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Posts Tagged ‘Philip K Dick’

My Years In Books: 2019

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 24, 2019

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Each year, they provide an end of year webpage showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, they recently decided to make them only able to share to a few social network sites where I no longer have accounts. I remain annoyed by this, so I’m doing the next best thing for the second straight year. (And you can see my blog entry for 2018’s results here:  My Year In Books: 2018.) I’ve taken several screenshots showing information like what they describe as your “Year in Books,” parts of the webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., my 2019 Reading Challenge results, my Reading Challenge results since 2013 and something I’ve never done before — an intro to the webpage of My Year in Books because as you’ll see, my numbers are tremendously skewed up this year and are thus somewhat deceptive, so I felt obligated to explain. For what it’s worth, I set my 2019 reading goal at 90 books. Goodreads is reporting I read 443 books, or 492% of my original goal. Like I said, I wrote an explanation because while I exceed my goal every year, it’s never by that much and there are a couple of reasons why this year’s numbers aren’t completely accurate. So I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile here. (I believe you have to be a logged in member to view it, however…)

And now, the promised screenshots. Comments are welcome…


2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge Results




My Goodreads All-time Annual Reading Challenge Results

































“My Year In Books: 2019”

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge


































“My Year In Books: 2019” — Introduction

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge




































“My Year In Books: 2019” — End Of Webpage

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge






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A Review of The Preserving Machine

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 4, 2014

The Preserving MachineThe Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Preserving Machine is a pretty good collection of short stories by Philip K Dick from the early 1950s through the mid-1960s. Some of his best work is here. I had already read several of these in other collections, but there were many new ones and I definitely enjoyed this book. Among the stories that stood out for me were “War Veteran,” about an old man who is a war veteran from a future war yet to be fought by Earth — and lost. The authorities move quickly to try and change the future and it’s really interesting to see how things work out. Another is the famous “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” which of course was the basis for the movie Total Recall. For the life of me, I don’t see where they got that movie from this story, but it’s a good story about a man who yearns to go to Mars and his only way is through a VR-type experience where he goes as a secret agent. However, while the men performing this service for him are engaged, they discovered he actually has done this and just doesn’t remember. It turns into a real mind f*ck. Great story. Yet another story I enjoyed was “Oh To Be a Blobel!”. A war has been fought between humans and blobels, great amoeba-like beings, and on both sides, spies were used who had to undergo changing into the form of the other. When we read this story, our hero changes from being human to being a blobel throughout the day and is miserable. A coin operated psychiatrist introduces him to a female blobel who changes to human at certain times of day, thinking they would have something in common. And they get married and have kids. Hybrids. Then divorced. Then the unthinkable. At the end of the story, Vivian resorts to blobelian world class science to be converted into a 100% human so she can get back together with George — who has converted into a blobel, so he can start a business on their planet. Wacky and sad. I do have a complaint, however. PKD wasn’t always kind to his female characters, probably cause he had constant problems with his five wives and women in general. In “Retreat Syndrome,” John states, “So you doomed our cause, out of petty, domestic spite. Out of mere female bitterness, because you were angry at your husband; you doomed an entire moon to three years of losing, hateful war.” Later, in “What the Dead Men Say,” Johnny thinks “He did not like the idea of working for a woman….” So, PKD misogyny is present in full force. Take it or leave it — it’s up to you. Even with the flaws, this is still a good book with some really good stories, so I definitely recommend it, not only to Dick fans, but to anyone who wants to become acquainted with his writing.

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A Review of Clans of the Alphane Moon

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

Clans of the Alphane MoonClans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had some good ideas, but PKD asks the reader to make too many leaps of logic to be able to give this book a decent score.

CIA agent Chuck Rittersdorf splits from his psychiatrist wife, Mary, who’s a marriage counselor. She prompts this and she’s really portrayed as an evil bitch, so I have no idea why he was so intent to get back together with her later in the book. Meanwhile, Chuck picks up a writing gig with famous TV comedian Bunny Hentman, and starts taking uppers to hold both jobs down at the same time. These drugs are supplied by an alien slime mold who has telepathic powers and apparently wants to help Chuck as he orients himself to a new lifestyle in a downgraded conapt (apartment). He even sets Chuck up with a love interest, of sorts.

Well, Mary is hired by the feds to go to Alpha III M2, a moon of some type, to start therapy on groups of former psychiatric patients who were abandoned many years ago by Terra (Earth) during their war with Alphane, now over. These former patients have set up clans on the moon, made up of various psychiatric types — ie, Deps (depressives), Mans (manics), Paras (paranoid schizophrenics), etc. However, the CIA is interested in this venture, so they create a simulcra to go to the moon with Mary and others on this mission, and Chuck will be controlling it from Terra. So he decides to kill his ex-wife through this android-type being.

