Novels

Our Friends from Frolix 8

Our Friends from Frolix 8
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In the far-off future mankind has evolved. The New Men are those with bigger brains and a greater intellect, while the Unusuals are mutants with psionic abilities. These two groups form a loosely-aligned ruling class who oppress the unevolved Old Men just struggling to get by. But don’t forget about the Under Men! They follow the writings of Eric Cordon and rebel against the whole class imbalance while waiting for Thors Provoni to return from outer space with some kind of help to free them from the tyrannical rule.

Our Friends from Frolix 8 is about as middle of the road as you can get with Dick’s minor works. I remembered almost nothing about it before I reread it. It’s redeemed by the oddball telepath and supreme leader of Earth Willis Gram, but only somewhat, and if you replaced sad-sack Nick Appleton with the protagonist from a dozen of Dick’s other stories you probably wouldn’t notice a difference.

Cast of characters

  • Nick Appleton – our protag. He’s employed as a tire regroover, an odd profession since the squibs in the book are flying vehicles
  • Bobby Appleton – Nick’s son
  • Kleo Appleton – Nick’s wife
  • Thors Provoni – left Earth to look for help in the far reaches of outer space
  • Willis Gram – Council Chairman of the Extraordinary Committee for Public Safety (Unusual)
  • Lloyd Barnes – the police director (New Man)
  • Eric Cordon – Under Man organizer and propaganda writer
  • Earl Zeta – Nick’s boss (Under Man)
  • Charlotte Boyer – a sixteen-year-old Under Man girl who gets involved with Nick
  • Denny – Charlotte’s boyfriend (Under Man)
  • Morgo Rahn Wilc – the Frolixan friend who accompanies Thors Provoni back to Earth
  • Amos Ild – one of the world’s smartest New Men

Martian Time-Slip

Martian Time-Slip
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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

Clans of the Alphane Moon

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

We Can Build You

We Can Build You
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Dick wrote We Can Build You in 1962 just after writing the Hugo Award-winning The Man in the High Castle, although it took ten years before someone agreed to publish this one as a book. He was attempting to blend his mainstream ambitions with elements of broader science fiction, and it’s unfortunate this style of his was rejected by so many publishers, since he wouldn’t attempt another hybrid like this until his last book, the excellent Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

We Can Build You is one of only a handful of books he wrote in first person, this one told from the point of view of Louis Rosen, co-owner of a company called MASA Associates that decides to build functioning simulacra of Civil War participants for a reenactment. They only get as far as creating a simulacrum of Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edward Stanton, and then later Lincoln himself, before they get tangled up with the businessman Sam Burrows.

Burrows has speculated on land on the moon, and he wants to take MASA’s idea and build simulacra for his lunar property, thinking that people would be more willing to immigrate there if they already had neighbors, even if those neighbors weren’t real. In the meantime, Louis becomes fixated on Maury’s mentally ill daughter Pris, and eventually Louis has a mental breakdown himself when Pris leaves to join up with Burrows.

Dick would tackle the idea of human vs simulacra, although in a much different way, in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? written five years later. In that one he repurposes the names Pris and Rosen which he often did when one of his books went unpublished.

Cast of characters

  • Louis Rosen – our protagonist. Co-owner of MASA
  • Maury Frauenzimmer – Louis’s business partner in MASA
  • Bob Bundy – MASA’s electronics genius
  • Jerome Rosen – Louis’s father
  • Chester Rosen – Louis’s brother
  • Edward Stanton – Lincoln’s Secretary of War during the Civil War and MASA’s first simulacrum
  • Abraham Lincoln – MASA’s second simulacrum
  • Pris Frauenzimmer – Maury’s eighteen-year-old mentally ill daughter
  • Sam Burrows – multi-millionaire and lunar land speculator
  • Dr. Horstowski – Pris’s and later Louis’s psychiatrist
  • Colleen Nild – Burrows’s secretary
  • Dave Blunk – Burrow’s attorney
  • Silvia Devorac – crusader opposing the slum-like Green Peach Hat housing project owned by Burrows
  • Dr. Nisea – Louis’s psychiatrist at the Federal Bureau of Mental Health
  • Dr. Shedd – Louis’s psychiatrist at the Kasanin Clinic

The Game-Players of Titan

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

Galactic Pot-Healer

Galactic Pot-Healer
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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.

Here are Dick’s own feelings about this one noted over at philipkdickfans.com:

Sometimes it seems funny to me, sometimes it seems…stupid. Stupid. Nothing can be said for it.

He probably put it best himself.

Cast of characters

  • Joe Fernwright – the titular pot-healer
  • Gauk – the soviet official who Joe plays a translation game with over the phone
  • Smith – another player of ‘the game’ in New York
  • Kate – Joe’s ex-wife
  • Hymes and Perkin – two Quietude Civil Authority policemen
  • Glimmung – the alien who wants to raise the temple of Heldscalla on Plowman’s Planet
  • Mali Yojez – a marine biologist on the crew to Plowman’s Planet
  • Harper Baldwin – a psychokineticist on Glimmung’s crew
  • Willis – Joe’s robot servant
  • Amalita – the god worshipped in the temple of Heldscalla
  • Borel – Amalita’s evil sister