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A Review of Humpty Dumpty in Oakland

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 25, 2013

Humpty Dumpty in OaklandHumpty Dumpty in Oakland by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I feel like a total traitor, because I got through the first six chapters — to page 94 — and finally gave up. Philip K. Dick is one of my two favorite writers, the other being Charles Bukowski. I’ve ALWAYS loved his books, even if some are imperfect. This one, though, was simply dull.

It’s a well known fact that Dick hated being considered a sci fi hack and wanted to be considered a mainstream novelist. He wrote three mainstream novels, none of which were ever considered good enough to be published. He stuck with sci fi the rest of his bitter life. Humpty Dumpty in Oakland is one of these three mainstream novels, published after his death. It rambles, it’s unexciting, it doesn’t do much, it’s boring. An old body shop owner named Jim Fergesssen sells his shop to retire. A lot sub-letter who sells used cars named Al Miller is resentful and suspects something wrong is going on when Chris Harmon, a shady business owner gets involved with Jim’s affairs, trying to talk him into a risky real estate venture. Yep, that’s it. I just spent my entire lunch hour reading about Jim driving through northern California to find a housing development to scope it out for possible investment purposes. Quite different from your average Philip K. Dick craziness that ya know and love! I’ve read that if you can make it through the first 150 pages, the ending isn’t too bad, but I’m not willing to go that far. I feel guilty. This reminds me of Bukowski’s last book, Pulp, published around the time he died in 1994. A pulp mystery, it lacks in so many ways and doesn’t do the man justice. Perhaps this is Dick’s Pulp. Well, I’m now going to read another book of Dick’s published after his death — Radio Free Albemuth — a sort of precursor to Valis, apparently. It sounds pretty interesting. I hope I enjoy it infinitely more than this one. I suspect I will.

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