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Ubik Paperback – April 17, 2012
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From the Back Cover
From the stuff of space opera, Dick spins a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare youll never be sure youve woken up from.Lev Grossman, Time
Glen Runciter runs a lucrative businessdeploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in half-life, a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciters face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.
More brilliant than similar experiments conducted by Pynchon or DeLillo.Roberto Bolaño
PHILIP K. DICK (19281982) wrote 121 short stories and 45 novels and is considered one of the most visionary authors of the twentieth century. His work is included in the Library of America and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Eleven works have been adapted to film, including Blade Runner (based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly.
About the Author
Over a writing career that spanned three decades, PHILIP K. DICK (1928–1982) published 36 science fiction novels and 121 short stories in which he explored the essence of what makes man human and the dangers of centralized power. Toward the end of his life, his work turned toward deeply personal, metaphysical questions concerning the nature of God. Eleven novels and short stories have been adapted to film, notably Blade Runner (based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall,Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. The recipient of critical acclaim and numerous awards throughout his career, Dick was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005, and in 2007 the Library of America published a selection of his novels in three volumes. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.
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As the book begins, we meet Glen Runciter, head of the world's top anti-psi agency (to combat all of the psi organizations that have arisen now that it is 1992 -- heh!), located in New York City. He confers with his late wife, Ella, who is dead and buried in a Swiss moratorium, where she is in a suspended state of "half life," through "cold-pac" --- something like our cryogenics. The world's top psi's are disappearing, and Runciter wants his wife's opinion on what to do. She thinks they should advertise more.
We then go off to met Joe Chip, Runciter's top man, who is dirt poor and in debt. A Runciter scout has brought a young woman named Pat by to meet Joe. Pat has an unusual ability to nullify events before they even happen. Her psi tests are off the charts, and Joe marks on her report that she should be watched, that she could be dangerous.
Runciter has a visitor from a businessman with a business on Luna (the moon?), in need of immediate anti-psi help. Runciter agrees to overlook some typical preliminaries, since it's an emergency, and soon he's leading Joe, Pat, and nine others to Luna to save this company. Where they're sabotaged. A bomb goes off in the room in which they're gathered and Runciter takes it the worst. He's pretty much dead, and the team rushes to get him into cold-pac in the spaceship so he can be saved and consulted with his wife. Joe starts planning on how to get back at their enemies from that moment forward. And from that moment forward, things start unraveling. It gets really PKD-like as alternate realities are discovered and time moves backward. Joe starts receiving odd messages from Runciter while members of the team start dying off, decomposing quickly. Soon the surviving members find themselves back in 1939 in Des Moines IA -- Joe has to get there by bi-plane. They're there for Runciter's funeral, but by now, Pat is under deep suspicion for being behind this, plotting with their enemies, and Joe's really ticked. Soon the reader doesn't know who is dead and who is alive!
I won't give away the ending, but I'll just let you know that it's a typical PKD mind-f*** which is immensely satisfying while still being a bit confusing. It's a lot to swallow at once. Ubik rears its head at the beginning of each chapter in the form of an unusual ad for an unusual product, and Ubik plays a real role at the end of the book, but it's a bit mysterious at that. Suffice it to say that it's a miraculous spray can that is Joe's only way to stay alive.
Philip K. Dick's eye for minutia is especially good in this novel as he highlights magazines from 1939 (real ones), early cars, etc. And this book is a fast paced thriller too. I read it in less than a day. I couldn't put it down. No wonder Time magazine chose it for inclusion as one of their "100 best English-language novels!" No argument there. I don't know if this is my favorite Philip K. Dick book, but if not, it's close. It's got the usual PKD themes like unreliable and alternate reality, time running backward, precognition (Minority Report, anyone?), telepathy, paranoia, hallucinations, and even spirituality. It's got a fantastic ending. It's a great introduction to Dick, if you're unfamiliar with him, and if you're a fan, it's a must read. You won't be able to put it down. Highly recommended.
The world created, the characters, and the general plot seemed well thought out. It did, however, seem like the intention of the book was to keep the twists constant, which can sometimes lead to a disorganized feeling.
And the end... I think I had just been too spoiled by big plot twists that by the time I actually got around to reading this book, it was only natural for me to guess (accurately) how the book would end. Nonetheless, it's the meat in the middle that makes it worth it.
I liked Ubik, but I doubt it will be among the Phillip K Dick books that I will go back and re-read.