I disliked the Galactic Pot-Healer the first time I read it, even going so far as to say it was one of Dick’s worst books, but that was before I read gems like Dr. Futurity and Vulcan’s Hammer. After rereading it I will admit it’s not terrible. I love the absurdist humor, particularly Joe’s robot servant Willis, but I still get what I didn’t like about it the first time. The whole endeavor, where a group of various specialists are summoned to a planet by a powerful alien named Glimmung in order to raise a temple from the planet’s ocean, seemed ultimately pointless. I also never quite understood the Old Testament-like Glimmung.
The story was uneven, like it was a few drafts away from being great, although I’m not sure that’s how Dick worked.
Here are Dick’s own feelings about this one noted over at philipkdickfans.com:
Sometimes it seems funny to me, sometimes it seems…stupid. Stupid. Nothing can be said for it.
He probably put it best himself.
Cast of characters
- Joe Fernwright – the titular pot-healer
- Gauk – the soviet official who Joe plays a translation game with over the phone
- Smith – another player of ‘the game’ in New York
- Kate – Joe’s ex-wife
- Hymes and Perkin – two Quietude Civil Authority policemen
- Glimmung – the alien who wants to raise the temple of Heldscalla on Plowman’s Planet
- Mali Yojez – a marine biologist on the crew to Plowman’s Planet
- Harper Baldwin – a psychokineticist on Glimmung’s crew
- Willis – Joe’s robot servant
- Amalita – the god worshipped in the temple of Heldscalla
- Borel – Amalita’s evil sister