tag: Drugs

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
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Often at the beginning of a Philip K. Dick book I think to myself ‘this has to be one of Dick’s craziest ideas’ before I remember I think that about almost all of his stories. Colonists who have been forced to emigrate to Mars occupy their time by communally taking a drug (Can-D) that lets them inhabit the minds of the Barbie and Ken-like dolls Perky Pat and Walt. While on the drug they are temporarily transported (as Perky Pat and Walt) to an Earth that mimics their carefully constructed Perky Pat layout.

Back on the real Earth the pre-cog employees at P. P. Layouts try to determine which consumer goods will be popular so that they can be minified and sent to Mars for the colonists to use in their Perky Pat environments. This balance is upset when the industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from the Proxima system with a potent new drug that he plans to market to the colonists as a more effective escape from the drudgery of Mars.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch remains my favorite PKD book even after having read them all. You might assume it was inspired by the use of LSD, but Dick claims to have not yet tried that particular drug at this point in his life. Instead, fueled by large quantities of amphetamines, he wrote this during an incredibly prolific two-year period in 1963-64 when he also wrote some of my other favorites including The Game Players of Titan, Now Wait for Last Year, The Simulacra and Clans of the Alphane Moon.

Is the world of Perky Pat the same world from The Crack in Space? Who knows, but while in the mind of Walt, one of the colonists catches Jim Briskin, everyone’s favorite newsclown (or maybe just mine), on TV.

Cast of characters

  • Barney Mayerson – a pre-cog. Head of pre-fash marketing at  P. P. Layouts
  • Roni Fugate – a pre-cog. Barney’s assistant and mistress
  • Leo Bulero – chairman of the board at P. P. Layouts
  • Emily Hnatt – Barney’s ex-wife
  • Richard Hnatt – Emily’s current husband
  • Palmer Eldritch – the interplan industrialist who returns from Proxima
  • Sam Regan, Mary Regan, Tod Morris, Norman Schein, Helen Morris, Fran Schein – Mars colonists
  • Allen and Charlotte Faine – disc jockeys in a Mars satellite
  • Felix Blau – head of the police agency
  • Dr. Wily Denkmal – runs an E therapy clinic in Germany

A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly
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Dick wrote A Scanner Darkly based on his experiences living in the so-called ‘hermit house’ in Orange County with a rotating cast of drug dealers and users in the early ‘70s after his divorce from his fourth wife Nancy. Although he stayed away from harder drugs of the kind that inspired A Scanner Darkly’s brain-destroying Substance D (amphetamines were Dick’s drug of choice for many years before and during this time), he witnessed how drugs ruined the minds and lives of heavy users coming out of the 1960s.

Dick’s brilliant conceit for an anti-drug novel involves undercover narc Bob Arctor assigned to observe himself through holo-scanners hidden in the house where he and his doper friends live. As ‘Fred’ he watches himself while wearing a scramble suit so that his cover isn’t blown, but he also abuses more and more Substance D until he loses all sense of his identity. In the end he no longer recognizes that he is actually Bob Arctor and is sent to a clinic for barely functioning addicts.

Richard Linklater’s film based on the book is one of the best PKD adaptations. Winona Ryder was recovering from a high-profile issue with drugs at the time as was Robert Downey, Jr. who is particularly great (pre-Iron Man) as Arctor’s weaselly roommate Jim Barris. The movie perfectly captures the paranoia of Dick’s work, and A Scanner Darkly is Dick at his most paranoid. Both are hilarious (the movie is very faithful to the book) but also bleak, since Dick wants to make it clear drugs will unavoidably consume your life until there is nothing left.

Cast of characters

  • Bob Arctor aka Fred aka Bruce – an undercover narcotics agent
  • Jerry Fabin – an addict at the beginning of the book who sees (and feels) aphids everywhere before he gets sent to a Federal Clinic
  • Charles Freck – a doper in Bob’s circle of friends
  • Donna Hawthorne – Bob Arctor’s girl and the small-time dealer he’s working
  • Jim Barris – Bob’s roommate
  • Ernie Luckman – Bob’s roommate
  • Hank – Fred’s superior

Other things to know

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12 (King James Version)

This Bible verse, which has inspired the titles of many works including this one, comes at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul is discussing the importance of love. ‘Glass’ here is often translated as mirror. Now we see things imperfectly, but at the end of time (or when we meet Jesus or whatever), everything will be made clear.

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
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Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said breaks from the formula Dick had used in a lot of his earlier books. Instead of a down-on-his-luck everyman, Jason Taverner (blessed with strength, smarts and good looks due to a secret genetic experiment) is the host of a popular television show. After his mistress attempts to kill him, he wakes up in a world where he is no longer famous and evidently doesn’t even exist.

The mystery of how Jason ended up in a parallel universe with no identity doesn’t have a particularly satisfying conclusion, but Dick seems more concerned in this one with exploring ideas of love and grief. Ruth Rae has a long discussion with Jason about the importance of love for pets in spite of their short lives, and in a memorable sequence, the police general Felix Buckman has a nervous breakdown near the end of the book as he processes the death of Alys, who was not only his sister but also his incestuous lover.

Cast of characters

  • Jason Taverner – host of the Jason Taverner Show
  • Heather Hart – Jason’s girlfriend
  • Marilyn Mason – Jason’s mistress who tries to kill him
  • Kathy Nelson – the young girl who forges Jason’s documents
  • Inspector McNulty – Kathy’s police contact
  • Felix Buckman – Los Angeles police general
  • Alys Buckman – Buckman’s twin sister
  • Herb Maime – Buckman’s chief of staff
  • Ruth Rae – Jason’s former mistress who he meets in Las Vegas
  • Mary Anne Dominic – a potter. She helps Jason escape from the Buckman house

Our Friends from Frolix 8

Our Friends from Frolix 8
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In the far-off future mankind has evolved. The New Men are those with bigger brains and a greater intellect, while the Unusuals are mutants with psionic abilities. These two groups form a loosely-aligned ruling class who oppress the unevolved Old Men just struggling to get by. But don’t forget about the Under Men! They follow the writings of Eric Cordon and rebel against the whole class imbalance while waiting for Thors Provoni to return from outer space with some kind of help to free them from the tyrannical rule.

Our Friends from Frolix 8 is about as middle of the road as you can get with Dick’s minor works. I remembered almost nothing about it before I reread it. It’s redeemed by the oddball telepath and supreme leader of Earth Willis Gram, but only somewhat, and if you replaced sad-sack Nick Appleton with the protagonist from a dozen of Dick’s other stories you probably wouldn’t notice a difference.

Cast of characters

  • Nick Appleton – our protag. He’s employed as a tire regroover, an odd profession since the squibs in the book are flying vehicles
  • Bobby Appleton – Nick’s son
  • Kleo Appleton – Nick’s wife
  • Thors Provoni – left Earth to look for help in the far reaches of outer space
  • Willis Gram – Council Chairman of the Extraordinary Committee for Public Safety (Unusual)
  • Lloyd Barnes – the police director (New Man)
  • Eric Cordon – Under Man organizer and propaganda writer
  • Earl Zeta – Nick’s boss (Under Man)
  • Charlotte Boyer – a sixteen-year-old Under Man girl who gets involved with Nick
  • Denny – Charlotte’s boyfriend (Under Man)
  • Morgo Rahn Wilc – the Frolixan friend who accompanies Thors Provoni back to Earth
  • Amos Ild – one of the world’s smartest New Men

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

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