Philip K Dick: World of Chance

November 22, 2018

41OH+jEWYKL._AC_US218_Here’s another of Dick’s rather flawed early novels; this one was also published under the title Solar Lottery.

It’s set in a feudal and superstitious world in the 24th century, an insane construct that surely reflects the author’s paranoid mental state at various times. The planet is ruled by powerful oligarchs and a single all-powerful Quizmaster appointed by lottery totally at random and who is lawfully allowed to be targeted for assassination as soon as he is appointed… so what we end up with is a fast-moving and chaotic novel about power-struggles in this weird world. It’s gripping enough when you’re actually reading it, but ultimately rather trivial, a good year and nothing else.

For me, Dick is still getting a grip on exploring how one person can possibly control the mind of another, and this is the first time he has also introduced the idea of telepathy. He’s also playing with the idea of humans controlling machines through their minds, something that scientists are looking at today, never mind waiting for the 24th century. And finally, down at the human micro-level, which Dick never truly loses sight of, there is the question of the loyalty of one person to another.

Reading the novels in series as I’m currently doing is raising, alongside the idea of an SF writer foreseeing things that may develop in the future, the longer list of the things that they don’t manage to predict. Written as they were during the height of the Cold War, there is almost always a thermonuclear war that has happened some time in the past. But characters in the novels still smoke, still read paper books and newspapers and the most advanced kind of data-storage is still the primitive magnetic tape that was in use at the time Dick was writing. In my experience and study of SF, its writers have always managed to be both visionary and blinkered…

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