One of Dick’s funniest premises. Former patients of a mental hospital abandoned by Earth on an Alphane moon have established a somewhat stable class system organized by mental disorder. The clans include the Pares (paranoids), Manses (manics), Deps (depressives), Polys (polymorphic schizophrenics), Skitzes, (schizophrenics), Ob-Coms (obsessive compulsives) and the Heebs (hebephrenics).
On Earth Chuck Rittersdorf is drawn into a plot involving the Alphanes and their quest to regain control of the moon. Mary Rittersdorf, a psychologist and Chuck’s estranged wife, travels to the moon to evaluate the inhabitants. Meanwhile Chuck gets involved with Bunny Hentman, a former criminal with ties to the Alphane government, who is currently working on Earth as a TV comic. He hires Chuck as a writer (apparently the scripts Chuck writes for CIA simulacra are gut-bustingly funny), but in reality Bunny is only using Chuck because of the connection to his wife.
Chuck eventually ends up on the Alphane moon, and the story wraps up with Chuck helping to convince the clans to accept Alphane rule as long as they aren’t put back into a mental hospital. Mary and Chuck tentatively resume their relationship (I forgot to mention Chuck was trying to kill Mary all this time with the use of a CIA simulacrum) and they both have mental evaluations. Turns out Mary is a Dep, but Chuck, who has a clean bill of mental health, decides to start a new clan on the moon called the Norms.
Clans of the Alphane Moon is filled with some of Dick’s most unique characters like the Heeb mystics and the telepathic Ganymedean slime Lord Running Clam, so it’s too bad we spend most of the book with Chuck, a typically bland PKD protagonist dealing with suicidal impulses and marital problems.
Cast of characters
Gabriel Baines – the Pare delegate
Howard Straw – the Mans delegate
Jacob Simion – the Heeb delegate
Annette Golding – the Poly delegate
Ingrid Hibbler – the Ob Com delegate
Omar Diamond – the Skitz delegate
Dino Waters – the Dep delegate
Chuck Rittersdorf – our protagonist. Programs simulacra for the CIA
Mary Rittersdorf – Chuck’s estranged wife. A psychologist
Bunny Hentman – a TV comedian
Jerry Feld – producer of Bunny’s show
Joan Triste – a psi capable of rewinding time
Lord Running Clam – Chuck’s Ganymedean neighbor
Jack Elwood – Chuck’s CIA boss
Roger London – Jack Elwood’s boss
Pete Petri – Chuck’s scriptwriting coworker at the CIA
Daniel Mageboom – the simulacrum sent to the Alphane moon with Mary
Ignatz Ledebur – a Heeb mystic
Sarah Apostoles – another Heeb mystic
Calv Dark and Thursday Jones – Bunny’s writers
RBX 303 – an Alphane connected to the Alphane government
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.
Nick and the Glimmung is Philip K. Dick’s lone children’s book. He wrote it in the late ‘60s, but it wasn’t published until 1988. After reading so many of his dour mainstream novels I forgot how deadpan and funny he can be.
Because there isn’t enough food to go around on Earth, it is illegal to own pets after 1992. Young Nick Graham owns a cat named Horace, but after it slips outside and gets exposed, Graham’s family decides to emigrate to Plowman’s Planet with the cat rather than let the cat be taken away.
Once on Plowman’s Planet the Grahams have to deal with the various local creatures who are fighting a war amongst themselves spurred on by the evil Glimmung. Horace gets snatched up several times by werjes and trobes, but in the end, Nick fends off Glimmung and is reunited with his cat.
Plowman’s Planet, with a similar group of alien creatures, is also the setting for Galactic Pot-Healer written shortly after this one.
Cast of characters
Nick Graham– our protagonist
Peter Graham – Nick’s father
Helen Graham – Nick’s mother
Horace – Nick’s cat
Miss Juth – Nick’s teacher on Earth
Mr. Deverest – a newspaper reporter on Earth writing about Nick and Horace
Reg Frankis – a human colonist/scavenger on Plowman’s Planet
Jack and Doris McKenna – neighbors on Plowman’s Planet
Other things to know
One Summer Day – Glimmung’s book that lists the weaknesses of every creature on Plowman’s Planet and can also predict the future. A similar book shows up in Lies, Inc.
The Last and Final War – Glimmung’s book of propaganda
wubs – a different sort of creature than the one in Dick’s short story “Beyond Lies the Wub.” This one can’t speak and communicates through the use of pre-printed cards
The Grand Four – the printers, nunks, spiddles and humans united in a war against the trobes, father-things and werjes who fight on the side of Glimmung