Now Wait for Last Year

Now Wait for Last Year
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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.

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 Simulacra

The Simulacra
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Set in 2041. I never realized, before I started reading a lot of PKD books back to back to back, how fascinated he is with Nazis and World War II Germany.

Dick threw nearly everything he could think of into this one. The main storyline has an concept similar to The Penultimate Truth involving a simulacrum of the President, although the rest is stuffed with multiple subplots that include psionics, Neanderthals and an attempt to cure Hitler by sending a psychoanalyst back in time.

This novel has a million characters to keep track of, but the anxiety-causing commercials that buzz around like flies, used-car salesman who sell jalopies that travel to Mars and primitive alien life forms used on Earth as components in recording devices are all great.

The conclusion focuses on the least interesting subplot as a group of Neanderthals called chuppers from some different branch of the evolutionary tree gather around a television and watch as Homo sapiens destroy themselves in a war. The few Homo sapiens in the room with them have the grim realization this is the moment the chuppers have been waiting for. Just short of a classic as it doesn’t all come together in the end.

Cast of characters

  • Richard Kongrosian – a Soviet pianist who plays Brahms and Schumann with his mind
  • Dr. Egon Superb – a psychoanalyst
  • Bertold Goltz – head of the Neo-nazi group Sons of Job
  • Wilder Pembroke – commissioner of the National Police
  • Rudolf Kalbfleisch – the current der Alte. A simulacrum
  • Nicole Thibodeaux– the First Lady. Has a stature greater than the president in their matriarchal society
  • Emil Stark – Prime Minister of Israel
  • Janet Raimer – Chief White House talent scout
  • Garth McRae – Assistant State Secretary
  • Harold Slezak – White House A & R secretary
  • Hermann Göring – founder of the Gestapo, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s successor in World War II
  • Vince Strikerock – works for Karp u. Sohnen
  • Chic Strikerock – brother of Vince. Works for Frauenzimmer Associates.
  • Julia Applequist– ex-wife of Vince Strikerock
  • Maury Frauenzimmer – Chic’s boss. Owner of Frauenzimmer Associates
  • Felix and Anton Karp – father and son owners of Karp u. Sohnen
  • Ian Duncan – aimless member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Al Miller – Ian Duncan’s former friend and jug band partner. Works for Loony Luke’s jalopy business
  • Patrick Doyle – skypilot for the Abraham Lincoln apartments
  • Edgar Stone – scheming member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Nat Flieger – works at Electronic Musical Enterprise
  • Jim Planck – employee of EME
  • Leo Dondoldo – owner of EME
  • Molly Dondoldo – Leo’s daughter

Other things to know

  • USEA – United States of Europe and America
  • McPhearson Act – outlaws the practice of psychoanalysis in favor of drug therapy
  • der Alte – German for “the old man.” The president. Has been a simulacrum for the last fifty years
  • Karp und Sohnen Werke – German for Karp and Sons. Built the Kalbfleisch simulacrum
  • the Ges – Geheimnisträger. The upper social class. Possessors of the secret that der Alte is a simulacrum
  • the Bes – Befehlträger. The lower social class
  • Frauenzimmer Associates – simulacra construction company
  • von Lessinger equipment – used for time travel

The Penultimate Truth

The Penultimate Truth
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The Penultimate Truth is set in 2025, thirteen years after the end of World War III. Most of the population though believes the war is still ongoing and lives below ground. The war, between the Wes-Dem countries and the Russians of Pac-Peop, was fought mostly by two factions of leadies, autonomous robots that can survive the radiation from the nuclear fallout of the atomic weapons.

Those who live below ground build leadies for the U.S. war effort. Above ground, in large estates in areas of the U.S. no longer contaminated by radiation, live the Yance-men. They are responsible for continuing to propagate the lie, for those trapped underground, that the war still continues.

This is a dense book with some heavy world-building and quite a few twists and turns. We have a precog as well as some kind of time manipulation that isn’t exactly time travel, although it isn’t explained too well either. The story tends to suffer as it splits its focus among Joseph Adams, Nicholas St. James, and Webster Foote who are all broadly similar in the way of a lot of Dick’s leading men.

Part of the book is a sly commentary by Dick on the world of publishing. He sets the Agency at 580 Fifth Avenue, New York City, the address of his real-life literary agent at the time. The Yance-men, hacks who spread lies to the general population, feed their speeches to the Megavac 6-V, a computer that alters and then disseminates them through the Yancy simulacrum to the tankers. Dick is identifying as one of these Yance-men, in particular Joseph Adams, who has a crisis of confidence after he encounters the brilliant speechwriter Dave Lantano.

