The Broken Bubble is a mainstream novel Dick wrote in 1956, although it wasn’t published until 1988 after he died.
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
Dick began Deus Irae in 1964 and collaborated on it with Roger Zelazny on and off for the next twelve years before it finally was published in 1976.
A religion called the Servants of Wrath springs up after a nuclear war wipes out most of the planet’s population. The followers worship the destroyer who has come to Earth in the form of Carl Lufteufel, the man responsible for the bombs.
Tibor McMasters, an armless and legless man very similar to the phocomelus Hoppy Harrington from Dr. Bloodmoney (except that Tibor’s cart is pulled by a cow), is hired to paint a church mural featuring Lufteufel for the Servants of Wrath. He sets off on a pilgrimage, followed by Pete Sands, across the post-apocalyptic wasteland in order to find Lufteufel and take a photo of him to reference for the mural.
Cast of characters
Father Handy – father in the Servants of Wrath church
Tibor McMasters – limbless artist who paints the SOW church mural
Pete Sands – Christian church member
Dr. Jim Abernathy – Christian priest in Charlottesville
Lurnie Rae – SOWer who decides to join the Christian church
Carl Lufteufel – Deus Irae. The God of Wrath. Former Chairman of the Energy Research and Development Administration who was responsible for the nuclear war
Jackson and Earl Potter – lizard-like mutants Tibor meets on his journey
Jack Schuld – a hunter who says he is tracking Lufteufel but turns out to be Lufteufel himself
The Great C – a computer out in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that captures passerby and dissolves them in underground vats of acid
The Zap Gun eventually won me over with its loopy charm. In 2004 Wes-bloc and Peep-East are locked in a cold war, but they only pretend to build the weapons that keep the other countries at bay.
Weapons fashion designers on both sides create sketches while in a trance-like state. The public believes these sketches are used to construct lethal weapons, but in reality the designs are just turned into consumer gadgets and toys. When aliens attack, the two sides must join together to find a real weapon that can save Earth.
Dick wrote The Zap Gun while he was also writing The Penultimate Truth. In that one he identified with the Yance-man speechwriter hacks, and in this one he writes about Lars Powderdry who has a deep-seated fear he will enter one of his drug-induced trances, return without anything to show for it and be discovered as a fraud.
A lot of the Vintage paperbacks feature the Village Voice blurb that calls Dick the poor man’s Thomas Pynchon. I’d say this is Dick at his most Pynchony with all the goofy names (Surely G. Febbs, Lars Powderdry, Dr. Todt aka Dr. Dead in German) and a plot with an off-kilter sense of humor that takes a while to sort out.
Cast of characters
Lars Powderdry – our protagonist. A weapons fashion designer for Wes-bloc
Lilo Topchev – Peep-East’s weapons fashion designer
Dr. Todt and Elvira Funt – Lars’s medical team
Maren Faine – Lars’s mistress
General Nitz – the Commander in Chief on Natsec’s board
Marshal Paponovich – Soviet Marshal and head of SeRKeb
Don Packard – a KACH-man
Surely G. Febbs – the newest concomody on the UN-W Natsec Board
Pete Freid – ranking engineer at Lanferman Associates
Aksel Kaminsky – a Soviet official
Jack Lanferman – owner of Lanferman Associates
Vincent Klug – toymaker who tries to convince Lanferman to partner with him on prototypes
Major Geschenko – head of the Soviet KVB surveillance team
Ricardo Hastings – a so-called war veteran who traveled back in time from 2068
Other things to know
Wes-bloc – the Western nations
Peep-East – the Sino-Soviet bloc of countries
KACH – a planet-wide private police agency
SeRKeb – Peep-East’s governing body
UN-W Natsec – the governing board of Wes-bloc
Lanferman Associates – the firm that produces prototypes from Lars’s trance sketches
pursaps – pure saps or poor saps. The majority of the public
cogs – the cognoscenti. The ruling class who know the truth about the “weapons”