. Our protagonist Allen Purcell says this about japery: “When a theme is harped on too much you get parody. When we make fun of a stale theme we say we japed it.”

The Man Who Japed
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Purcell, as a prank against Morec, unconsciously japes the statue of Major Streiter by cutting off the head. He undergoes psychoanalysis to discover why he acted out, and it reveals a blob on his report. A battery of tests at the Mental Health Resort to uncover any psionic abilities turns up negative, but he later finds out the blob indicates he possesses a sense of humor.

In Purcell’s final act of japery before he is ousted from his new job as the director of Telemedia he broadcasts invented historical facts framing Major Streiter as a cannibal.

This is one of Dick’s earliest published novels. It doesn’t deal with too many of the themes we’re familiar with in his later work, although there is a hint of what-is-reality weirdness when Purcell is drugged and sent to Other World.

Omphalos is a Greek word that means “navel.” Dick uses it several times— referring to the statue of Major Streiter and the spire being the hub of Morec and using it again to refer to Earth as being the navel of the universe. Omphalos is also the name of Rachmael ben Applebaums space freighter in Lies, Inc.

Cast of characters

  • Allen Purcell – owner of the Allen Purcell, Inc. Research Agency
  • Janet Purcell – Allen’s wife
  • Sue Frost – administrator of Telemedia
  • Mrs. Birmingham – oversees Purcell’s housing unit for the Parent Citizens Committee
  • Myron Mavis – former director of T-M
  • Doctor Malparto and Gretchen Malparto – brother and sister who work for the Mental Health Resort
  • Gates and Sugermann – two men who live as individuals in Hokkaido
  • Major Streiter – founder of Morec

Other things to know

  • Morec – Moral reclamation. Earth’s oppressive Puritanical culture
  • Cohorts of Major Streiter – male descendants of Major Streiter
  • Telemedia – aka T-M. Official government trust controlling mass communications
  • Hokkaido – an island that was left as a wasteland after the war ended in 1972
  • Mental Health Resort – psychoanalysts. The last refuge for individuals who are enemies of Earth’s moral civilization
  • Other World – a haven, on the fourth planet of the Vega system, for the Mental Health Resort’s neuro-psychiatrics

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