Solar Lottery is Dick’s first science fiction novel. In the early ‘50s he had some success with short stories and had previously written a couple of unpublished mainstream books (Gather Yourselves Together and Voices from the Street), but this was his first full-length novel to be published when it came out as one half of an ACE Double in 1955.
In 2203 a Quizmaster, chosen randomly from over six billion people, rules the solar system. This Quizmaster has to fend off assassins, and even with the protection of a telepathic corps, it’s rare for a Quizmaster to stay in power very long. Reese Verrick though manages to hold onto the position for ten years until lowly electronics repairman Leon Cartwright figures out how to game the system.
The main story is entertaining in the pulpy style of the 50s even if it does get bogged down in a lot of jargon (bottle twitching, Minimax M-game theory) that isn’t very well explained. It has one too many things going on with a side story about a mythical tenth planet, supposedly discovered by some crackpot, whose followers travel to the far reaches of the solar system to try to find it.
Dick said that he borrowed from the other sci-fi greats of the era when writing this one, like A.E. Van Vogt (I assume that’s where the wooden characterization comes from) and Alfred Bester whose The Demolished Man directly inspires the telepathic corps that protects the Quizmaster. The speechifying Ted Benteley has a lot in common with the angry and idealistic Stuart Hadley from Voices From the Street which Dick wrote just before writing Solar Lottery.
Cast of characters
- Ted Benteley – pledges allegiance to Verrick without knowing Cartwright is the new Quizmaster
- Reese Verrick – the former Quizmaster
- Eleanor Stevens – Verrick’s secretary. A former telepath who gives up her ability to stay on with Verrick
- Peter Wakeman – one of the Quizmaster’s teeps
- Leon Cartwright – the new Quizmaster
- John Preston – deceased figurehead of the Prestonites. Preached of a undiscovered tenth planet called the Flame Disc
- Rita O’neill – a Prestonite. Cartwright’s niece
- Major Shaeffer – part of the Quizmaster’s teep Corps
- Herbert Moore – a biochemist working for Verrick
- Al and Laura Davis – Ted Benteley’s longtime friends
- Keith Pellig – the assassin chosen by the Convention
- Bill Konklin & Mary Uzich – Prestonites on board the ship to the Flame Disc
- Captain Groves – the pilot of the ship on the way to the Flame Disc
- Judge Waring – the judge who decides whether Benteley broke his oath to Verrick