Crazy, yes? Well, that’s standard PKD fare. It starts getting out of control when Benny, his new employer, has a brainstorming session with the writers — and Chuck — during which time they decide to write a new act about a CIA agent who is going to kill his ex-wife through a simulcra on another planet. Just like Chuck has planned. Bizarre coincidence, or is it?

The CIA finds out about Chuck’s drugs and fires him. As soon as he’s fired, so does Benny, presumably because he no longer has Chuck as a CIA insider to work with. However, the CIA goes after Benny for his doings with Alphanes, and he escapes on his own rocket. Chuck finds himself on the moon, where Mary is. Coincidence? Easily done? Yes. Here’s one area that was really too hard to buy — the Para leader is given an ultimatum by Mary (with all of the clan leaders) to return to their former lives or face military action by Terra within four hours. So of all of the alternatives they come up with, the ONLY one is for him to *obviously* go to Mary’s spaceship and seduce her and talk her out of it. Huh? Excuse me? WTF??? What kind of warped idea is that? But that’s the obvious choice, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t go and seduce her on her ship. But she turns out to be more than he bargained for and turns into a sexual beast who nearly kills him in her passion. Only Dick can write this stuff. When he wakes up from his sex-induced coma, she’s gone and Terra is on the attack.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but it’s surprisingly upbeat. Maybe that’s because Dick was probably struggling with all of these issues in his own life — his marriage woes, job and finance woes, his worries of mental illness — so he wrote a good ending so he could expect one in his own life. That’s my two cents, anyway. It’s not a bad book, but it just leaps to conclusions that no rational person would draw too many times and I just can’t eagerly recommend it. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably like it. If you’re new to the author, I wouldn’t start with this one.

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A Review of The World Jones Made

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 5, 2014

The World Jones MadeThe World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick

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.

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A Review of Divine Invasions

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 6, 2014

Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. DickDivine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent biography of Philip K Dick to read. It was thoroughly researched and well written. It started from his birth to his upbringing to the beginning of his writing career, through the career, his relationships with his five different wives and with his three children, his bizarre experiences, and his death in 1982. It was a very comprehensive book. And it was fascinating. I never knew — and still don’t know how or why — that Dick was SO very obsessed with his twin sister, who died at one month. He spent his entire life searching for an adult alternative to her and made up fantasies about her being a protective lesbian. The book also chronicles his love/hate relationship with his mother, and how that impacted his views on women. Additionally, it was interesting to find out just how passionate he was. I mean he fell in love at the drop of a hat! He was in love with the idea of being in love. Her tormented himself by falling in love with girls half his age, begging them to move in with him and marry him, only to be repeatedly spurned, except on several occasions. Apparently his obsession with authority (his mother) carried over the the FBI and CIA. He just knew they were watching him, and indeed they were. It was fascinating to read about the break in at his house with his big safe being blown up and his calling the police to report he did it. He was indeed paranoid, which anyone reading his novels could figure out. He was also quite insane, while also a genius. Of course, everyone interviewed for this book by the author tried to claim he was sane, lucid, normal, but the evidence shows otherwise. He was batshit crazy. The drugs didn’t help, for one thing. His near-religious experience of 2-3-74 was bizarre to read about too. And it’s amazing how it impacted him and his writing for the rest of his life. I mean, he actually thought God was speaking to him and revealing himself to him through an AI satellite. Crazy! It was sad to read about how badly he wanted to become an accepted mainstream writer and how he failed so badly at it during his lifetime. But his sci fi was visionary, just fantastic! There’s never been another writer like him. One thing I liked about this book was that at the end, it went over all of his books, gave a synopsis, some commentary, and a subjective rating. It was interesting to see how I rated specific books as opposed to the author. I didn’t agree with all of his ratings, but I liked reading them. If you’re a PKD fan, this book is a must. Get it, read it, be amazed. If you just like interesting biographies, this is also a book for you. I strongly, strongly recommend this book. It’s that excellent.

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A Review of Our Friends From Frolix 8

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 16, 2014

Our Friends from Frolix 8Our Friends from Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Our Friends From Frolix 8 is a pretty good story, although far from perfect. Surprisingly, it’s a fairly linear sci fi story from Dick, without his alternate worlds and universes he wrote so much about. And this was published in 1970, while Dick was pretty much at his height of alternate worlds.

The plot is about Nick Appleton, a tire “regroover,” who lives in a futuristic world (about 200 years from now) governed by large headed New Men (with large IQs) and Unusuals, who possess telepathic abilities. The rest of the seven billion humans are Old Men or Under Men, who are fighting a silent revolution to one day overthrow the system.

