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Martin Skidmore on PKD:

(In a review of THE DIVINE INVASION and Ian Watson's GOD'S WORLD; 1982:

THE DIVINE INVASION concerns a much more traditional theological view, with the son of God being born from a human virgin, opposed by the establishment, and battling the devil for human souls...
. Dick's style is, however, much more simple, and it is this, combined with his prodigious output at times in the past, which have unjustly given him a reputation as a 'hack' in some circles. Ursula Le Guin states my views beautifully when she says "the fact that what Dick is entertaining us about is reality and madness, time and death, sin and salvation -- this has escaped most critics." The nature of reality and sanity (two closely interlinked concepts) have been the dominant theme through much of his work, and this book is no exception.

Manny, the second son of God, suffers brain damage at a very young age, and much of the book concerns his struggle to understand the nature of the world, and particularly of Zina, a young girl who is his constant companion, but who hides her enigmatic true self from him. Dick leaves the reader in doubt almost to the end as to whether Zina is an agent of God or the devil, or some completely seperate entity. He also examines the problems faced by Manny's legal father, an ordinary human, as the war for the soul of mankind progresses. Herb Asher is constantly at or near the center of the action, yet is completely helpless to influence events in the smallest way. He acts as the typical human observer, and many other characters strike a chord in a person livingt in today's times, thus giving us a stable base from which to view events. Dick is also a master of delightfully humorous interjections...

Neither of these are great books, but they're both good ones, well worth yer 'ard earned cash.


THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH reviewed by Gene Berkman

    A recurrent theme in the novels of Philip K. Dick is the ambiguous nature of reality. Nothing is ever quite what it appears to be. Dick uses his fiction to show that those in power use this ambiguity to maintain their hold on power.

    THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH takes place against a background of perpetual war. The bulk of the population lives in underground bunkers, building military robots to replace the ones destroyed in fighting on the surface. Permanant wars keep the people underground, living on short rations, but patriotically enduring their restricted life in order to support the war effort.

    Those living on the surface -- the governing elite -- know that the war has been over for almost thirteen years. By maintaining the myth of permanent war, the elite few have possession of the vast spaces of the earth's face to themselves.

    Of course, the surface continues to be divided between the two camps that had briefly fought with nuclear weapons. Each side, each government, tells its own underground subjects that the war continues. Each government uses similar propaganda -- indeed, the exact same propaganda, with the appropriate modifications. Each side employs the services of the same master propagandists, and with the same goal -- maintaining their dominion  over their portion of the earth's surface.

    THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, recently reprinted by Carroll & Graf, was first published in 1964. The US government was just beginning to "escalate" its military intervention in Vietnam. At the same time, US and Soviet leaders spoke of a convergence of the superpowers, based on common interests. Yet, despite the talk of "detente" and "convergence," the early 60s had also seen the Cuban missile crisis and backyard underground bomb shelters. "Convergence" and war scare and real war all existed simultaneously, in contradiction to each other. The art of Philip K. Dick was to recognize the coexistence of these contradictory trends, and to project them into an eery, dark future for the human race.

    THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH is not journalism, of course. It is science fiction, with science fiction elements darkening an otherwise dark picture. Dick creates his own language of abbreviations, contradictions, and conjectures. Underground bunkers are "ant tanks" (from antiseptic); military robots are "leadies" etc. And there are the mandatory references to Mars and to time travel, characteristic of almost every novel by Philip K. Dick.

    A novel has to have a plot. In THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, plots abound. Individuals in the surface-bound elite plot against each other. An underground leader plots to reach the surface. And several people, on the surface and below, plot to understand why things are the way they are.

    A plot, of course, must have a resolution. My resolution is that I will not betray the plot, so you won't get another word out of me.

    If today's spy novels are too tame for you, and today's science fiction lacks originality, then seek out the truth. THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH.

{The Inland Alternative, c1989}


KACH-22 A review of THE ZAP GUN by R.E. Geis

    Philip K. Dick has a habit of persuading the reader he is presenting a common, every-day variety of science fiction, in this instance a satire, and then, when the reader is hooked, or isn't looking, firing the zingers deep into the poor sap's unsuspecting mind.

    In ZAP GUN the plot runs as follows: by the year 2004 the East bloc and the West bloc have agreed to peace but for the benefit of their "average man" have kept the cold war alive in the mass media by using psi-talented weapons designers who "create" super weapons while in drugged trance-states. But the weapons are fakes and are immediately "plowshared" into household gadgets.

    Dick doesn't explain why this system works so well, economically, or why the two blocs have to kid their populations along, but never mind -- this is satire, isn't it?

    Some of the characers are oddly named: the protagonist, Lars Powderdry, the West's weapons designer; and a minor (seemingly) character named Surley G. Febbs. Those names, plus the jesting and mucked-up blurb-teaser page just inside the cover, further instruct the reader that this book is wild satire.

    Okay, to continue the plot: alien satellites appear in the sky. The world's rulers suddenly realise they have no weapons that can touch these sats. The East bloc and West bloc weappons designers are brought together to come up with a real weapon. They fail. In the meantime the aliens, Sirius slave traders, are sucking up whole city populations.

    A basic s-f plot, right? But Dick starts winging and suddenly the ruleas are out the window. We meet an ancient war veteran who talks of a war he fought 63 years ago in 2005 -- one year in the future! We discover that the weapons designers have been tuning into the mind of a mad cartoonist and stealing his comic book fantasy weapons. And we find that a weapon can be created from a contemporarty toy to defeat the aliens. Who tipped off the hero, Lars Powderdry, about the toys? The old war veteran who has time-travelled back to save the world. The veteran is Vincent Klug, a failure as a toymaker in 2004 who may be the ultimate ruler of the world. Or, then again, maybe he isn't.

