Where This Meets That
Ever since I read the death-by-comet novel Lucifer’s Hammer last year, I’ve been on a science fiction kick. Philip K. Dick’s eerie 1969 novel Ubik proved to be just the right book at just the right time.
With Ubik, Dick takes us to a very different 1992, in which citizens of the “North American Federation” travel regularly to the moon, preserve deceased loved ones in a state of “half-life” that still permits dialogue, and grow ever-concerned with protecting their own thoughts from telepathic entities among society.
Glen Runciter owns a leading “prudence organization,” which employs the services of “anti-psis” to block telepaths from reading the minds of his clients (a theme that resonates in today’s age of digital data and identity vulnerability). Lately, however, his agents have been disappearing, and when a rival attempts to assassinate Runciter and all his top agents in one swoop, their whole world goes wonky, leading us to wonder who is dead and who is alive, what is real and what is not.
Ubik is the most dream-like novel I’ve ever read, depicting a world that flows in odd orders, where characters battle accelerating aging processes even while moving backward in time. Here, character interactions weave between opposing realities and surreal solutions come from such mundane forms as simple spray cans.
Ubik is a bizarre read, for sure, but the wonder is how coherent it is. Dick writes in clear prose that makes the subject far more accessible than it might have been in other hands. This is the first of Dick’s novels that I have read, but it won’t be the last. I loved it!
Ubik score: 4.5 Falcone Rings