As a former reviewer has pointed it out, Philip K. Dick's TIME OUT OF JOINT has greatly inspired the authors of the screenplay of Peter Weir's THE TRUMAN SHOW. Ragle Gumm, the hero of TIME OUT OF JOINT, is questioning the reality he is living in, like in fact the majority of the characters created by Philip K. Dick during his literary career. Ragle Gumm's efforts to discover the "hidden" side of the world he has been thrown into is, in my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the novel. The science-fictional explanation of the reasons why Ragle Gumm has to play everyday is not very convincing and the analysis of the origin of the war between Lunatics and Terrians way too simple for an author such as PKD. However, TIME OUT OF JOINT provides the kind of pleasure the Philip K. Dick fan searches in vain in today sci-fi production. So don't hesitate to add this book to your collection if you are already familiar with the world of this writer.
Somewhere I read Philip K. Dick say that the one most important piece of knowledge he had picked up from philosophy is that, "The nature of reality is to disguise its true nature" (which he claimed to have read in Heraclitus, though it's difficult to be sure if Heraclitus actually said that).TIME OUT OF JOINT is one of Dick's earlier novels that treats the theme of "The World Is Not What We Think It Is" explicitly. It's a novel about knowledge and recognition. The characters play parts in a detective story where the mystery involves piecing together missing parts of the world. Some of the clues include finding light switches on the wrong side of the door, finding a note where a lemonade stand used to be, finding pictures of some actress nobody's ever heard of, and seeing visions.A number of PKD's later books involved more significant permutations of this theme of Nature-In-Disguise. This story is like a one-trick pony in comparison to books like PALMER ELDRITCH, NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR, UBIK, MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, MAZE OF DEATH, or VALIS. But the gradual accumulation of evidence, the dawning of recognition in the main characters, makes for pretty fascinating reading. For good or ill, several modern film makers have really taken this motif to heart (e.g., Dark City, The Matrix, The 13th Floor, The 6th Sense, etc.).
I suppose I should begin this review by stating that I did genuinely enjoy reading this book. I felt it had highly readable prose and a gentle narrative style that eased you into some of the more bizarre happenings which occur later in the story. My one gripe, and I suppose this is just as much my fault as the publisher's, is the summary on the back of the book. Let me explain. Usually when I read a novel, I do my best to avoid reading the notes on the flap of a hardcover or on the back of a paperback. The reason is simple, I don't want the story to be spolied. Now with this particular novel, I am reading at work during my lunch break, revelling in the peculiarities that befall poor Ragle Gumm (the protagonist) when I realize that lunch is almost over and I have to stop reading. I place the book down on my desk face down and while glancing down simply to pick up a pen I inadvertently read two short sentences on the back of the book which ruined all of the suspense and mystery of the story. (They were the second and third sentences of the summary, which is the same as the summary here at Amazon.com, if you are interested.) I still enjoyed the book, although the last couple of chapters seemed very rushed to me. Yet, now whenever I think about "Time Out of Joint" all I can think of is the gradual dawning of understanding that might have been. The sublime joy of slowly, over time, figuring out what is going on... just as Ragle Gumm does. All spoiled by a poorly written summary on the back of the book. If you are the kind of person who hates when movie trailers give away the entire story of a film, avoid reading this summary before reading the book itself.
Anyone who lived next door to Philip K. Dick in 1958 might have regarded him with a sense of mild suspicion. He hung around the house most of the day, probably, or he'd go to the library for long periods. He'd spend a lot of time reading books and making notes, and otherwise doing little or nothing that seemed like any kind of paid employment. Then for a week or ten days he'd type nonstop for hours, drop a big package at the post office and gradually sink back into apparent non-activity. You'd have to wonder what he did for food money.
At least, that's what PKD must have looked like on the outside. On the inside - that's another story. In fact, it's Time Out of Joint. (Like how I came full circle on that one? It's a cheap copy of something PKD did all the time.)
Now, before I go any further, I must apologize for rehashing that tired old assertion that any novel is to be read as a thinly-disguised autobiography of the writer who produced it. Interpretations of that kind leave no room for the imagination, ours or the author's, and we've had quite enough of that, thank you very much. PKD of all people was far too original in his thinking to rely on such hackery. Unfortunately, Time Out of Joint reads uncomfortably like thinly-disguised autobiography - it's about a man named Ragle Gumm, a figure of some suspicion, who spends his tense days at home reading books, making notes and sending mysterious packages through the mail. Sorry, kids, thinly-disguised autobiography it is. (Well, maybe a little thicker than that, but you get the idea.)
What's more, like PKD, Ragle Gumm has a sneaking suspicion that all is not well, that there's a hidden world of paranoia and violence behind the tranquility of his surroundings.Read more ›