the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Philip K. Dick’ Category

The Penultimate Truth by Philip K Dick

published in 1964

where I got it: purchased used

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You trust your government right?  Ok, maybe not 100%, but at least when it comes to defense of the nation and keeping our citizens safe, you trust the head honchos, right?

 

Nicholas St James and his entire community follow that trust.  They remember being shuffled into underground shelters when the bombs fell.  They remember being told that it would just be until it was safe to come back to the surface, two years at most.  Nick and his family and his community listen to the radio broadcasts, they watch Talbot Yancy speak on TV, they know if they just wait a little longer, that it will be safe to go above ground, and that one day soon their children will see a sunrise and a sunset.  One day the war will be over and the citizens of the tanks will be able to stop building and repairing the leadies who fight for the people’s freedom every day. Without trust, there would be chaos and death. They’ve been in these damn tunnels for thirteen years.

 

Meanwhile, Joseph Adams lives on his estate in California with a phalanx of leadies who are mostly used as house servants and security guards. On a daily basis he flies to his job in New York, where he works as a Yanceman – writing the speeches that will be fed into Talbot Yancy. Who is a robot bolted to an oak desk. Adams and his peers literally write “fake news”.  So much so that fake documentaries were even made that all children watch in school, and most adults have nearly memorized, documentaries that convince the people in the shelters that the government did what they did to protect their own people from harm. The Yancemen take their orders from Stanton Brose, who effectively rules as a feared regent. In Brose’s attempts to rule forever, he has had multiple parts of his body replaced with artificial organs, known as artiforgs. There may be half a dozen artificial hearts or artificial livers in existence, but according to Brose, they are all reserved for his use.

 

Oh, there was a war all right, between West Dem and Pac Peop. And there were bombs that fell. Most of the actual fighting was done by leadies.  The American government shoved as many people as they could into underground shelters, and those who survived above ground lived our their sterile lives in park like surroundings, with leadies to do their bidding. It’s so beautiful and empty up here, no dirty workers anywhere. Maybe we’ll wait just a few more years to bring the people from the shelters up, yeah? Because it’s just so nice up here, with only our friends up here.  Those filthy people who came up on their own? Oh, they are housed in prison-like apartment complexes, where they have a roof over their head, food, their medical needs are seen to, they’re even given jobs!

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So, I finished We Can Build You, by Philip K Dick.

 

There are spoilers ahead. #SorryNotSorry.

 

This book started out so interesting!!  Lots of cool ideas,  simulacrum robots who can pass for human (oh, hai cylons!), there was so much potential for conversations about what makes us alive and how would you know you were a simulacrum, and if you were a simulacrum how would it change you life and maybe it wouldn’t change your life at all. Could you convince yourself you were a robot? Could a robot convince themselves they were a human? My brain was overflowing with hope for interesting ideas.   There is an Edward Stanton simulacrum, and then they make an Abraham Lincoln. Even more possibility for cool things to happen!

 

And then Louis had to decide he was in love with Pris.

 

Louis’s business partner is Maury, and Pris is Maury’s brilliantly creative but mentally unstable 18 year old daughter.  She’s cold towards Louis (because why would an 18 year old be interested in her dad’s buddy? oh, that’s right, she isn’t), and the colder she is towards him, the more he becomes obsessed with her.

 

All those cool ideas? All those cool possibilities? The idea of Abraham Lincoln having to navigate the modern world?  All out the window because Louis chases Pris all over the place, even though she is in a relationship with someone else, even though Maury forbids Louis from being in a relationship with his daughter.    Really, the second half of this book was so fucking boring.  I’d read like 5 pages and then fall asleep.

 

I guess if I read between the lines as far as possible, I could pull something out of this near-future society’s obsession with right thinking and skewed mental health,  that we are being programmed to think and act a certain way, the way a robot is programmed, and when we aren’t acting correctly, when something is wrong with our mental health, we have to be institutionalized to be “reprogrammed”.   Maybe that is what this novel is about?  I had to get through what felt like 500 pages of Louis chasing and threatening people for Pris’s attentions, to get to that?

 

I was really hoping that at the end there would be some big reveal that Louis was a simulacrum, or maybe that Pris was.  Spoiler! that doesn’t happen.

 

I got a few more Philip K Dick books floating around, I hope they are better.

 

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A few months ago, the ads started popping up on Amazon for their original series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.  The ads actually were not very compelling, so I didn’t even notice when the series loaded up.  Some friends mentioned their enjoyment of it on twitter, so a few weeks ago I gave it a try.

 

I’ve only seen three episodes so far, and they were excellent. They aren’t teleplays of PKD stories, but they play with many of the ideas he presented in his fiction.  The show is completely episodic, it is like an anthology, with each episode a self contained story. Maybe later in the series they connect?

 

So, I watch these 3 episodes over the course of a few days,  I pick up We Can Build You and The Game Players of Titan at the used bookstore, and then a couple of days after that I have my first ever ocular migraine.  The good thing about ocular migraines is that they are relatively painless and mine was harmless.  The bad thing is that you can have pixelated visual distortions, which are basically a blind spot in your peripheral vision. It was weird AF but harmless.

 

Yeah, so pixelated visual distortions after watching a few of episodes of Electric Dreams was seriously the most fucked up thing I have ever experienced.

 

To add to the weirdness, I started reading We Can Build You a few days ago. It is so readable and accessible, are we sure Philip K Dick wrote this? Like, I don’t have to work at all to figure out what is going on and what the characters relationships to each other are! Granted, I am only 5 or 6 chapters in, so who knows what will happen later.

If you don’t want to know anything about We Can Build You, stop reading now.  This might turn into a series of posts like the ones I wrote on  Book of the New Sun that had a lot of spoilers.

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Martian Time-Slip (1981)Martian Time-Slip, by Philip K Dick

published in 1964

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve never had much luck reading Philip K. Dick.  I enjoyed reading The Penultimate Truth, and got through Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but other than that, I was rarely able to get more than 20 pages into one of his books. I assumed I didn’t like his writing style, and I gave up.  On a lark, I picked up a used copy of Martian Time-Slip.  It looked short, and thus easily survivable even if I ended up not caring for it.

 

What a happy surprise, to find myself really enjoying it! The beginning of the story follows Jack Bohlen, a highly skilled mechanic at a Mars colony.  He’s able to provide quite well for his family, as it’s nearly impossible to import spare parts, so anyone skilled with fixing machinery is in high demand on Mars.  From Jack’s observations, we get some information on the different colonies his employer sends him to. We also learn about the indigenous Martians, who are still alive. Sometimes hired as cheap labor, the Martians, known as Bleekmen (also known as an offensive term that I can’t bring myself to use), know how to survive away from the canals their ancestors cultivated.  The colonists generally treat the natives like shit, but it’s the law of the air that if you are piloting a flyer, and you see Bleekmen (or anyone) stranded in the desert, you are required the land and provide help as you are able. I’m not sure if it was Dick’s intention, but I saw the colonists treatment of the natives as a commentary on casual racism and post colonialism.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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