on June 4, 2003
This book is very short, and it is quite straightforward for PKD. As this is one of his earlier works, I was expecting an extremely outdated view of the future, but surprisingly, PKD kept the details of the mechanisms vague enough that there were no glaring 'futurisms', such as those that jammed the first chapter of "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch". Simply stating that they took a ship between planets rather than inventing the Amazing Steam-Powered Punch-Card Engine helped the book a lot.
Despite the fact that this book came before PKD really started to 'write outside the box', I was expecting the traditional PKD chestnuts- the nature of reality, psychotherapy, bleak futures, evil robots, etc.- to be mostly overlooked. Happily, he managed to investigate most of his favorite topics without tripping over himself or screwing up the plot, as he did in "The Simulacra". The plot flowed straight and true, and although one part seemed a little forced, it didn't detract from the book- it was simply a wee bit off.
If you are new to PKD, you should give this book a try, but don't expect any cosmic insights, just a good book. You might also try "Time Out Of Joint". If you are familiar with PKD, you should read this as his inventive take on the good old distopian novel. It is also proof that though the man wrote a lot of mind-bending novels, he could also get a point about individuals in a distopian system across perfectly clearly.
"At seven A.M., Allen Purcell, the forward-looking young president of the newest and most creative of the Research Agencies, lost a bedroom," and so begins the Man Who Japed.
This novel, published in 1956, a product of the very early period of Philip K. Dick's career, is an immense step forward from his inferior, disjointed, and amateurish novel, The World Jones Made. The uncanny feeling, which one associates with PKD when reading his later and more famous works, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Martian Time-Slip (Among others), is apparent from the very first line. For example, Purcell's apartment randomly changes shape - his oven is a table that is a sink that is a food cupboard - his intelligent, caring, and somewhat bewildered wife constantly sedates herself with a vast array of drugs - and mankind emigrates to other planets and moons. The most surprising element is Allen Purcell himself, a remarkably well-rounded character (albeit as a previous reviewer noted, the secondary characters are flat as ironed cardboard).
Also, the society of The Man Who Japed is remarkably vivid. The reader must remember that this book was written in the late 50s so concepts and societies that we might consider cliché were fresh off the oven (the totalitarian masterpiece 1984 had only been around for 7 years). The Man Who Japed takes place in 2114 after a nuclear war in a society founded upon Puritanical ideals (no extra marital sex or classic books). Allen Purcell simultaneously creates propaganda 'brochures' and debases symbols of the regime without understanding his own motivations. He eventually must decide if he is to change society.
All in all, this is a very good effort. Perhaps in comparison to his later works this might deserve 4 stars but considering how early this was written and what came before 5 stars is definitely the correct rating. It is well written and contains the embryonic manifestations of PKD's later compelling and poignant themes.
on February 15, 2003
In this delightful early (1956) effort, Philip K. Dick reaches all the way back to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and all the way forward to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
To jape is to cut up, to spoof outrageously a la Monty Python. Dick's hero, Allen Purcell, is about to assume the most powerful media position on the planet; at the same time, he is in fear of being imminently arrested for a jape involving the mutilation of a monument to Morec's beloved founder, the infamous Major Streiter.
Morec is short for Moral Reclamation, a kind of Moral Majority Heaven on Earth in which any offenses -- most particularly of the sexual variety -- trigger vicious Maoist self-criticism meetings culminating in the loss of one's apartment lease. And without a lease, there's nowhere to go but the outer planets.
Philip K. Dick weaves in a number of themes masterfully, from the devastation following a nuclear holocaust to the "Health Resort," a scheme for processing those who crack under the strain of Morec. There are juveniles everywhere (not what you think), not to mention the Cohorts, Active Assimilation, the Domino Method, "nooses," and the usual panoply of brilliant Dick inventions, such as all food dishes being enclosed in quotes, as in "His 'eggs' were cooling on the plate."
There are arresting throwaway lines such as when the character of Sue Frost is introduced: "Her eyes, he noticed, were an almost colorless straw. A strong kind of substance, and highly polished."
Although he has been compared to Borges and Kafka, Dick is very much an American original. THE MAN WHO JAPED's unusual combination of paranoia and a wicked sense of humor is unique, as if Orwell's Winston Smith in 1984 were played by John Cleese.
on June 2, 2012
Philips K.Dicks 1956 novel "The Man Who Japed" is set in the year 2114 where a totalitarian government was spawned by a 1985 revolution by a man named General Streiter. Citizens now live by the morac regime or Moral Reclamation. A highly conservative and puritan society. Punishable offenses include: cursing, kissing, cheating and other minor vices. Robotic ear-wig like worms called "Juveniles", crawl through the community, taping and recording suspicious behavior.
