tag: Extraterrestrials

Galactic Pot-Healer

Galactic Pot-Healer
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I disliked the Galactic Pot-Healer the first time I read it, even going so far as to say it was one of Dick’s worst books, but that was before I read gems like Dr. Futurity and Vulcan’s Hammer. After rereading it I will admit it’s not terrible. I love the absurdist humor, particularly Joe’s robot servant Willis, but I still get what I didn’t like about it the first time. The whole endeavor, where a group of various specialists are summoned to a planet by a powerful alien named Glimmung in order to raise a temple from the planet’s ocean, seemed ultimately pointless. I also never quite understood the Old Testament-like Glimmung.

The story was uneven, like it was a few drafts away from being great, although I’m not sure that’s how Dick worked.

Here are Dick’s own feelings about this one noted over at philipkdickfans.com:

Sometimes it seems funny to me, sometimes it seems…stupid. Stupid. Nothing can be said for it.

He probably put it best himself.

Cast of characters

  • Joe Fernwright – the titular pot-healer
  • Gauk – the soviet official who Joe plays a translation game with over the phone
  • Smith – another player of ‘the game’ in New York
  • Kate – Joe’s ex-wife
  • Hymes and Perkin – two Quietude Civil Authority policemen
  • Glimmung – the alien who wants to raise the temple of Heldscalla on Plowman’s Planet
  • Mali Yojez – a marine biologist on the crew to Plowman’s Planet
  • Harper Baldwin – a psychokineticist on Glimmung’s crew
  • Willis – Joe’s robot servant
  • Amalita – the god worshipped in the temple of Heldscalla
  • Borel – Amalita’s evil sister

The Ganymede Takeover

The Ganymede Takeover
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The Ganymede Takeover is a forgettable collaboration Dick wrote with Ray Nelson in the mid-60s.

Worm-like, telepathic Ganymedeans have invaded Earth, and one of the few groups of humans still putting up a fight are the stupidly-named Neeg-parts, led by Percy X, in the hills of Tennessee. These Neeg-parts get ahold of some mind-warping technology designed for the U.N. and they finally fight off the Ganymedeans in the end.

Cast of characters

  • Mekkis – a Ganymedean civilian administrator who takes control of the bale of Tennessee
  • Koli – Military Administrator for the Ganymedeans. In control of the bale of Tennessee until Mekkis takes over
  • The Oracle – a precog Ganymedean creech
  • Percy X – leader of the Neeg-parts on Earth. A telepath
  • Lincoln Shaw – Percy X’s second-in-command
  • Joan Hiashi – intends to infiltrate the Neeg-parts on behalf of the Ganymedeans
  • Paul Rivers – a psychiatrist with the World Psychiatric Association
  • Gus Swenesgard – feudal baron of a plantation area in Tennessee
  • Rudolph Balkani – Chief of the Bureau of Psychedelic Research

Nick and the Glimmung

Nick and the Glimmung

Nick and the Glimmung is Philip K. Dick’s lone children’s book. He wrote it in the late ‘60s, but it wasn’t published until 1988. After reading so many of his dour mainstream novels I forgot how deadpan and funny he can be.

Because there isn’t enough food to go around on Earth, it is illegal to own pets after 1992. Young Nick Graham owns a cat named Horace, but after it slips outside and gets exposed, Graham’s family decides to emigrate to Plowman’s Planet with the cat rather than let the cat be taken away.

Once on Plowman’s Planet the Grahams have to deal with the various local creatures who are fighting a war amongst themselves spurred on by the evil Glimmung. Horace gets snatched up several times by werjes and trobes, but in the end, Nick fends off Glimmung and is reunited with his cat.

Plowman’s Planet, with a similar group of alien creatures, is also the setting for Galactic Pot-Healer written shortly after this one.

Cast of characters

  • Nick Graham– our protagonist
  • Peter Graham – Nick’s father
  • Helen Graham – Nick’s mother
  • Horace – Nick’s cat
  • Miss Juth – Nick’s teacher on Earth
  • Mr. Deverest – a newspaper reporter on Earth writing about Nick and Horace
  • Reg Frankis – a human colonist/scavenger on Plowman’s Planet
  • Jack and Doris McKenna – neighbors on Plowman’s Planet

Other things to know

  • One Summer Day –  Glimmung’s book that lists the weaknesses of every creature on Plowman’s Planet and can also predict the future. A similar book shows up in Lies, Inc.
  • The Last and Final War – Glimmung’s book of propaganda
  • wubs – a different sort of creature than the one in Dick’s short story “Beyond Lies the Wub.” This one can’t speak and communicates through the use of pre-printed cards
  • The Grand Four – the printers, nunks, spiddles and humans united in a war against the trobes, father-things and werjes who fight on the side of Glimmung

The Zap Gun

The Zap Gun
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The Zap Gun eventually won me over with its loopy charm. In 2004 Wes-bloc and Peep-East are locked in a cold war, but they only pretend to build the weapons that keep the other countries at bay.

Weapons fashion designers on both sides create sketches while in a trance-like state. The public believes these sketches are used to construct lethal weapons, but in reality the designs are just turned into consumer gadgets and toys. When aliens attack, the two sides must join together to find a real weapon that can save Earth.

Dick wrote The Zap Gun while he was also writing The Penultimate Truth. In that one he identified with the Yance-man speechwriter hacks, and in this one he writes about Lars Powderdry who has a deep-seated fear he will enter one of his drug-induced trances, return without anything to show for it and be discovered as a fraud.

A lot of the Vintage paperbacks feature the Village Voice blurb that calls Dick the poor man’s Thomas Pynchon. I’d say this is Dick at his most Pynchony with all the goofy names (Surely G. Febbs, Lars Powderdry, Dr. Todt aka Dr. Dead in German) and a plot with an off-kilter sense of humor that takes a while to sort out.

Cast of characters

  • Lars Powderdry – our protagonist. A weapons fashion designer for Wes-bloc
  • Lilo Topchev – Peep-East’s weapons fashion designer
  • Dr. Todt and Elvira Funt – Lars’s medical team
  • Maren Faine – Lars’s mistress
  • General Nitz – the Commander in Chief on Natsec’s board
  • Marshal Paponovich – Soviet Marshal and head of SeRKeb
  • Don Packard – a KACH-man
  • Surely G. Febbs – the newest concomody on the UN-W Natsec Board
  • Pete Freid – ranking engineer at Lanferman Associates
  • Aksel Kaminsky – a Soviet official
  • Jack Lanferman – owner of Lanferman Associates
  • Vincent Klug – toymaker who tries to convince Lanferman to partner with him on  prototypes
  • Major Geschenko – head of the Soviet KVB surveillance team
  • Ricardo Hastings – a so-called war veteran who traveled back in time from 2068

Other things to know

  • Wes-bloc – the Western nations
  • Peep-East – the Sino-Soviet bloc of countries
  • KACH – a planet-wide private police agency
  • SeRKeb – Peep-East’s governing body
  • UN-W Natsec – the governing board of Wes-bloc
  • Lanferman Associates – the firm that produces prototypes from Lars’s trance sketches
  • pursaps – pure saps or poor saps. The majority of the public
  • cogs – the cognoscenti. The ruling class who know the truth about the “weapons”

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