Set in 2055… at least before the drug-induced time travel kicks in.
Once again we have an old man kept alive by artiforgs, although the description of 130-year-old Virgil Ackerman as a slight, hermaphroditic creature is almost the exact opposite of how Stanton Brose is described in The Penultimate Truth. Rich men like Ackerman build simulated worlds on Mars to recreate their childhoods down to the smallest detail. It doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the story, but it’s still hilarious as Dick calls them regressive babylands.
Dick is airing out some issues with women with this book. His scheming, mentally unbalanced Kathy Sweetscent is one of the most caustic depictions of a wife that I can recall in any of his novels. The whole thing is ultimately about whether our protagonist, the unfortunately named Eric Sweetscent, will stay with his wife or not, even though he knows she is destined for the psychiatric hospital.
At one point it seems we will have yet another simulacrum of an authority figure just like in The Penultimate Truth and The Simulacra, (in this case one of the UN Secretary General), but that turns out not to be the case.
Some unexpected twists and a well-rounded world leader in Gino Molinari make this one worth the read. I thought I had read most of Dick’s good books, but I’m still discovering some gems as I work through the ones I have left.
Cast of characters
Virgil Ackerman – founder of Tijuana Fur & Dye Corp
Dr. Eric Sweetscent – artiforg surgeon who works for Virgil Ackerman
Katherine Sweetscent – Eric’s wife who works for TF&D as an antique collector
Bruce Himmel – quality control inspector at TF&D
Jonas Ackerman – Virgil’s great-grandnephew
Phyllis Ackerman – Virgil’s great-grandniece. On TF&D’s board of directors
Gino Molinari – aka “the Mole”. Terra’s supreme elected leader and commander of its armed forces in the war against the reegs
Minister Freneksy – Prime Minister of Lilistar
Christian Plout – host of the JJ-180 drug party
Marm Hastings – a San Francisco Taoist
Harry Teagarden – chief of the Mole’s medical staff
Mary Reineke – the Mole’s eighteen-year-old mistress
Roger Corning – a ‘Starman
Don Festenburg – advisor/speechwriter for Molinari
Bert Hazeltine – representative of the Hazeltine corporation where JJ-180 is made
Other things to know
Lilistar – dominant military power in the galaxy. Terra is their ally in their war against the reegs
Reegs – creatures from Proxima at war with the ‘Starmen from Lilistar
The first two-thirds of the book is an interesting story originally published as The Unteleported Man. It’s set in 2014. As a solution to Earth’s overcrowding humans have built unsuccessful colonies on the Moon and Mars before they discover an Earth-like planet eighteen lightyears away. This planet can be reached by a teleportation device in only fifteen minutes, but unfortunately it’s a one-way trip.
Millions emigrate there, but Rachmael ben Applebaum suspects that the messages from the planet, claiming how perfect the new settlement is, are faked. He decides to travel eighteen lightyears in his space freighter to find out the truth.
After this we have one-hundred pages of LSD-inspired craziness which Dick wrote as a part two that was inserted into the original story. If you’re wondering why Rachmael is suddenly at the settlement on Whale’s Mouth this is why. It’s fun to read as a lot of Dick’s drug-fueled paranoid visions are, but ultimately it has nothing to do with the end of the book. Rachmael returns just as suddenly to his freighter for the conclusion which wraps up the Unteleported Man story.
Cast of characters
Rachmael ben Applebaum – son of Maury Applebaum who founded the now-defunct Applebaum enterprises
Freya Holm – employee of Lies, Inc. assigned to protect Rachmael
Theodoric Ferry – chairman of the board of THL
Matson Glazer-Holliday – owner of Lies, Inc.
Dr. Sepp von Einem – while financed by THL, he built the teleportation device capable of sending humans to Whale’s Mouth in only fifteen minutes
Herr Horst Berthold – Secretary General of the UN
Al Dosker – pilot provided by Lies, Inc. to get the Omphalos off of its hiding place on Luna and on its way to Whale’s Mouth
The Weevils (Shiela Quam, Hank Szantho, Miss de Rungs, Gretchen Borbman) – the group, all supposedly sick with Telpor Syndrome and waiting to be cured, that Rachmael finds himself a part of when he gets to Whale’s Mouth
Gregory Arnold Gloch – former UN wep-x technician. Defected to THL. Described as “being out of phase in time”
Other things to know
Lies, Incorporated – Listening Instructional Educational Services. Some sort of police agency
Applebaum Enterprises – company that provides travel on space freighters. Rendered obsolete after Dr. Einem built his teleportation device
THL – Trails of Hoffman Limited. They sell Dr. Einem’s Telepor construct at retail stores on Earth
Whale’s Mouth – the Earth-like ninth planet of the Fomalhaut system. Eighteen light years away
Omphalos – Applebaum Enterprises sole remaining space freighter
The True and Complete Economic and Political History of Newcolonizedland by Dr. Bloode – a multi-edition book on Whale’s Mouth that can somehow predict the future I think… not entirely certain