A man named Allen Purcell has japed the statue of General Streiter, and he doesn't know why or remember anything of the night of the jape. He has also been approached by a descendant of Streiter's to resign from his Agency and become the head of T-M., or the "Tele-Media." As of lately Mr.Purcell's actions in society have him eluding Cohorts (police). And him along with a ragtag number of friends and co-workers are setting plans up for the most important and biggest social jape in history.
Other interesting ideas and situations are included within the story; such as the "Other World" colonies where morec law is not forced, and how much life would suck if everyone was in everyone's business, and certain hobbies and pastimes have become extinct or unlawful. Where the only known fun in life is a game called "Jubble" once a week.
This is a very short book (172 pages) but well worth the time. A must read for PKD fans and those who have enjoyed other classics such as "1984" or "Fahrenheit 451."
on April 28, 2009
At the beginning of this novel, the hero gets in trouble with his client for failing to make the moral content of his product clear enough. That's not a problem with the novel itself - the moral of "The Man Who Japed" is very plain. Don't run away, though - for a novel concerning the values and limitations of public morals, it's mercifully low on preaching.
Allen Purcell lives in a world governed by Morec, which stands for Moral Reclamation, a governmental system developed by one Major Streiter hundreds of years before the story begins, and designed to protect civilization against waste and vice after a nuclear holocaust. Purcell contributes his bit by running an agency that produces scripts for television shows and sells them to the government-run media outlet. Each of these scripts has to have a moral, of course, for the edification of the public. Like everyone else, Purcell also has to lead a morally upright life or face the possibility of eviction from the one-room apartment he shares with his wife Janet, not to mention public disgrace and economic ruin. Mechanical spies crawl all over everything to make sure that he and everyone else tows the line, and he and his neighbors gather in local meeting halls every few weeks to pass judgment on each other.
None of this bothers him much, of course - he's used to it and believes in the values he was born into. Then one dark night, someone vandalizes the government's big statue of Major Streiter in a way that turns it into a big joke, and evidence suggests that Purcell did it, although he has little or no memory of the incident.
Now, this was one of Philip K. Dick's earliest novels, and you will not be surprised to learn that the moral of the story is a pretty simple affair. Without giving too much away, Allen Purcell begins the story believing that morality consists of following certain rules; he ends it considering the possibility that morality and obedience are two different things. Put in this way, it sounds sort of boring. The best part of "The Man Who Japed" is that it's actually very funny.
A "jape" is a joke, usually of the practical variety. This is, of course, exactly the kind of joke that Allen Purcell indulges in, at the expense of his culture's Messianic founder. It would be a big mistake to write a story about such an activity in any serious manner, and PKD is too smart for that. On the other hand, as others have pointed out before now, humor is no laughing matter. It's powerful. No tyrant can put up with it for long, from Hitler to Mao to the Devil himself. This is what makes it such a useful weapon against dictatorship, and such a dangerous one to those who wield it. It takes a brave soul to make fun of a tyrant, but wait until you see Purcell's final jape. No kidding, even with the morality police banging on his door, he comes up with something that will make you laugh out loud.
"The Man Who Japed" has some of PKD's early flaws, to be sure. Allen Purcell isn't as much of an Eagle Scout as the protagonists of "Vulcan's Hammer" or "Solar Lottery", say - a few self-doubts do creep in to give the character depth - but his inner life is still pretty sparse. We don't see him giving any consideration to what he'll do or why; one minute he obeys the rules he knows, the next minute he rebels. Since we can't see the process leading to this about-face, it seems forced.
His wife, on the other hand, makes a remarkable showing. She begins as a bit of a wimp, ready to jump out of her skin at the slightest noise - by the time the novel is over, she's strong, supportive, and courageous. Today's readers may find her too subservient to her husband's way of doing things, but then again he's fighting the good fight and there's nothing particularly wrong with joining that. And besides, this book was published in 1956.
Speaking of wives, this is the first PKD novel I've read in a while where the husband and wife not only get along, but actually seem to love each other. There are a few other such couples in this author's body of work, but not many. That in itself is inspiring enough for me, and when you add in the protagonist's struggle against mental illness, his success in fighting off the bad guys by their own rules, and his ongoing insistence on having a good time, "The Man Who Japed" becomes a genuine pleasure.
