Review: Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Ubik by Philip K Dick

Glen Runciter runs Terra's most successful prudence organization, a category of business designed to prevent pre-cogs and telepaths from reading your thoughts and future and gaining a business edge with your secrets. But business is bad: all of Runciter's main adversaries' talents are disappearing somewhere off-world and he has no idea where. So at the beginning of the story Runciter visits his wife Ella, who lives suspended in half-life or cold-pak storage a sort of limited-time limbo between life and death.

Philip K Dick has a way of starting his novels off with both wild ideas of the future and bland characters and then after he shifts the reality a couple times the characters suddenly go from poster board cut-outs to characters you care about. At the beginning this novel, with its rich boss and bumbling ever-broke employee, Joe Chip, reminded me of George Jetson and Mr Spacely of The Jetsons. But as the ideas of the novel took hold and the concepts, the crazy possibilities sank in I became entranced and my views about this world and life and death were called into question. The future world (of 1992) that Dick creates is one part Jetsons, with its rocket travel to Zurich and the Moon, chutes that drop you from the roof of your building to your office chair and Mortuaries that keep loved ones in "half-life" or suspended cryonic animation for monthly one hour visits; and on the other hand the future is one part distopia with pre-cogs that can see the future and telepaths that can read your thoughts and the worse of all, everything in the future is coin-operated! Your coffee maker, your refrigerator, and even your front door.

This book, first published in 1969, perfectly straddles the early PKDs obsession with the hard core sf ideas and concepts like telepathy, precognition, rocket travel, paranoia, shifting alternative realities with his later themes: life, death, the afterlife, gnosticism, things falling apart. Its a great book to introduce oneself to the amazing, mind-altering substance called Philip K. Dick. Highly Recommended.

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