Theme: Psionics

Clans of the Alphane Moon published 1964

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).

Clans of the Alphane Moon
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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
  • Patty Weaver – Bunny’s mistress

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The Game-Players of Titan published 1963

The Game-Players of Titan
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Dick wrote a string of entertaining books in the 60s after winning the Hugo Award for The Man in the High Castle in 1963.

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
  • Laird Sharp – Pete’s attorney
  • E.R. Philipson – a psychiatrist
  • Rothman – leader of the group of psis

Rating:

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Ubik published 1969

In Ubik Dick took one of his own tropes, a group of people trapped unknowingly in a simulated or false reality (used previously in Eye in the Sky and later in A Maze of Death) and created one of his most entertaining novels.

Ubik
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In 1992 Glen Runciter’s anti-psionic prudence organization duels with Raymond Hollis’s group of telepaths and precogs. Runciter’s employees end up stuck in the simulated reality of half-life storage after Hollis lures them to the moon and attempts to kill them. The group is tormented by a powerful fifteen-year-old half-lifer, and Runciter, still alive on the outside, tries to help them as time inside half-life regresses into the past (similar to the drug-induced time travel in Now Wait for Last Year).

It sounds absurd in summary, but the book is stuffed with some of Dick’s funniest and best ideas while dealing with his prevalent theme of the nature of reality.

Cast of characters

  • Glen Runciter – owner of Runciter Associates, an anti-psi prudence organization
  • Ella Runciter – Glen’s twenty-year-old dead wife in half-life
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium
  • Jory Miller – a dead fifteen-year-old boy in half-life cold-pac storage
  • Raymond Hollis – employs telepaths. Runciter’s opposition
  • G. G. Ashwood – one of Runciter’s telepaths
  • Joe Chip – Runciter’s electrical tester
  • Pat Conley– an anti-precog
  • Stanton Mick – reclusive speculator and financier
  • Zoe Wirt – Stanton Mick’s assistant
  • Tippy Jackson, Edie Dorn, Al Hammond, John Ild, Francesca Spanish, Tito Apostos, Don Denny, Sammy Mundo, Wendy Wright, Fred Zafsky – Runciter’s inertials who travel to Luna

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