Review of Ubik (1969)


Philip K. Dick (writer).

Read in 2019.

In 1992, the business of prudence is in trouble. People able to cancel out psychic abilities are less in demand because the psychics themselves have been disappearing. Now someone wants to make the anti-psychics disappear too.

Though set in a techno-optimist 1992, as of 2019 the opening of the novel has come to read as a metaphor for online privacy concerns. Following a certain pivotal bombing there’s a gradual descent from science fiction to Dick’s own brand of ontologically blurred paranoid-weird horror fiction.

Explanations are offered, and while these explanations are more internally consistent than those of the very similar The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), I had a feeling Dick wasn’t interested in the narrative and simply made it up as he went along, leaving too little cohesion to underpin the author’s existential vertigo. The consumer-capitalist satire is stronger in Stigmata and the philosophical game is stronger in “The Electric Ant” (1969).

References here: A Scanner Darkly (1977).

text fiction