Set in 2055… at least before the drug-induced time travel kicks in.
Once again we have an old man kept alive by artiforgs, although the description of 130-year-old Virgil Ackerman as a slight, hermaphroditic creature is almost the exact opposite of how Stanton Brose is described in The Penultimate Truth. Rich men like Ackerman build simulated worlds on Mars to recreate their childhoods down to the smallest detail. It doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the story, but it’s still hilarious as Dick calls them regressive babylands.
Dick is airing out some issues with women with this book. His scheming, mentally unbalanced Kathy Sweetscent is one of the most caustic depictions of a wife that I can recall in any of his novels. The whole thing is ultimately about whether our protagonist, the unfortunately named Eric Sweetscent, will stay with his wife or not, even though he knows she is destined for the psychiatric hospital.
At one point it seems we will have yet another simulacrum of an authority figure just like in The Penultimate Truth and The Simulacra, (in this case one of the UN Secretary General), but that turns out not to be the case.
Some unexpected twists and a well-rounded world leader in Gino Molinari make this one worth the read. I thought I had read most of Dick’s good books, but I’m still discovering some gems as I work through the ones I have left.
Cast of characters
- Virgil Ackerman – founder of Tijuana Fur & Dye Corp
- Dr. Eric Sweetscent – artiforg surgeon who works for Virgil Ackerman
- Katherine Sweetscent – Eric’s wife who works for TF&D as an antique collector
- Bruce Himmel – quality control inspector at TF&D
- Jonas Ackerman – Virgil’s great-grandnephew
- Phyllis Ackerman – Virgil’s great-grandniece. On TF&D’s board of directors
- Gino Molinari – aka “the Mole”. Terra’s supreme elected leader and commander of its armed forces in the war against the reegs
- Minister Freneksy – Prime Minister of Lilistar
- Christian Plout – host of the JJ-180 drug party
- Marm Hastings – a San Francisco Taoist
- Harry Teagarden – chief of the Mole’s medical staff
- Mary Reineke – the Mole’s eighteen-year-old mistress
- Roger Corning – a ‘Starman
- Don Festenburg – advisor/speechwriter for Molinari
- Bert Hazeltine – representative of the Hazeltine corporation where JJ-180 is made
Other things to know
- Lilistar – dominant military power in the galaxy. Terra is their ally in their war against the reegs
- Reegs – creatures from Proxima at war with the ‘Starmen from Lilistar