Often at the beginning of a Philip K. Dick book I think to myself ‘this has to be one of Dick’s craziest ideas’ before I remember I think that about almost all of his stories. Colonists who have been forced to emigrate to Mars occupy their time by communally taking a drug (Can-D) that lets them inhabit the minds of the Barbie and Ken-like dolls Perky Pat and Walt. While on the drug they are temporarily transported (as Perky Pat and Walt) to an Earth that mimics their carefully constructed Perky Pat layout.
Back on the real Earth the pre-cog employees at P. P. Layouts try to determine which consumer goods will be popular so that they can be minified and sent to Mars for the colonists to use in their Perky Pat environments. This balance is upset when the industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from the Proxima system with a potent new drug that he plans to market to the colonists as a more effective escape from the drudgery of Mars.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch remains my favorite PKD book even after having read them all. You might assume it was inspired by the use of LSD, but Dick claims to have not yet tried that particular drug at this point in his life. Instead, fueled by large quantities of amphetamines, he wrote this during an incredibly prolific two-year period in 1963-64 when he also wrote some of my other favorites including The Game Players of Titan, Now Wait for Last Year, The Simulacra and Clans of the Alphane Moon.
Is the world of Perky Pat the same world from The Crack in Space? Who knows, but while in the mind of Walt, one of the colonists catches Jim Briskin, everyone’s favorite newsclown (or maybe just mine), on TV.
Cast of characters
Barney Mayerson – a pre-cog. Head of pre-fash marketing atP. P. Layouts
Roni Fugate – a pre-cog. Barney’s assistant and mistress
Leo Bulero – chairman of the board at P. P. Layouts
Emily Hnatt – Barney’s ex-wife
Richard Hnatt – Emily’s current husband
Palmer Eldritch – the interplan industrialist who returns from Proxima
Sam Regan, Mary Regan, Tod Morris, Norman Schein, Helen Morris, Fran Schein – Mars colonists
Allen and Charlotte Faine – disc jockeys in a Mars satellite
Felix Blau – head of the police agency
Dr. Wily Denkmal – runs an E therapy clinic in Germany
In Martian Time-Slip, Jack Bohlen, a service repairman on Mars, crosses paths with Arnie Kott, a big man on the planet who is struggling to maintain his standing as the UN pushes for new regulations.
In this phildickian future of 1994 we learn the frightening statistic that one out of six people suffers from some form of schizophrenia. We also learn that someone with autism is trapped in a world they perceive as moving so quickly they can see into the future. Amid rumors of the UN’s interest in some Martian land for new settlements, Kott schemes to use Bohlen (a ‘former’ schizophrenic) and Bohlen’s connection to his young autistic neighbor Manfred to get a jumpstart on the competition and claim the land for himself.
This book is one of my favorites. The description of Jack’s first schizophrenic episode as a young man is terrifying, as is the entropic, “gubble gubble” world of Manfred as it encroaches into the minds of everyone around him.
Along with Dick’s ideas concerning autism, nothing about the planet in Martian Time-Slip suggests an attempt at rigorous science. PKD’s Mars features flowing water (although it’s scarce), breathable air and an indigenous population of natives called Bleekmen who were on the planet when Earth colonists arrived.
In the hard science fiction novel Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson named the 39.5 minutes of non-time between midnight and 12:01 when the clocks are stopped on Mars in order to simulate an even 24-hour day the ‘Martian time-slip’ as an homage to Dick’s book.
Cast of characters
Jack Bohlen – our protagonist. A service repairman on Mars
Silvia Bohlen – Jack’s wife
David Bohlen – Jack’s son
Leo Bohlen – Jack’s father. A land speculator from Earth
Mr. Yee – Jack’s employer
Arnie Kott – president of the Water Workers’ Local
Anne Esterhazy – Arnie’s ex-wife. Circulates a political newsletter for women
Norbert Steiner – Jack’s neighbor and dealer in black-market food
Otto Zitte – a black marketeer
Manfred Steiner – Norbert’s autistic son in Camp B-G for anomalous children
Dr. Glaub – a psychotherapist
Doreen Anderton – Arnie Kott’s mistress and Jack’s lover
In The Game Players of Titan radiation from a nuclear war has wiped out much of Earth’s population. The remaining people, most of whom are unable to reproduce, gather together to play a Monopoly-like game where they win controlling deeds to American cities and pair off with spouses with the hope of finding the ‘luck’ to conceive children.
A race of aliens from the Saturn moon Titan has colonized Earth, but these telepathic vugs have problems of their own as a faction of moderates feuds with extremists with psionic powers who have infiltrated Earth disguised as humans. Pete Garden stumbles upon this secret one night during a drug-fueled bender celebrating the luck he found with his new wife. This leads to a showdown on Titan with the game-players of Earth and the vugs who play their own version of the game.
I have to make a note about the Rushmore Effect, because I love it. It’s a kind of limited A.I. given to all inanimate objects. Tea kettles and ice machines say ‘thank you’ and cars and elevators have polite and objective conversations with people, all except for Joe Schilling’s car which is cantankerous and seems to hate him.
Cast of characters
Pete Garden – our protagonist. Member of Pretty Blue Fox and former Bindman of Berkeley, California
Freya – Pete’s former wife and member of Pretty Blue Fox
Jack Blau, Clem Gaines, Bill Calumine, Silvanus Angst, Stuart Marks– Bindmen who play with Pretty Blue Fox
Jerome Luckman – Bindman of New York who purchases the title to Berkeley
Walt Remington – Pretty Blue Fox member responsible for the Berkeley title ending up with Luckman
Dotty Luckman – Luckman’s wife
Joe Schilling – record store owner and former Bindman of New York. Lost to Luckman. Joseph Schilling is also the name of the record store owner in Mary and the Giant
Dave Mutreaux – Luckman’s precog
Sid Mosk – Luckman’s secretary
Patricia McClain – former B barred from the game because she’s a telepath. Pete’s neighbor in San Rafael
Allan McClain – Pat McClain’s husband
Mary Anne McClain – Patricia’s 18-year-old daughter with powerful psionic powers. Her name was repurposed from Mary and the Giant (unpublished when this book came out) along with Joe Schilling
Nats Katz – popular tv recording artist
U.S. Cummings – the vug District Commissioner
Carol Holt – Pete’s new wife
E.B. Black – the vug police officer investigating Luckman’s death
Wade Hawthorne – the Terran police officer investigating Luckman’s death