tag: Mental Illness

Martian Time-Slip

Martian Time-Slip
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In Martian Time-Slip, Jack Bohlen, a service repairman on Mars, crosses paths with Arnie Kott, a big man on the planet who is struggling to maintain his standing as the UN pushes for new regulations.

In this phildickian future of 1994 we learn the frightening statistic that one out of six people suffers from some form of schizophrenia. We also learn that someone with autism is trapped in a world they perceive as moving so quickly they can see into the future. Amid rumors of the UN’s interest in some Martian land for new settlements, Kott schemes to use Bohlen (a ‘former’ schizophrenic) and Bohlen’s connection to his young autistic neighbor Manfred to get a jumpstart on the competition and claim the land for himself.

This book is one of my favorites. The description of Jack’s first schizophrenic episode as a young man is terrifying, as is the entropic, “gubble gubble” world of Manfred as it encroaches into the minds of everyone around him.

Along with Dick’s ideas concerning autism, nothing about the planet in Martian Time-Slip suggests an attempt at rigorous science. PKD’s Mars features flowing water (although it’s scarce), breathable air and an indigenous population of natives called Bleekmen who were on the planet when Earth colonists arrived.

In the hard science fiction novel Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson named the 39.5 minutes of non-time between midnight and 12:01 when the clocks are stopped on Mars in order to simulate an even 24-hour day the ‘Martian time-slip’ as an homage to Dick’s book.

Cast of characters

  • Jack Bohlen – our protagonist. A service repairman on Mars
  • Silvia Bohlen – Jack’s wife
  • David Bohlen – Jack’s son
  • Leo Bohlen – Jack’s father. A land speculator from Earth
  • Mr. Yee – Jack’s employer
  • Arnie Kott – president of the Water Workers’ Local
  • Anne Esterhazy – Arnie’s ex-wife. Circulates a political newsletter for women
  • Norbert Steiner – Jack’s neighbor and dealer in black-market food
  • Otto Zitte – a black marketeer
  • Manfred Steiner – Norbert’s autistic son in Camp B-G for anomalous children
  • Dr. Glaub – a psychotherapist
  • Doreen Anderton – Arnie Kott’s mistress and Jack’s lover

Clans of the Alphane Moon

Clans of the Alphane Moon
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One of Dick’s funniest premises. Former patients of a mental hospital abandoned by Earth on an Alphane moon have established a somewhat stable class system organized by mental disorder. The clans include the Pares (paranoids), Manses (manics), Deps (depressives), Polys (polymorphic schizophrenics), Skitzes, (schizophrenics), Ob-Coms (obsessive compulsives) and the Heebs (hebephrenics).

On Earth Chuck Rittersdorf is drawn into a plot involving the Alphanes and their quest to regain control of the moon. Mary Rittersdorf, a psychologist and Chuck’s estranged wife, travels to the moon to evaluate the inhabitants. Meanwhile Chuck gets involved with Bunny Hentman, a former criminal with ties to the Alphane government, who is currently working on Earth as a TV comic. He hires Chuck as a writer (apparently the scripts Chuck writes for CIA simulacra are gut-bustingly funny), but in reality Bunny is only using Chuck because of the connection to his wife.

Chuck eventually ends up on the Alphane moon, and the story wraps up with Chuck helping to convince the clans to accept Alphane rule as long as they aren’t put back into a mental hospital. Mary and Chuck tentatively resume their relationship (I forgot to mention Chuck was trying to kill Mary all this time with the use of a CIA simulacrum) and they both have mental evaluations. Turns out Mary is a Dep, but Chuck, who has a clean bill of mental health, decides to start a new clan on the moon called the Norms.

Clans of the Alphane Moon is filled with some of Dick’s most unique characters like the Heeb mystics and the telepathic Ganymedean slime Lord Running Clam, so it’s too bad we spend most of the book with Chuck, a typically bland PKD protagonist dealing with suicidal impulses and marital problems.

Cast of characters

  • Gabriel Baines – the Pare delegate
  • Howard Straw – the Mans delegate
  • Jacob Simion – the Heeb delegate
  • Annette Golding – the Poly delegate
  • Ingrid Hibbler – the Ob Com delegate
  • Omar Diamond – the Skitz delegate
  • Dino Waters – the Dep delegate
  • Chuck Rittersdorf – our protagonist. Programs simulacra for the CIA
  • Mary Rittersdorf – Chuck’s estranged wife. A psychologist
  • Bunny Hentman – a TV comedian
  • Jerry Feld – producer of Bunny’s show
  • Joan Triste – a psi capable of rewinding time
  • Lord Running Clam – Chuck’s Ganymedean neighbor
  • Jack Elwood – Chuck’s CIA boss
  • Roger London – Jack Elwood’s boss
  • Pete Petri – Chuck’s scriptwriting coworker at the CIA
  • Daniel Mageboom – the simulacrum sent to the Alphane moon with Mary
  • Ignatz Ledebur – a Heeb mystic
  • Sarah Apostoles – another Heeb mystic
  • Calv Dark and Thursday Jones – Bunny’s writers
  • RBX 303 – an Alphane connected to the Alphane government
  • Patty Weaver – Bunny’s mistress

We Can Build You

We Can Build You
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Dick wrote We Can Build You in 1962 just after writing the Hugo Award-winning The Man in the High Castle, although it took ten years before someone agreed to publish this one as a book. He was attempting to blend his mainstream ambitions with elements of broader science fiction, and it’s unfortunate this style of his was rejected by so many publishers, since he wouldn’t attempt another hybrid like this until his last book, the excellent Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

We Can Build You is one of only a handful of books he wrote in first person, this one told from the point of view of Louis Rosen, co-owner of a company called MASA Associates that decides to build functioning simulacra of Civil War participants for a reenactment. They only get as far as creating a simulacrum of Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edward Stanton, and then later Lincoln himself, before they get tangled up with the businessman Sam Burrows.

