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.”
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