Philip K Dick: Time Out of Joint

December 19, 2018

5184OtaA+aL._AC_US218_This novel represents quite a sea-change from what Dick was writing before. His scene is now small-town 1950s American life, a setting he will use frequently in both science fiction and non-SF novels, and one which allows him to use ordinary people as characters, and explore everyday life. However, in this small town, there is a clear and growing sense that something is not quite right…

The hero Ragle Gumm keeps winning a daily newspaper competition, solving clues which read like those from a cryptic crossword, and analysing data which he records, to spot where a little green man will appear next…

Gumm seems prone to occasional psychotic episodes and it gradually becomes clear that various people are minding him in what appears to be a solipsistic universe, an entire fake reality constructed around him and for him, which must be sustained and he cannot be allowed to leave, which, of course, he tries to do, as he gradually gets nearer to the truth about himself and what is going on, in a world that is actually in the 1990s and where a war is going on between Earth and the colonists on the Moon.

I can’t really say a lot more without spoiling a good story; suffice it to say it’s a very good yarn although the ending does lack some clarity and conviction, reinforcing my feeling that Dick isn’t yet a master at pulling all his strands together for an effective conclusion. But what we can see here is a writer who is seriously expanding the range and vision of the genre. And I think that main idea in this book was used in the film The Truman Show a couple of decades or so back.

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