tag: Psionics

The Game-Players of Titan

The Game-Players of Titan
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Dick wrote a string of entertaining books in the 60s after winning the Hugo Award for The Man in the High Castle in 1963.

In The Game Players of Titan radiation from a nuclear war has wiped out much of Earth’s population. The remaining people, most of whom are unable to reproduce, gather together to play a Monopoly-like game where they win controlling deeds to American cities and pair off with spouses with the hope of finding the ‘luck’ to conceive children.

A race of aliens from the Saturn moon Titan has colonized Earth, but these telepathic vugs have problems of their own as a faction of moderates feuds with extremists with psionic powers who have infiltrated Earth disguised as humans. Pete Garden stumbles upon this secret one night during a drug-fueled bender celebrating the luck he found with his new wife. This leads to a showdown on Titan with the game-players of Earth and the vugs who play their own version of the game.

I have to make a note about the Rushmore Effect, because I love it. It’s a kind of limited A.I. given to all inanimate objects. Tea kettles and ice machines say ‘thank you’ and cars and elevators have polite and objective conversations with people, all except for Joe Schilling’s car which is cantankerous and seems to hate him.

Cast of characters

  • Pete Garden – our protagonist. Member of Pretty Blue Fox and former Bindman of Berkeley, California
  • Freya – Pete’s former wife and member of Pretty Blue Fox
  • Jack Blau, Clem Gaines, Bill Calumine, Silvanus Angst, Stuart Marks– Bindmen who play with Pretty Blue Fox
  • Jerome Luckman – Bindman of New York who purchases the title to Berkeley
  • Walt Remington – Pretty Blue Fox member responsible for the Berkeley title ending up with Luckman
  • Dotty Luckman – Luckman’s wife
  • Joe Schilling – record store owner and former Bindman of New York. Lost to Luckman. Joseph Schilling is also the name of the record store owner in Mary and the Giant
  • Dave Mutreaux – Luckman’s precog
  • Sid Mosk – Luckman’s secretary
  • Patricia McClain – former B barred from the game because she’s a telepath. Pete’s neighbor in San Rafael
  • Allan McClain – Pat McClain’s husband
  • Mary Anne McClain – Patricia’s 18-year-old daughter with powerful psionic powers. Her name was repurposed from Mary and the Giant (unpublished when this book came out) along with Joe Schilling
  • Nats Katz – popular tv recording artist
  • U.S. Cummings – the vug District Commissioner
  • Carol Holt – Pete’s new wife
  • E.B. Black – the vug police officer investigating Luckman’s death
  • Wade Hawthorne – the Terran police officer investigating Luckman’s death
  • Laird Sharp – Pete’s attorney
  • E.R. Philipson – a psychiatrist
  • Rothman – leader of the group of psis

Ubik

Ubik
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In Ubik Dick took one of his own tropes, a group of people trapped unknowingly in a simulated or false reality (used previously in Eye in the Sky and later in A Maze of Death) and created one of his most entertaining novels.

In 1992 Glen Runciter’s anti-psionic prudence organization duels with Raymond Hollis’s group of telepaths and precogs. Runciter’s employees end up stuck in the simulated reality of half-life storage after Hollis lures them to the moon and attempts to kill them. The group is tormented by a powerful fifteen-year-old half-lifer, and Runciter, still alive on the outside, tries to help them as time inside half-life regresses into the past (similar to the drug-induced time travel in Now Wait for Last Year).

It sounds absurd in summary, but the book is stuffed with some of Dick’s funniest and best ideas while dealing with his prevalent theme of the nature of reality.

Cast of characters

  • Glen Runciter – owner of Runciter Associates, an anti-psi prudence organization
  • Ella Runciter – Glen’s twenty-year-old dead wife in half-life
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium.  Also the owner of Beloved Brethren Mortuary in “What the Dead Men Say”
  • Jory Miller – a dead fifteen-year-old boy in half-life cold-pac storage
  • Raymond Hollis – employs telepaths. Runciter’s opposition
  • G. G. Ashwood – one of Runciter’s telepaths
  • Joe Chip – Runciter’s electrical tester
  • Pat Conley– an anti-precog
  • Stanton Mick – reclusive speculator and financier
  • Zoe Wirt – Stanton Mick’s assistant
  • Tippy Jackson, Edie Dorn, Al Hammond, John Ild, Francesca Spanish, Tito Apostos, Don Denny, Sammy Mundo, Wendy Wright, Fred Zafsky – Runciter’s inertials who travel to Luna

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”

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