Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As this was Dick’s first published novel (1955), I think it’s a pretty good effort. It’s certainly more straightforward than many of his later mindf***s. In this world of 2203, the world is ruled by the Quizmaster, who oversees a lottery which is supposed to give everyone an equal chance at the position. The thing is, you really don’t want to win this lottery because with it comes the sanctioning of assassins who are chosen by a televised convention to kill the Quizmaster. The average Quizmaster lasts about a week.
However, Reece Verrick has been in the position for 10 years and wants to hold onto his power. The irony, then, lies in the spin of an actual bottle, which chooses a new Quizmaster, Leon Cartwright, a member of the Preston Society, an odd type of cult which is seeking the Flame Disc, the mythical 10th planet at the edge of the solar system which Preston had written about a long time ago.
The protagonist is Ted Benteley, a man released from his job with one of the powerful global entities which one has to swear fiefdom to. He attempts to get a job with the Quizmaster, not realizing Verrick has been deposed. He’s cajoled into swearing allegiance to Verrick, and is then whisked off to their new headquarters where they’re preparing the ultimate assassin.
At the same time, members of the Preston Society have boarded a rocket and are headed into outer space in search of the Flame Disc, a plot line which plays a far greater role toward the end of the book.
In this book, Dick’s target for criticism isn’t the usual black man, but females. They’re all negative stereotypes of 1950s-era femininity, but maybe since he was writing in that decade, he can be forgiven. I don’t know. The women are dependent and manipulative, and it gets annoying.
One of the cool things about the book, though, is the Corps, the teeps who are telepathic and whose duty it is to protect the Quizmaster. It’s interesting to see them wrestle with the assassin, and the creation of this virtually unbeatable assassin is simply brilliant.
Dick deals with themes of power, corruption, telepathy, space travel, and more in this novel. As previously noted, it’s more linear than his later novels, which was something I kind of appreciated. I wouldn’t recommend it as his first book to read, but if you like sci fi or if you’re a PKD fan, I heartily recommend it.