Nick takes his son for a mandatory civil service exam, which he thinks his son will pass and which will lead him to a better life than Nick has. However, the exam is rigged and his son fails, disillusioning Nick.

Nick finds himself at work conversing with his boss about things. Big things are happening. A revolutionary leader who has been jailed, but who has written numerous illegal pamphlets and booklets is about to be executed. The primary revolutionary, Thors Provino, took off in a space ship 10 years ago, but is apparently headed back to Earth with help, presumably from an alien or aliens. Like I said, big stuff. Nick’s boss talks him into sharing an illegal beer with him and discusses the illegal literature, before taking Nick to a dealer of this literature. There Nick meets a 16 year old girl named Charley, the dealer’s girlfriend, and he is smitten. I know, I know — Dick and his adolescent girls. He had problems, what can I say?

The dealer goes crazy and attacks Charley, and Nick and Charley take off for safety. And he takes her home to his wife and son. Crazy, right? Well, his wife is generally okay with things until she finds an illegal pamphlet in Charley’s coat and insists she leaves. To her consternation, Nick leaves with her. They take shelter at a big printing place, where the illegal pamphlets are printed. Meanwhile, Council Chairman Willis Gram, the world dictator who lies around in his pajamas all day, is panicking about the thought of Thors returning with an alien to take over. He orders the prison camps to be opened and everyone released as a good will gesture, but at the same time, orders an attack against the printing plant. There, Nick and Charley are captured. Gram falls for Charley (how does she have this hold over men?) and releases Nick, but Charley escapes Gram’s clutches and takes off. Gram realizes she’s probably going to go back to Nick, so he puts out a warrant for Nick which they find out about at the dealer’s apartment when the cops (pissers) show up. The dealer, Denny, is killed and Charley and Nick take off.

What’s happening with Thors? Well, he IS returning with an alien, from Frolix 8. He’s lived millions of years and is a 90 ton gelatinous slime blob. He encompasses the ship, protecting it from missiles the army is sending up against the space ship. He feeds on things and grows. They announce they’re landing in Times Square and Gram ships a huge laser up from Baltimore to incinerate Thors upon landing. They land eight hours early, but the laser is ready and they fire, only to find the alien devouring the beam and growing larger.

At some point, Charley and Nick find themselves in Central Park, where they make love and Nick recites a Yeats poem. Gotta get the statutory rape in there, don’tcha Phil? They take off in their squib, followed closely by two pissers and Charley crashes and dies violently. That seemed unnecessary, but I guess that’s the only way Dick knew to close things. The alien starts telepathically lobotomizing the New Men, rendering them useless and Nick confronts Gram, where things basically end. The last few pages are pretty interesting, but I won’t go into more detail here — I’ve already shared enough.

In this book, there are drug bars, where people can legally get high and in this book, too, everyone is a walking pharmacist. It’s bizarre to think that your average person would know so much about drugs. Dick also brings Biblical themes into play, as well as race, divorce, and futuristic gadgets, all themes and things he wrote so much about. This isn’t one of his better known works, and there are some textual inconsistencies (with dates especially) and the dialogue is often somewhat clunky, but it’s a fun story and it’s pretty action packed, so I suspect many Dick fans will like this book, as will many other readers. I can’t give it five stars because it’s not his best, but it’s a solid four star effort and as such, it’s recommended.

