Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick

“Can’t make the frug contest, Helen; stomach’s upset. I’ll fix you PKD! PKD drops you back in the thick of things fast. Taken as directed, PKD speeds relief to head and stomach. Remember: PKD is only seconds away. Avoid prolonged use.”

 

Japanese cover art

 

*spoiler warning* this “review?” may affect your grip on reality!

 

Once upon a time there was Ubik. Ubik wrote a story about a man called PKD. In this story, PKD was a writer. He wrote science fiction tales for a living. He was fairly successful, mostly due to the sheer number of stories he wrote. But a lot of people appeared to enjoy his work so PKD was able to keep on writing. Unfortunately, PKD never seemed to have enough money on him to pay for things like the doors to open or the shower to work, so he spent a lot of time indoors.

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Riddley Walker (1980) by Russell Hoban

“I think the best writing is done with what enters you and takes possession of you and doesn’t let go of you until you get the job done.” – Russell Hoban


Riddley Walker is the 12 year old narrator of this tale set in a post-apocalyptic England two thousand years after nuclear war has wiped out most of civilization. It is written in a vernacular English that often needs to be read out loud to understand. It tells the story of Riddley’s journey as he travels to Canterbury and back, trying to piece together what happened by seeking a “Little Shynin Truth” in the remnants of an old Saint’s story and the Punch & Judy show.

First things first, this book is not an easy read. I don’t think it is meant to be. Only 214 pages long, yet it took me months to read it through. I kept putting it down and reading other books, becoming too easily distracted by more “popular” fare. But when I did read it, I quickly found myself immersed in the grim, primitive, pitiless world that Hoban creates. Imagine muddy paths winding through a sparse, broken landscape, endless rain falling at dusk, packs of starving wild dogs waiting just out of bow range. Perhaps there was only so much darkness that I was willing to take at one time? Continue reading