My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Not a bad book by Philip K Dick. An early one, and therefore a little more linear than his later works. Although, truth be told, toward the end of the book it can get a little convoluted, so it was occasionally hard to follow.
Dr. Jim Parsons gets into a car wreck and is thrown 400 years into the future. He is nearly immediately run over by a young driver, who stops to pick him up. Parsons is confused when he can’t understand the young man, and this could have been difficult, but Dick took the easy way out by telling us Parsons gradually started picking up the language and everything from that point on is in English.
Parsons is taken into San Francisco and sees the streets teeming with young people, all looking alike, with Native American looks and features. He enters a meeting in a warehouse, where the occupants are attacked and he successfully saves the live of a wounded girl. Only to be arrested. You see, in this world, death is glorified and institutionalized euthanasia is enforced around age 30. He’s sent to a prison camp on Mars, but escapes and winds up on a planet where he finds a plaque made out to him, giving him instructions on how to operate the space ship. Weird, I know. It’s actually explained on the last page of the book.
Parsons comes across a tribe of these people whose murdered leader is kept frozen in the hope that he can be restored to life. Indeed, these people are the ones responsible for bringing Parsons into the future in the hopes that with his medical knowledge and equipment, he can bring this man back to life. Turns out he died with an arrow to the heart. This group obviously knows about time travel and had gone back to the 16th century to kill Sir Francis Drake and get rid of all colonizers to establish a Native American society that would last to the present time and beyond. During one of these trips back, this leader was killed.
Parsons travels back in time to witness this and discovers that the man responsible for sending him to a Martian prison is posing as Drake and is there to kill Corith, the leader. However, to Parsons’ horror, he confronts Corith to warn him of his impending doom, only to kill him himself in self defense.
Much more time travel takes place and this is when it gets confusing. At some point, there are four time travel ships at Drake’s beach with four groups of people observing Corith die. All from the future, but appearing at different times. Parsons wonders which version of himself he’ll encounter. He tries to find Corith another time to kill him again, so that when Corith is revitalized, he won’t point to Parsons as his killer. Confusing, I know.
At the end, the female leader of the group, Corith’s daughter Loris, shows him their two grown children brought about by the one night Parsons and Loris got it on 19 years previously. They ask if he wants to stay with them, but he elects to return home to his real wife and there the story ends.
This is a book about free will, if anything. It’s not overloaded with numerous concepts like some of Dick’s other works, but it’s a good read nonetheless and I read it in less than a day. A must for Dick fans and recommended for others.