“It takes a certain amount of courage, he thought, to face yourself and say with candor, I’m rotten. I’ve done evil and I will again. It was no accident; it emanated from the true, authentic me.” -Philip K. Dick
eldritch adj. – unearthly; weird; strange
Okay, I’m halfway through my Exegesis-plus-12-novels PKD read along, so to celebrate I want to start this review with a bit of research. As any fan will probably tell you, Philip K. Dick wrote a lot. And by “a lot”, I mean 48 novels*, and 121 short stories. That is a staggering output of work for any artist, especially considering Dick died aged only 53. (*Sadly, three of those novels’ manuscripts have been lost.)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is the thirtieth (30th!) novel Dick wrote, reportedly written between Clans of the Alphane Moon and The Zap Gun. [source] (Publishing dates are different.) It was one of two books by Dick nominated for the 1966 Nebula Award. The other book was Doctor Bloodmoney, but they both lost out to Frank Herbert’s Dune. Continue reading
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” -Octavia E. Butler
Growing up in England, I wasn’t familiar with Octavia Butler’s gripping tale of slavery and time travel, Kindred. I’ve since learned that it is a text often taught in American high schools and colleges. (I envy the lucky students who get to read this book as part of their studies!) It was recommended to me by some fellow bloggers when I was making a list of essential speculative-fiction books written by female authors.
Kindred tells the story of Dana, a young African-American writer living in California in 1976. She is married to Kevin, an older Caucasian man who is also a writer. Doing my best to keep this spoiler-free, I will only mention that the plot involves time travel, a pre-Civil War plantation in the southern part of the United States, slavery, the bonds of love and family, and what people are capable of to ensure their survival. Continue reading
“The fixed idea of madness is fascinating, if you are inclined toward viewing with interest something that is palpably impossible yet nonetheless exists.” (p.97)
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is the final novel Philip K. Dick completed before his untimely death in March 1982. Often listed as the third part of the VALIS Trilogy, it bears little relation to the first two VALIS books. (Dick’s intended third part of the trilogy, The Owl in Daylight, never progressed beyond a rough outline.) It is classed as being both a postmodern and philosophical novel which Dick was quoted as saying “is in no way science fiction.” Interestingly, his agent had a different interpretation of the book:
“in your science fiction they drive things called flobbles and quibbles, and in this one they drive Hondas — but it’s still essentially a science fiction novel. Although I can’t explain exactly how.”
These quotes are taken from an interview the author gave to Twilight Zone magazine at the beginning of 1982. At that time the interviewer remarked that Dick “was in excellent spirits and was looking forward to the premiere of Blade Runner […] with considerable excitement”. It is sad that he didn’t live to see it. Continue reading
“When has the government ever told anyone the truth?” (p.76)
The Divine Invasion was published in the same year as VALIS. It is the second book in the VALIS Trilogy, although there is only a brief mention of VALIS in the story. Like VALIS it addresses religion and philosophy, but it’s not as tightly structured or plotted as the first book. In fact, some parts of The Divine Invasion feel like they belong to a completely different story. According to Jonathan Lethem, one of the editors of Dick’s Exegesis, this book was written in only four weeks. It would be easy to say it shows.
The Divine Invasion tells the story of two distant-planet colonists, Herb Asher and Rybys Romney. We follow them on their journey back to Earth as Rybys is due to give birth to a son, Emmanuel. The book goes on to chronicle a battle between the forces of good and evil in which Emmanuel will play a major role. He is joined by a young girl called Zina, an old man, Elias, who acts as his guardian, and a kid goat. I kid you not. Continue reading
“Human beings make terrible gods.” (p.162)
Every now and then, a story comes along that just seems to push all the right buttons at the right time. Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix is that book. In my opinion it’s a fantastic story that deserves to be read by as many people as possible. I’ve been waiting to read a book this good since I started my blog.
*[Spoiler Warning: Providing a synopsis of this book is difficult without revealing some of the plot. Read on at your own risk.]*
The book opens with a frame narrative that reminded me of the first part of A Canticle for Leibowitz. Years after a great catastrophe, an old man finds “a cave full of computers” in the desert. Within these dated artifacts lies an audio file which contains an extract of The Book of Phoenix, narrated by a woman with a “soft breathy voice […] like a powerful incantation.” (p.5)
“To tell my tale, I will use the old African tools of story: Spoken words. They are worthier of my trust and they’ll last longer.” (p.5)
Short & simple answer: It’s my hobby.
Fantasy Bookshelf (c) Photowall.co.uk
I started this blog after being inspired by reading some fantastic reviews by bloggers who have now become friends. As you know, there is so much brilliant content drifting out there waiting to be discovered. If we only had the time we wanted, we could read and comment on all those little gems we keep coming across. If we had more time, we could read all those books in our tbr piles, both physical and wish-listical. And we could update our own blogs more frequently than we currently do so.
I’m struggling to manage a post per week. This didn’t really bother me until I found myself starting to feel a bit guilty about it. Wait a minute; this is my hobby, right? So why do I feel like I haven’t done my homework and it’s time to go to school?.. Continue reading
“I sat on the harbour wall with a girl one night: in the confusion and collapse of the ordered sub-colony existence there were many such chance relationships until people found their niches again. She said, ‘They’ve known for fifty years that this was going to happen, and yet there were no preparations.’”
Winner of the 1976 BSFA Best Novel award, Michael G. Coney’s Brontomek! is a story about the effects of a huge corporation on a small community of colonists living on a planet called ‘Arcadia’. It’s also about love, sailing, small-town community life, farming and giant mek machines. There isn’t much to be found about Brontomek! on the net. I’d only heard of Coney’s 1973 novel Friends Come in Boxes before this, and that was thanks to Science Fiction Ruminations’ excellent review of it over here.
After a bizarre natural disaster hits the planet, the “Hetherington Organisation” offers the remaining colonists a “five-year-plan” that they promise will rejuvenate Arcadia. This offer includes the deployment of the titular “brontomeks”, huge, mechanised, farming machines armed with lasers, as well as an army of shapeshifting worker-aliens called “amorphs”. What could possibly go wrong?