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A Review of Eye in the Sky

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 26, 2014

Eye in the SkyEye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eye in the Sky was great fun to read! I think it’s Dick’s funniest book ever. He had so much humor in his earlier books. The novel centers around Jack Hamilton, a scientist who’s fired from his defense contractor job because his wife is a suspected Communist. The book was published in 1957, but the plot takes place in 1959, which is odd because Dick usually places his plots much further out than that. Anyway, Hamilton and his wife go on a tour of a scientific facility that has something called a Bevotron, a proton slicer or something. There are eight people in the tour group, including the guide. Something goes wrong with the device, and it slices through the group and the area they’re standing on, leading them to fall a great distance and get knocked unconscious. For some reason, no one was killed. Hamilton wakes up in the hospital, is released, and goes home with his wife. Something is said, and locusts appear out of thin air and attack Jack. Odd. The next day, he travels to San Francisco to apply for a job. However, the place he goes to makes things for a bizarre, twisted, Old Testament-like religion with a god who’s spiteful and petty. Hamilton leaves and everything he encounters points to this god, and everyone he meets plays a role in this religion. At some point, Jack and another character end up being taken up to Heaven via umbrella, where a great “eye in the sky” looks at them before hurling them Earthward. Hamilton gradually comes to the realization that this bizarre world is the internal construct of an old war vet who was in the tour group, as he was the only one who remained conscious. Everyone in the group is still at the Bevotron. How do they escape this messed up world? Well, they visit the old man in the hospital and knock him unconscious. Poof! New world. Turns out they’re in someone else’s world now, a prim and proper Victorian-type world where things disapproved of are wiped out of existence. This makes for a hilarious scene where Jack and the others in the group suggest things to obliterate and things just randomly disappear. Including air. There are several such worlds in this book and each is worse than the last. I think the book fails a little though in assuming that only half of the group is maladjusted enough to have a warped inner world. I think the book would have been better if everyone in the group got to have an alternate world with everyone trying to escape. But that might have made the book too long. The book ends on an up note with Jack and Bill Laws, the “Negro” tour guide, developing a recording company that’s going to change the industry. I do want to point out one thing, in fairness to Dick. In past reviews, I’ve been critical of how black characters are treated, often wondering is the author was racist. In this book, however, the black character is a grad student in physics and is portrayed in a very good light, with criticism leveled at a racist character who shuns him. So that’s good. That said, the female characters in this book don’t come off very well — Dick’s not always been kind to his female characters. Still, this book was like a hilarious Twilight Zone and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s not necessarily his best work, but it’s heartily recommended.

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A Review of Dr. Futurity

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 7, 2014

Dr. FuturityDr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

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.

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A Review of The Simulacra

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 16, 2014

The SimulacraThe Simulacra by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Simulacra is the funniest Philip K Dick book I’ve read to date. There were some hilarious moments, very funny scenes. That said, it was often hard to follow and somewhat convoluted. I think one major thing that contributes to this is there are so many characters to keep track of. I think I read somewhere that there are over 60 characters in this book, and I believe it. There really is no primary protagonist. The story is told from the point of view of quite a few characters. Among them are First Lady Nicole Thibodeaux, who has somehow remained ageless for her entire 73 years in office (why no one questions this is beyond me), Richard Kongrosian, a psychokinetic pianist on the edge of complete psychotic collapse, who worries about his his “phobic body odor,” as well as his turning invisible. We don’t really know whether he has an odor or not or whether he turns invisible or not. It’s never made clear. Dr. Egon Superb is the USEA’s (United States of Europe and America — basically the US with Germany now dominating) last practicing psychotherapist, as the practice has been outlawed due to the power of the drug cartels which are pushing their psychotropic medications as the real answer to mental illness. Vince and Chic Strikerock are brothers who are employed at rival simulacrum companies who become caught up in a love triangle with Vince’s ex-wife and in corporate espionage as well. Nat Flieger is a record company exec who travels to atom bomb-ravaged northern California, which has a group of people called “chuppers” who are basically Neanderthals. He wants to record Kongrosian, only to find out he’s at a psychiatric hospital in San Francisco. Bertold Goltz is a neo-Nazi street agitator who is also a time traveler, using the von Lessinger principle in order to accomplish this. There are two fellows who play classical music with jugs, who get to perform at the White House. There’s more, much more.

One of the zany plots is for Nicole, whose presidential husbands of four years are all simulacrums, to try and bring back Nazi Hermann Goering from the past, yet we’re never told why. We’re simply told he has to agree to their plans (world domination?), but the answer is never really given and this piece of the plot is kind of just dropped when Goering is shot to death by the National Police (NP). There are Loony Luke car dealerships which disappear and move around at will, selling jalopies that make one way trips to Mars. There are aliens and talking advertisements the size of bugs that everyone hates. There’s a device where people make confessions, although the confessing people are treated as though they’re being given lie detectors, making for uncomfortable scenes. There are also characters who kind of disappear from the plot, such as Edgar Stone, a conapt resident, and Israeli prime minister Emil Stark. Why are they dropped? What happens to them?

Nicole is treated as the mother of the country, as well as the conceptual mistress, because she’s totally hot and everyone loves her to death. Her secret? She’s an actress. The original one’s been dead for some time. She’s really a pretty well developed character, unlike a number of the others, and it’s a pleasure to watch her and Kongrosian in action.

Like many Dick novels, this one ends abruptly, but unlike many of his novels, I thought it wasn’t tied up very nicely. I thought it was too open ended and could have been written for a sequel. I would give the ending 3.5 stars; actually the entire book 3.5 stars. This definitely isn’t his best work, which is surprising since it was published in 1964, his best writing phase in my opinion. If you’re new to Dick, I wouldn’t start with this book, but for Dick fans, it’s a must read. Cautiously recommended.

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A Review of Solar Lottery

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 2, 2014

Solar LotterySolar 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.

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