I like The Crack in Space even though it’s obviously not one of Philip K. Dick’s greatest works.
A man repairing a Jiffi-scuttler finds a small tear that leads to a parallel Earth. This comes at a time of severe overpopulation and unemployment where the U.S. has warehoused over seventy million people in suspended animation to be thawed out once the labor market improves.
Jim Briskin, a candidate hoping to be the first black elected president, sees an opportunity to send the bibs (as they are called) through this ‘crack in space’ to colonize the parallel Earth. That plan falls apart when they discover this other planet is inhabited by some far distant ancestor on the evolutionary tree.
Here are some things I love about this book:
- The introduction to Jim Briskin. “…he still wore a formal dark suit even in hot weather. That, and a flaming red wig, had been his trademark back in the days when he had telecast as a TV newsclown.”
- The poorly-defined Jiffi-scuttler. It’s at the center of the story and I have no idea about its intended use. It’s only described as some kind of limited time travel device.
- George Walt, the conjoined twins who share a single head. It’s so weird that I can’t even picture how a creature like that would move around, and maybe PKD couldn’t picture it either. “It’s a wonder George Walt can perambulate,’ Jim said. ‘Joined at the base of the skull, the way they are. Must be damned awkward.” Also, they own a satellite brothel in orbit.
If this book feels like too many different stories in one that’s because Dick evidently borrowed from several of his short stories when putting this together.
Cast of characters
- Darius Pethel – owner of Pethel Jiffi-scuttler Sales & Service
- Lurton Sands – org-trans surgeon involved in a divorce
- Myra Sands – Dr. Sand’s wife. An abort consultant
- James Briskin – black candidate for president on the Republican Liberal ticket
- Thisbe Olt – operator of the Golden Door satellite. Thisbe Holt is the girl in the bubble in The Broken Bubble
- Stu Hadley – salesman at Pethel Jiffi-scuttler Sales & Service. Stu Hadley is also the name of the main character in Voices from the Street.
- Sal Heim – Briskin’s campaign manager
- Patricia – Sal’s wife
- Phil Danville – speechwriter for Briskin
- William Schwarz – the incumbent president and Briskin’s opponent. A State’s Rights Conservative Democrat
- Bruno Mini – advocate of a ‘planet wetting’ technique of terraforming
- Frank Woodbine – a space explorer
- Rick Erickson – repairman for Pethel Jiffi-scuttler Sales & Service
- George Walt – the two-bodied, one-headed mutant owner of the Golden Door Moments of Bliss satellite brothel
- Tito Cravelli – Myra Sand’s private investigator
- Cally Vale – Dr. Sand’s mistress
- Leon Turpin – chairman on the board at Terran Development, manufacturers of the Jiffi-scuttler
- Don Stanley – Turpin’s administrative assistant
- Bascolm Howard – TD’s com-sys engineer
- Herb Lackmore – a welfare worker
- Earl Bohegian – Cravelli’s inside man at TD