Burrows has speculated on land on the moon, and he wants to take MASA’s idea and build simulacra for his lunar property, thinking that people would be more willing to immigrate there if they already had neighbors, even if those neighbors weren’t real. In the meantime, Louis becomes fixated on Maury’s mentally ill daughter Pris, and eventually Louis has a mental breakdown himself when Pris leaves to join up with Burrows.

Dick would tackle the idea of human vs simulacra, although in a much different way, in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? written five years later. In that one he repurposes the names Pris and Rosen which he often did when one of his books went unpublished.

Cast of characters

  • Louis Rosen – our protagonist. Co-owner of MASA
  • Maury Frauenzimmer – Louis’s business partner in MASA
  • Bob Bundy – MASA’s electronics genius
  • Jerome Rosen – Louis’s father
  • Chester Rosen – Louis’s brother
  • Edward Stanton – Lincoln’s Secretary of War during the Civil War and MASA’s first simulacrum
  • Abraham Lincoln – MASA’s second simulacrum
  • Pris Frauenzimmer – Maury’s eighteen-year-old mentally ill daughter
  • Sam Burrows – multi-millionaire and lunar land speculator
  • Dr. Horstowski – Pris’s and later Louis’s psychiatrist
  • Colleen Nild – Burrows’s secretary
  • Dave Blunk – Burrow’s attorney
  • Silvia Devorac – crusader opposing the slum-like Green Peach Hat housing project owned by Burrows
  • Dr. Nisea – Louis’s psychiatrist at the Federal Bureau of Mental Health
  • Dr. Shedd – Louis’s psychiatrist at the Kasanin Clinic

VALIS

Valis
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Whether or not you like VALIS depends on how much you can tolerate Dick’s ramblings about the events of February/March 1974. See R. Crumb’s take on what supposedly happened to him if you aren’t familiar. Others might find it endlessly fascinating, but it’s never done much for me.

VALIS is narrated by Philip K. Dick himself as he tells the story of the apparent descent into madness of Horselover Fat. Since it’s given away early on, it’s not a spoiler to say Fat and Dick have a Tyler Durden thing going on. ‘Philip’ means ‘Horselover’ in Greek and ‘Fat’ is the German translation of ‘Dick.’

I like the style of his later books, but outside of a few amusing scenes (particularly when Fat tries to avoid talking about religion with his therapist so that he doesn’t get sent back to the psych ward but ends up ranting about the deranged god Yaldaboath when the therapist asks him if he believes in God) this book would make a fine cure for insomnia.

In short: Horselover Fat starts to lose his mind after the suicide of a friend, believes he is being contacted by some kind of alien satellite and eventually goes on a quest to find the reborn savior. The story in the VALIS film that Fat and his friends go see is repurposed from Radio Free Albemuth which was unpublished when Dick wrote this book.

Cast of characters

  • Horselover Fat – our protagonist
  • Philip K. Dick – as himself
  • Gloria – commits suicide at the beginning of the book
  • Stephanie – young dope dealer who gives Horselover Fat a clay pot
  • Kevin and David – Horselover Fat’s friends
  • Sherri – Horselover Fat’s friend who dies of cancer
  • Beth – Horselover Fat’s wife
  • Christopher – Horselover Fat’s son
  • Dr. Stone – in charge of the North Ward mental hospital
  • Maurice – Horselover Fat’s therapist
  • Eric Lampton aka Goose – writer/director of the VALIS film
  • Brent Mini – created the music for the VALIS film
  • Sophia – Eric and Linda Lampton’s daughter. The reborn savior??

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
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The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is the last book Dick wrote, published just after he died in 1982. I thought it was terrific, although I’m someone who enjoys the exploration of theology that makes up most of the plot.

Our narrator, a woman named Angel Archer, tells about her father-in-law Bishop Tim Archer who has a crisis of faith after the discovery of an ancient document casts a doubt on Jesus’s divinity. It opens on the day of John Lennon’s murder in 1980, but the majority of the story is flashbacks.

This one is considered one of Dick’s “mainstream” novels, and I wish he had been given a chance to write more books like this. It’s funny and smart and grounded in the real world of Berkeley, California.

Cast of characters

  • Timothy Archer – Episcopalian Bishop of California
  • Jeff Archer – Timothy’s son
  • Angel Archer – our narrator. Jeff’s wife and Timothy’s daughter-in-law
  • Kristen Lundborg – Angel’s best friend and Timothy’s mistress
  • Bill Lundborg – Kristen’s schizophrenic son
  • Edgar Barefoot – hosts a radio show about mysticism on KPFA in Berkeley
  • Fred Hill – owner of the Bad Luck restaurant. Possible KGB agent
  • Dr. Rachel Garret – the elderly medium they use in an attempt to talk to Jeff from beyond the grave

Other things to know

  • The Zadokites – an obscure Jewish sect
  • The Zadokite documents – fictional documents that predate Jesus by 200 years.
    Supposedly they contain “Q” which is the basis for the synoptic gospels in the Bible. The Zadokite fragments, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, are a real thing, but the rest was invented by Dick

I picked up this copy at the library. The author photo on the back, credited to Nicole Panter, shows Dick wearing a Rozz Tox t-shirt, a reference to Gary Panter’s Rozz Tox Manifesto that argues artists should embrace capitalism. Nicole Panter was the manager for The Germs, and Gary won three Emmys for his set designs for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Some Rozz Tox quotes:

  • Capitalism for good or ill is the river in which we sink or swim.
  • Waiting for art talent scouts? There are no art talent scouts. Face it, no one will seek you out. No one gives a shit.
  • Law: If you want better media, go make it.

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