Hemingway on acid. That's what this book felt like to me. And after I read Philip K. Dick's Wikipedia entry, I started to understand why.
The spare, clipped prose, the protagonist who is at once emotional and detached, the macho worldview, all these smack of Hemingway. The way Dick messes with your assumptions is pure Dick. The way the bottom falls out of reality altogether by the end of the book, that is pure acid.
For the first part of the book, Dick plays with very similar themes as Katerina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone, those of marginality, defining human-ness, the way we deal with those perceived as "other." Dick takes it a step further, and challenges the new assumptions we have made by following along with his story, which I found delightful. And then he challenged so many assumptions, I was no longer sure which direction was up, leaving me both confused and intrigued.
It's this last word that is important. Usually books that confuse me that badly irritate me enough that I put the author on my "don't bother with" list. But I am almost certain to pick up another Philip K. Dick book, wondering if I won't be able to get it this time.
Having said all that, there are clumsy moments in this book. He is particularly fond of doing infodumps disguised as dialogue, which really should have been dealt with before the book went to print. Characters expounding to each other on things they all know, receptionists suddenly spouting the detailed technical specs on the latest model of android - I don't think so.
So the final word for me is that I will read Philip K. Dick again, not expecting to be awestruck, but challenged and intrigued.
Technorati tags: Philip K. Dick, Science fiction, Book review
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