The logic of this ‘counter-clock world’ is so goofy I’m tempted to say this is Dick’s worst book (but on the other hand see Dr. Futurity).
Due to a reversal of time called the Hobart Phase, things move backwards. The dead come back to life. The living Benjamin Button their way to infancy and then eventually migrate into a nearby womb, although not necessarily that of their mother. People do some things in reverse, like regurgitate their food instead of eating it and puff smoke back into cigarette butts. They don’t walk backwards though, or talk backwards other than saying ‘bye’ as a greeting and ‘hello’ when they leave. They also say ‘food’ when they curse instead of saying ‘shit.’ It really is as idiotic as it sounds.
When the dead come back to life they call out feebly from their graves under the ground, and if someone happens to be around to hear them then a vitarium is contacted to dig the person up before they run out of air (and die again? and come back to life again?). Seems like there would be a better way to handle this bringing back of the dead.
A religious cult called the Udi, currently led by Raymond Roberts, has to contend with their old leader, the Anarch Thomas Peak, coming back to life. The timing is right for him to rise from the grave, but they don’t know where he was buried. That particular piece of information has been eradicated by the Erads at the library. They are the real villains, since their job is to destroy all books… you know, since things are going in reverse.
Sebastian Hermes, owner of a local vitarium, stumbles on the Anarch’s grave while freeing another deader. Sebastian takes it upon himself to keep the Anarch safe from the Udi, who most certainly want him dead again (although it turns out they don’t). But the Library does want him dead again, since they just got done eradicating all of the Anarch’s writing, and if he’s alive he might start teaching everything they just destroyed, especially now that he’s seen the afterlife.
I disliked this one when I first read it. I also hated rereading it, but now there are some notes…
Cast of characters
- Sebastian Hermes – owner of the Flask of Hermes Vitarium
- Lotta Hermes – Sebastian’s young wife
- Father Faine – Sebastian’s employee
- Dr. Sign – the doctor employed by Sebastian
- Bob Lindy – Sebastian’s engineer
- R.C. Buckley – Sebastian’s salesman
- Cheryl Vale – Sebastian’s secretary
- Joseph Tinbane – a police officer who gets involved with Lotta
- Anarch Peak – the leader of the Udi cult before his death
- Raymond Roberts – current leader of the Udi cult
- Douglas Appleford – a library employee
- Mavis McGuire – chief librarian at the People’s Topical Library
- Carl Gantrix – Raymond Robert’s attorney
- Ann Fisher – McGuire’s daughter sent to seduce Sebastian
- Tony Giacometti – represents a third party from Rome also interested in the Anarch
Other things to know
- The Hobart Phase – a time reversal that started in 1986 named after Alex Hobart who predicted it
- The Erads – they work in the library eradicating all existing books. The main antagonist when we find out the Udi don’t intend to harm the Anarch
- F.N.M. – the Free Negro Municipality