NAQUOYA'S BOOK REVIEWS | Ubik – Philip K. Dick
This was one of the novels that got me hooked on Philip K Dick's work so many years ago. As I am going through his material again, it came time to take a new and fresh look at Ubik. I had a vague memory of the story, and its trippy nature, but again I have been surprised and reinvigorated by one of PKD's mind bending novels.
Ubik is, without a doubt, completely out there, in terms of story telling, and reader comprehension. It's science fiction, it's a mystery, it's a wild ride through PKD's mind. Just when I thought I had a handle on what was going on, on which way was up and which was down, he managed to throw my certainty, and have me pondering just who are the players here, and who is being played. Perhaps it was me, the reader, that was being played. And all for good measure, as Ubik is a spellbinding tale worth the journey it asked of me.
Set in what was the future year of 1992 (the novel was published in the 60's), Earth is a world where telepaths and precogs operate, and are utilised by companies to steal important information. Joe Chip works for Runciter Associates, a company specialising in employing inertials, people capable of nullifying those psychic eavesdroppers.
Runciter Associates is run by Glen and his wife, Ella, who is in what is called half-life. Having died several years earlier, she is in a frozen state, with her consciousness accessible for brief periods of time. The moratorium that houses Ella is having problems with another half-lifer called Jory, who keeps bleeding his consciousness over into Ella's and interrupting Glen's communications.
Meanwhile Runciter Associates get's a very big job assignment, on the moon, which requires the largest number of inertials they have ever gotten together for a single job. Once they reach the surface a bomb explodes, killing Glen Runciter, and forcing the rest to retreat and head home as quickly as possible.
Joe Chip is now in charge and he starts to notice some odd changes occurring to himself and some of the others in his care. They rush Glen to the moratorium where Ella is housed, but appear to have been to late to have his consciousness take with the half-life world.
A couple of Joe's associates die in a way that defies explanation. They appear to have literally turned to dust, as if having aged enormously in a period of just hours. Joe starts noticing a pattern occurring around him, where the world seems to be reverting to a previous age. Before long Joe and his team appear to be in the year 1939.
Meanwhile he has been receiving messages from Glen Runciter, indicating that Glen is in fact alive, and it is the group that have died. And for Joe to locate a product called Ubik, and use it to contain the decomposition that is occurring.
It is this product, Ubik, that seems to be at the heart of this mystery, a product that can supposedly do so much, an elixir from a previous age, but how does it work? And how does Glen know about it, and even more so, how is he getting messages to Joe, if they are no longer in the same world?
The ending of Ubik leaves as much unresolved as it does resolved and wrapped up. The last line threw me, just as I thought I knew where it was all going. It is a great story, the sense of mystery still left hanging there is the icing on the cake, in my opinion. The mind wants to keep poking at it, taking the many strands presented within the novel and attempt to tie them together. But like reality itself, not everything resolves so neatly. This is typical of the mind games Philip K. Dick is capable of playing. He doesn't disappoint with this one either. I give Ubik 5 out of 5 stars.
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Links to earlier works
The Switch - Elmore Leonard
A Glitch In The World - Alex Drozd
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Where Epics Fail - Yahia Lababidi
Hellbent - Gregg Hurwitz
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
Soon - Lois Murphy
The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
Altered Carbon - Richard Morgan
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Crooked God Machine - Autumn Christian