    Surley G. Febbs? Oh, he's a typical paranoid chosen by a government computer to help "rule" the West bloc in committee with five other typical pursap (pure sap) citizens. Surley manages to put together a real zap gun and is almost the supreme ruler of the world except for one little thing -- at the last moment he gets caught in a mind-destroying maze, see, and...

    Then there is the head of KACH, a private espionage outfit serving both East and West. He, too, is caught by one of the mazes which is delivered by mail, as was the one that trapped Surley.

    So who sent the mazes?

    Suddenly, with Philip K. Dick writing the book, nothing is simple or settled.

    The characters are real people, not caricatures, and this is confusing, because if the people are real that means the plot isn't just for laughs and -- On the other hand the plot has to be a fake because the book should have ended at the finish of chapter 29. But the story goes on and makes all that happened before so much scrap. The Sirius Slave Traders and weapons designers plot is a schtik, an excersize in Dickian put-on.

    With this guy Nothing Is Certain.

    And I like it this way. His books are a challenge.

    The zingers? Dick makes comments about now in a future setting. Like: "There is, he thought, probably a free pamphlet, distributed by UN-West for the asking, titled something like, HOW WE RULE YOU FELLAS AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

    And there are others.

    I wonder if Dick used the I Ching when plotting this book? I'm still trying to puzzle out the meaning of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.

{in PSYCHOTIC #21 Nov 1967, GSM xerox collection}


UBIK reviewed by Richard E Geis.

    This novel is one of THOSE... engrossing, unputdownable, fascinating, baffling. I haven't enjoyed a book so much in years.

    Here is Philip K.Dick manipulating reality again; this time in the world of half-life in the minds of people frozen soon after death. It is not a placid inner world, and not not placid for the reasons you may think.

    There are psi elements, time regresion elements, a psychotic entity which...

    No, I won't give it away. The novel is a literary dance of the seven veils; as each puzzling veil falls more is understood, and then more; there are reversals, hints, and there is a brief sight of the golden truth, and deliberate teasing, and finally ... finally... understanding is there, naked --

    -- and it goes poof in the last six paragraphs as Dick strikes again!

    Ubik stands for ubiquitous, but that's no clue at all... or is it? The book defies plot encapsulation. Read it. Read it!

{Science Fiction Review#32    Aug 1969}{GSM xerox collection}


FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID reviewed by Richard E. Geis

    The new Philip K. Dick novel from Doubleday, FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID, is very good, in the usual Dick fractured, warped, out-of-phase reality mode.

    But this time, at the end, he lets the reader and the hero stay on real, solid ground. Also, i detected a new (or at least obvious) element of political advocacy/viewing-with-alarm... which is probably a result of his experiences with the secret police of America in the past few years.

{The Alien Critic    May 1979}{GSM xerox collection}


   Science Fiction Review2 #20    Feb 1977:

    Phil Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY, issued by Doubleday at $6.95, made more interesting because of what Phil had to say about the book in the SFR #19 interview. It's a well-written novel about drug addiction and the dealer/user/narc underground.

    And, it isn't science fiction, in a true sense; it's a translation. The 1986 time-frame, the Substance D drug, the advanced spy devices employed... these are not essential to the plot.

    But it is a terrifying novel, Geis, in the subtle destructiveness of the drugs, in the self-destruction, and the horrible ends-justifies-the-means plot of the Federal narcs.

    Better believe it. Phil Dick was a "hero" of sorts to the sf fans who were into drugs, but this book will cool that ardor; he has seen too many friends turn into mental basket cases, and this book is his warning. It has elements of Kafka and Orwell. Recommended.

{Reviewed by R.E.Geis}{GSM xerox collection}


“Eye in the Sky” by Philip K. Dick, Ace Books, 1957.
During a routine tour of a physics laboratory, eight tourists have an accident, falling sixty feet through a beam of charged particles. Fortunately, they all survive and are quickly patched back together at a hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, they slowly realize that something about the world has changed... but just for them. Hamilton, the main character, tries to understand how and why the world has changed, world, with the assistance of some of the other tour members. As Hamilton finally figures out what has happened, the world changes again, and he must start all over. This book frequently feels like a bad dream, which is one of the qualities of Dick’s writing that I really enjoy.

The fun part of this plot is watching Hamilton trying to deal with the changes as they occur, and some of these changes are quite interesting. Hamilton keeps trying to go to work, but his job description keeps shifting. Various characters reappear with different personalities, and in fact the world changes sometimes reflect back and change the eight tour members. The part I admire most about the way this book is written is that the world changes are integral to the plot; they are not merely excuses for Dick to show off his talents of imaging new worlds. All throughout the book, Hamilton’s effort to “get to the bottom of this” is foremost, and the world shifts are steps on the way out of the mess.

Well, I don’t want to give away too much, so you’ll have to read the book to learn exactly what is going on. This book is one of the better books by Dick that I’ve read, and the ending is satisfying. (That’s how I described the last book by Dick that I reviewed-- A Scanner Darkly -- I should mention that some books by PKD tend to get lost somewhere in the middle, with the ending having little connection with the beginning. I don’t care for that style as much.) I give this book 3 stars.

An interesting side note: the book is strongly against McCarthyism. In the first chapter, Hamilton loses his job at a weapons plant because his wife is a suspected communist. This is not the most important theme in the book, but it does recur now and then. The dynamics between Hamilton and his wife (who is one of the eight people on the tour) add to the book. This book rather bluntly makes the point that McCarthyist attitudes ridiculous and counterproductive. (Is “McCarthyist” a word? It ought to be.) {Richard Weeks, 1998?}



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