My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A decent book, but not a great PKD book. It’s about Floyd Jones, a precog who can see exactly one year into the future and as a result has to live events out twice, once in his visions and once in his reality. It’s also about Cussick, a Fedgov security agent (cop) who spots Jones at a freak show, displaying his talent by reading fortunes. He turns Jones in to be processed, as such people are typically sent to forced labor camps for life, but Jones is released upon the realization that everything he says turns out to be true and they can no longer hold him. Cussick’s wife, Nina, becomes enamored of Jones and joins his new revolutionary party that has helped make Jones a preacher and seer. See, there’s an alien life form called Drifters that Jones says is invading Earth and the surrounding planets and he is intent on saving Earth from the oncoming war. These Drifters are single cell organisms similar to amoebas, and as such, don’t seem very devastating. PKD draws their mystery out well though. In one scene, we see Nina and Cussick go with a couple of his co-workers to a drug bar in San Francisco, where two hermaphrodites put on a horrendous sex show. Cussick is devastated to find out that his wife has taken an apartment there, dissatisfied with her life, and divorce proceedings follow. Jones, meanwhile, grows in popularity and the multitudes are joining his cause, intent upon overthrowing the world government. In the meantime, there’s this bizarre subplot where mutants are grown to populate Venus, as we regular humans can’t live there. They’re kept in an isolated “Refuge,” not exposed to Earth’s atmosphere, air, etc. Later in the book, Jones and his millions of followers are in Germany, getting ready to march on a city (not sure why…) when an assassin is sent to kill him. The assassin wounds him, but doesn’t kill him and this makes Jones even more larger than life, as it appears he can’t be killed. Shortly after, Jones and his minions overthrow the government, throw those formerly in power into jail, release the people in the labor camps, and send rockets into space to see about populating other planets. They also continue to kill Drifters. As this is happening, the Venusian mutants are sent in two rockets to Venus, where they land and form a colony. It’s a bizarre transition and one I didn’t fully buy into as these formerly very sheltered beings are able to construct buildings, transportation, crops, etc., with no training. Soon, Nina comes back to Cussick because it appears that Jones has failed, as the Drifters have enabled a ring around the system, ensuring we can’t escape into outer space. These plantlike beings are just part of a greater alien invasion. I don’t want to give the final plot away — whether Jones lives or dies — but you can imagine it’d be hard to kill someone who can see into the future and knows everything that will happen. Still, at the climax of the book, it’s Jones who has the final say and Cussick and his family escape to Venus, where they live in their own Refuge, communicating occasionally with the mutants. I guess this is an optimistic, upbeat ending to a depressing book. I thought the book was fairly poorly written with virtually no transitions between major scenes, the reader just being jarred into a new scene with no warning. Also, I had a hard time wrapping my head around Jones and his living through things twice. Too much of a mindf**k for me, I guess. I also didn’t like how one of the characters introduced early in the book, Tyler, who Cussick seems to develop a minor “thing” for, just disappears completely from the book with no warning. It’s bizarre. She’s kind of a major/minor character and I wasn’t prepared for that. PKD does that occasionally, but he’s normally better about tying up character plots and this was disappointing to me. I guess this book could be given four stars, but it’s so dark and so convoluted with some sad writing efforts that I can only give this book three stars and just cautiously recommend it.