Incidentally, in one of his last interviews, PKD said that he got the idea for Morec from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, maybe the most blatant attempt in history to force good behavior down people's throats. PKD didn't like that at all. He was a humanist, a devout enemy of oppression wherever it fell - in communism, fascism, or anywhere else. In other words, he was just the sort of writer we need once again, fifty years after "The Man Who Japed" came out; today, as in 1956, there are those who think morality should be governmentally policed. There's only one thing to do with such people, as PKD shows us. Laugh at them.
Benshlomo says, Mock the wicked - it will drive them crazy.
"The Man Who Japed" is a fairly early Philip K. Dick novel, and as such is somewhat dated, and a little more straight-forward stylistically. In many ways it reads like early Bradbury; those looking for true science fiction will probably be put off by the simplistic technology. However, as with Bradbury, the powerful message transcends the context and drives the novel forward.
Like many of Dick's novels, "The Man Who Japed" is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in this instance, some two hundred years after a nuclear war in the 1970's. Society is now governed by a strict moral code that emphasizes utility over comfort and social enforcement of societal mores. Enter Allen Purcell, an otherwise successful creator of "packets" (morality propaganda purchased by the state) who has inexplicably "japed" the statue of Major Streiter, founder of the Morec (moral reclamation) society. As his world begins a slow motion unraveling he comes to question everything about the society that has supported his family for generations.
This perspective on morality as the driving force in politics is oddly prescient with today's debates about abortion, gay marriage and the like. Dick, has taken this evolution to its logical, but insane conclusion, in which every person is held to account by their neighbors in what is theoretically a people's court, but which is in fact an on-going witch hunt in which anonymity allows vicious personal vendettas to be aired with impunity.
Admittedly, the actual story meanders and is not particularly engaging. While Purcell evolves into a rather intriguing character, by and large the supporting cast is rather two dimensional. To a degree this is understandable, as Dick is after all trying to create a world of cardboard cutouts. Nonetheless, this can make for a rather dry read at times.
A short novel with a powerful message, "The Man Who Japed" offers a glimpse into Dick early in his career. While the wit and thoughtfulness is on ready display, his story-telling abilities are not yet at the level of "The Man in the High Castle" or "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" As such, this probably isn't the best novel for those new to the author to start, but it will definitely be appreciated by fans of his other work.
on January 14, 2011
Cult sci-fi author Philip K. Dick's third novel, "The Man Who Japed," was originally published in one of those cute little "Ace doubles" (D-193, for all you collectors out there), back to back with E.C. Tubb's "The Space-Born," in 1956, and with a cover price of a whopping 35 cents. (Ed Emshwiller's cover for "The Man Who Japed" was his first of many for these beloved double deckers.) As in Dick's previous novel, "The World Jones Made" (1955), the story takes place on an Earth following a nuclear Armageddon that has considerably changed mankind's lot. In "Japed," by the year 2114, around 130 years after the war's end, society is run in accordance with the principles of Morec (Moral Reclamation). It is a highly puritanical society, in which 18" long, buglike robots spy on the populace, weekly neighborhood block meetings chastise the residents' slightest peccadilloes, cursing and neon signs are banned, and premarital sex is taboo. In this world that is still staggering back to self-sufficiency, the citizens live in tiny apartments, drive steam-powered cars at top speeds of 35 mph, and depend on Earth's off-world colonies for its NONsynthetic foodstuffs. Against this backdrop, Dick introduces us to Allen Purcell and his wife, Janet. Purcell is the founder of a small agency, similar to our current-day ad agencies, except that Purcell's bureau makes up "packets" of propagandistic fodder for Telemedia, the government's communications arm. When Purcell is offered the opportunity to become the head of Telemedia, he is sorely conflicted, as he has recently begun--for reasons unknown, even to himself--to somnambulistically desecrate the statue of Morec's founder in the local park. Why Purcell has been acting so mysteriously, and what he ultimately does as regards Morec, are at the heart of Dick's underrated yet very entertaining short dystopian novel.
And yet, short as it is, this is a book that's just chock-full of imaginative touches. Those weekly block meetings, during which neighbor passes judgment on neighbor, are extremely well depicted, and come off as analogies of sorts to the then-recent McCarthy hearings. ("More harm is done in one of these sessions than in all the copulation between man and woman since the creation of the world," Allen satisfyingly tells the witch hunters.) Although Dick's pet theme of the elusiveness of objective reality is not explored in this early work, there is still one quite "trippy" segment--in which Allen awakes in what seems to be another world--that should surely please all the hard-core Dick fans out there. Another bit of strangeness: the "Yoda talk" that the world's citizens are apt to utilize at any given moment (such as in "This an order is" and "This serious is"). Also unusual: the fact that the leader of Morec's government, as well as Telemedia's head, AND all the block wardens, are women; blue-haired bluenoses doing their darnedest to protect society from anything blue! As usual, Dick exhibits a great deal of empathy for his "little characters" caught up in bizarre situations, and the reader will most likely grow to like the Purcells for the sweet couple they are, despite Janet's incessant pill popping and Allen's dubious mental state. The book is also laced with a fair amount of humor; for example, a few "high-speed" car chases, a look at verboten reading material (such as "The Saturday Evening Post" and James Joyce's "Ulysses") in the radioactive wastes of Hokkaido, and, of course, Purcell's final "jape" on Morec. The book is consistently, compulsively readable, and an early triumph for Phil, then a young novelist but soon to be recognized as one of the most distinctive and fascinating talents that the sci-fi field has yet produced.
