Friday, June 10, 2011

Ubik; or is this the real life

There is a part in Ubik where Joe Chip awakens after falling asleep in a hotel in Switzerland and attempts to place a call to room service. On the other end of the line is Runciter's voice, his dead boss.  The boss that Joe and his fellow employees just took to the moratorium after being assassinated by a rival. They were hoping to be able to talk to him, that maybe they could bring him back to get new orders and how handle the mishap on the moon.

It did not work, they could not get through to Runciter, he very well could be beyond them forever.  However, here he was talking on the phone in Joe's hotel room. How did he know that Joe stayed here, how could he even talk on the phone? It is the beginning of a long line of contradictions. Pretty soon, Runciter's image starts to appear everywhere, on money, in ads.  Messages start becoming apparent to the survivors that Runciter needs to talk to them, at one point they find an ancient tape recorded message.  As this goes on, the world starts to decay and to weaken. The survivors start to wonder if they actually survived or if reality was unhinged.

Right there is enough to know why we decided to read this book for our monthly sci-fi book club at Boswell's.  It is classic Philip K. Dick at his best and definitely my favorite. The discussion centered around the fact that it is really hard to critique a book that you really loved. I know I have a problem finding fault in the book, and if I really love a book, then I have a really hard time being critical of it.  Thankfully, the group enjoyed the book and we did not have to find holes or lack of continuity. Though the lack of continuity was one of the main driving factors in the book; in fact time seems to collapse in this book as the fabric of reality slips away.  I would say my favorite part to discuss was the ending and how everybody interprets it (not going to ruin the end for you, so I will not delve into it too deeply).

I was thrilled that the first section in the forthcoming book, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick begins with his musings on Ubik.  For all of those rabid fans out there, this is the holy grail for Philip K. Dick followers. These are the thousands of pages of writing that he left behind, they were his thoughts on an event in his life that was simply stated as "2-3-74." The date that he discovers a cosmic mystery, it also led to the famously hard to read Valis trilogy; well if not hard-to-read then hard-to-follow (still loved it). There have been conspiracy theories aplenty surrounding this book and the reasons it was never to be published.  The simple fact is this: it is huge and cumbersome.  It took Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem to really put the book into a format that reach all his fans.  Coming this November it is high on my top priorities as a must read.

Up for this June 13th: CJ Cherryh's, A Wave Without a Shore. Check out the the Boswell Science Fiction Book Club's Wikispace here.  Also, I might have some cool postcards to give away.

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