Theme: Precognition

The World Jones Made published 1956

I was surprised I enjoyed rereading The World Jones Made, since I don’t remember thinking too much of it the first time around. Maybe I’ve built up a tolerance for Dick’s writing which has never been particularly great.*

The World Jones Made
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Jones, a precog who can see one year into the future, is an interesting character in a world ruled by relativism where all absolute thought, in an effort to stamp out extremism and war, is forbidden. With his apparent proof of certainty, Jones becomes a demagogue, whipping his followers into a frenzy against the threat of amoeba-like aliens that have started to land on Earth. When it turns out these alien drifters are mostly harmless, something Jones didn’t initially know with his limited view into the future, he martyrs himself so as to blame his death on the relativists before he would have been exposed as a fraud.

The book’s two storylines don’t come together very well. The mutants being engineered to survive on Venus don’t have much to do with what is going on with Jones, but even Dick admitted the book would have been stronger if he had found a way to tie those two threads together.

*for example: moist skin, moist ground, moist legs, moist sack (don’t ask), moist car (how?), moist skin (again), moist breath, moist fog, moist atmosphere, moist hay, moist lips, moist lips (again) and moist air.

Cast of characters

  • Floyd Jones – a precog who can see exactly one year into the future although he lacks the ability to change the future when it happens
  • Louis, Frank, Vivian, Garry, Dieter, Irma, Syd – mutants engineered to survive on Venus who live in a moist refuge in San Francisco
  • Doctor Rafferty – oversees the refuge
  • Doug Cussick – member of the secret service
  • Nina – Cussick’s wife
  • Pearson – security director of the Baltimore secret service
  • Max Kaminski – Cussick’s senior political instructor
  • Hyndshaw – a traveling salesman who picks up Jones when he is hitchhiking
  • Tyler Fleming – a young member of the secret service

Rating:

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch published 1964

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
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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 at  P. 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

Martian Time-Slip published 1964

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.

Martian Time-Slip
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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

Rating:

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