Cast of characters

  • Joseph Adams – works for the Agency. Speechwriter for Yancy
  • Nicholas St. James – President of Tom Mix
  • Stanton Brose – Minister of Interior. More artiforg than man
  • Dave Lantano – a Yance-man and speechwriter who acquires the land above Tom Mix near Cheyenne
  • Webster Foote – a precog who runs a PI agency
  • Talbot Yancy – the Protector / political and military leader on the surface. Turns out he’s a simulacrum programmed by the Megavac 6-V computer… or is he?
  • Louis Runcible – an architect. Builds the conapts to house those who return above ground from the ant tanks
  • Dale Nunes – Political Commissioner of Tom Mix. Human link between the underground and the Estes Park Government above ground
  • Maury Souza – chief mechanic in Tom Mix. Dies from pancreatitis
  • Vern Lindblom – Agency artist. Constructs the models of U.S. cities and later the artifacts planted in Runcible’s dig site in Utah
  • Dr. Carol Tigh – head of the Tom Mix clinic
  • Rita St. James – Nicholas’s wife
  • Marshal Harenzany – top Pac-Peop military leader
  • General Holt – Wes-Dem military leader

Other things to know

  • Tom Mix – the name of the World War III antiseptic subsurface communal living tank established in June of 2010. These underground “ant tanks” produce leadies for the surface. Tom Mix was a silent movie star in Westerns from the early 1900s
  • Wes-Dem – the Western Democracies
  • Pac-Peop – the Soviets
  • Leadies – robots originally built to fight WWIII
  • Recon Dis-In Council – A group of leadies that form the high court of the world, above both Wes-Dem and Pac-Peop, located in Mexico City/Amecameca
  • Webster Foote, Limited – London-based planetwide private police investigation agency
  • Artiforgs – Arti-Gan Corporations plastic artificial organs

The Man Who Japed

The Man Who Japed
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Set in 2114. Our protagonist Allen Purcell says this about japery: “When a theme is harped on too much you get parody. When we make fun of a stale theme we say we japed it.”

Purcell, as a prank against Morec, unconsciously japes the statue of Major Streiter by cutting off the head. He undergoes psychoanalysis to discover why he acted out, and it reveals a blob on his report. A battery of tests at the Mental Health Resort to uncover any psionic abilities turns up negative, but he later finds out the blob indicates he possesses a sense of humor.

In Purcell’s final act of japery before he is ousted from his new job as the director of Telemedia he broadcasts invented historical facts framing Major Streiter as a cannibal.

This is one of Dick’s earliest published novels. It doesn’t deal with too many of the themes we’re familiar with in his later work, although there is a hint of what-is-reality weirdness when Purcell is drugged and sent to Other World.

Omphalos is a Greek word that means “navel.” Dick uses it several times— referring to the statue of Major Streiter and the spire being the hub of Morec and using it again to refer to Earth as being the navel of the universe. Omphalos is also the name of Rachmael ben Applebaums space freighter in Lies, Inc.

Cast of characters

  • Allen Purcell – owner of the Allen Purcell, Inc. Research Agency
  • Janet Purcell – Allen’s wife
  • Sue Frost – administrator of Telemedia
  • Mrs. Birmingham – oversees Purcell’s housing unit for the Parent Citizens Committee
  • Myron Mavis – former director of T-M
  • Doctor Malparto and Gretchen Malparto – brother and sister who work for the Mental Health Resort
  • Gates and Sugermann – two men who live as individuals in Hokkaido
  • Major Streiter – founder of Morec

Other things to know

  • Morec – Moral reclamation. Earth’s oppressive Puritanical culture
  • Cohorts of Major Streiter – male descendants of Major Streiter
  • Telemedia – aka T-M. Official government trust controlling mass communications
  • Hokkaido – an island that was left as a wasteland after the war ended in 1972
  • Mental Health Resort – psychoanalysts. The last refuge for individuals who are enemies of Earth’s moral civilization
  • Other World – a haven, on the fourth planet of the Vega system, for the Mental Health Resort’s neuro-psychiatrics

Lies, Inc.

Lies, Inc.
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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

Vulcan’s Hammer

Vulcan's Hammer
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This is a by-the-numbers potboiler about two supercomputers that plot to destroy each other and the humans, who have put too much faith in these machines, who get caught in the middle.

We have a couple of hints at a religious allegory. Managing Director Jason Dill, the only man allowed to communicate with Vulcan 3, resembles a single high priest who is granted permission to talk to God, and Marion Fields, Father Fields’ wise-beyond-her-years daughter, pipes up in class that the Libson Laws dethroned God. Beyond that, not too much to recommend with this one.

Cast of characters

  • William Barris – Unity’s North American director
  • Jason Dill – Unity’s Managing Director. The only human allowed to communicate directly with Vulcan 3
  • Father Fields – one of the founders of the Healers
  • Arthur Pitt – Unity employee who is killed by a mob in the first chapter
  • Rachel Pitt – Arthur Pitt’s widow
  • Marion Fields – nine-year-old daughter of Father Fields
  • Agnes Parker – Marion Fields’ schoolteacher

Other things to know

  • Unity – Earth’s “rational world order” that came into being after the end of the Atomic War in 1992. Eleven divisions, each with its own director
  • Vulcan 3 – a supercomputer built during the war following Vulcan 1 and Vulcan 2 built in the 1970s. Named for the glowing red power lines that reminded the computer’s creator of the Roman god’s forge
  • Libson Laws of 1993 – after the destruction of the war all the world’s nations agreed to give absolute power to the objective and impartial supercomputers. According to Dill: “To subordinate themselves in a realistic manner—not in the idealistic manner of the UN days—to a common supranational authority, for the good of all mankind”
  • The Healers – a vague mystical group in opposition to Unity