03 August 2009

Paranoid sci fi

A couple weeks ago, we headed for the nearby east (Cleveland, Ohio) for a bit of family reunion and an American Red Cross fund raiser featuring a huge and wonderful fireworks show.

I stopped at the Northfield Library to pick up a couple paperbacks for the plane rides and the layovers in Chicago. One of the books I checked out, and the one I read, was Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint. The author is best known for his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which was transformed into the movie Bladerunner.

The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

-Hamlet, Act I, Scene V

Philip K. Dick is a cult hero for his big ideas. And conceptually, Time Out of Joint is an intriguing and complex project. It was written in 1959 in the midst of the Cold War. In the book, it's 1996, the war is hot, and main character Ragle Gumm is a vital player. He is a tactical expert who has had a mental breakdown, but he's so important to the war effort that the powers that be will do nearly anything to keep him functioning -- even create the past. Making the scheme work requires Ragle Gumm's amnesia. But he begins to remember.

There are flashes of great writing in the book. They illuminate the mundane nature of most of the book like flashes of lightning. The basic concept is clever, but too many details are shoddy. Lou Stathis, writes in an afterward that Philip K. Dick had mental health problems, financial problems, and that he'd stoke himself with meth and go on writing jags to turn out books. Time Out of Joint seems like the product of such a time.

I'd certainly like to see what Ray Bradbury would have done with this plot.

PS: Ray Bradbury's 89th birthday is August 22. Send him a card in care of his local book store:
Ray Bradbury
c/o Mystery and Imagination
237 North Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203

The Philip K. Dick web site

Some of Bradbury's stories are variations of Dick's story

for Kindle


Anonymous said...

AND, just this week released at your local comic shop, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep- the graphic novel. Issue one has just come out. Lettered by Richards Starkings.. awesome stuff.


Ken Wedding said...

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