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