on December 16, 2011
Written by Phillip K Dick in 1956, the story follows Allan Purcell (alias John Coates), a man who writes moral advertising copy (Morec) for his repressive post-modern 22nd century society. For an unknown reason, Purcell goes out and japes (defaces in a funny way) a statue of historical and moralistic significance. He doesn't know why, so he goes to his society's version of a psychologist. Meanwhile, he gets promoted to the head of the entire Morec operation. He gets to decide what is moral.
The book takes a surreal look at a future dystopia, where the food dishes are "foods", everyone is monitored all the time by small robotic cameras, and if you lose your apartment lease, they boot you off the planet into a space colony. My edition is 155 pages. With the state of current techology, I found much of it absurd. Still, having a sense of humor is the entire point!
An OK book, perhaps a Morality Satire, itself. Just couldn't get into the characters. They weren't interesting. While a commentary on the society, it didn't move me as a reader. Bored me after I'd gotten used to the gimmicks. Not a book I'd ever want to re-read, though I could see the story behind the story.
on August 11, 2013
First published in 1956, "The Man Who Japed" is a fascinating plot driven narrative written by Philip K. Dick. Although it is one of Dick's lesser-known novels, and his third novel published, it features many of the ideas and themes that recur throughout his later works. I was pleasantly surprised that the novel was written with a more precise hand than his first published outing "Solar Lottery".
The year is 2114; the world has survived a nuclear holocaust that has ruined much of the Earth. A totalitarian government, which focuses on distancing itself from the old liberal moralities of twentieth century America, begins to take shape. In doing so, a restrictive ideology of Moral Reclamation has taken over "Newer York," and adopts a puritanical thought and behavior.
The world's population, which has now been limited to a few inhabitable areas, is set to obey a strict guideline, that once broken, leads to the dismissal of the lives they have fought so hard to secure. One would think that if they were going to be banished from one of the only habitable locations on the planet, they would have to accrue a certain reputation as a hardened criminal; alas this is not the case. Getting drunk, having premarital sex, or owning a book (a la 1984) will get you thrown out of the city, most likely forcing you to move off of Earth and into one of the surrounding planets.
Main protagonist Allen Purcell has just received one of the most important tasks on the planet, becoming the head of Tele-Media. However, there are a few issues that Purcell faces before he can become the head of the strictest government corporation in "Newer York": namely committing the treasonous act of cutting the head off of a statute. The only problem is, Purcell doesn't know why, or how he managed to cut off the head. Throughout the day, he begins to forget things that he would normally recall, such as traveling to and from work. Before things get any worse, Purcell decides to find out what is happening to him. This leads to one of the most interesting and original plots in my recent memory.
Being that this novel is so short (172 pages), I assumed that the characters would be excruciatingly flat, which has often plagued Dick's early novels. However, I was surprisingly, and delightfully, wrong (sort of). Allen Purcell is an interesting character that became easy to invest in. When his character faced trouble, I actually cared about him. This goes along way, especially when the rest of the characters in The Man Who Japed are unbelievably flat and one sided.
The only issue that I had with the novel, besides the flat secondary characters, was the ending. It left something to be desired. The plot was so fascinating that I wanted a clearer resolution than the one that occurs. However, these two flaws are trivial to the overwhelming joy that I had while reading the novel.
"The Man Who Japed" is an underrated and thoroughly entertaining dystopian novel that should be enjoyed by any PKD fan.
on January 21, 2012
This is the earliest of Dick's books that I've read, so far. I can see where his writing got just a little bit smoother later. But this is the same guy, easily recognizable. He evokes a future-scape extremely well, pulling you right into it. There's a density of ideas and level of ambition well beyond his peers. And an engaging sense of humor, which is on display in this book particularly. This one is arguably "farce" as much as "science fiction".
It pulled me in deeply and entertained me well, while stimulating thought. Great book.