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UBIK (Doubleday Science Fiction) Hardcover – January 1, 1969
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- ASIN : B0006BYZF4
- Publisher : Doubleday; 1st edition (January 1, 1969)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 202 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1127042556
- ISBN-13 : 978-1127042555
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,126,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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This is because I am running out of titles to read and he will not be writing any more.
Based on this novel, one cannot be sure.
I had read many short stories and a few novels by PKD in the past and something prompted me to read another book by him, so I picked Ubik after checking various rank lists online.
It is an essential read for any person who finds themselves in the throes of a PKD obsession.
It is a mental workout. I would suggest coming to it with a clear head, otherwise threads will be lost and this is a novel with a heavy threadcount.
Is it the best PKD novel? Possibly. It is one I have enjoyed more than others, but I have enjoyed them all, including the philosophical onslaught of VALIS and the early SF novel, Solar Lottery.
PKD is not the greatest stylist who ever lived but the ideas come so fast and so consistently that really, who cares? Literary style considerations are not why you read this guy.
Probably his best writing in that sense is A Scanner Darkly, but it is very dark.
I intend to finish reading all of his novels because I continue to enjoy them.
Starting out, I wondered why. While the plot and world building were intriguing, I found the writing a bit clunky (lots of adjectives and made-up words) and the attempt at future technology dated. (not surprising--it was written in 1969 and takes place in 1992). The style reminded me of a sci-fi version of a Phillip Marlowe detective story--a bit cliché even though it may have been the prototype for the cliché.
But as the book progressed, the mood took hold of me, an unsettling feeling like the kind you get in those seconds between dreaming and awakening, when you struggle to figure out which is which. By the end, I knew I'd been treated to a great book, a complex, well-crafted and intertwined story of multiple realities, none of which is ever grounded enough to let you sort through them. But there's something more: these realities make you question your sense of life, like The Matrix without the machines, a floating reality that is the state of being itself.
The ideas rather than the characters are central to this story. Most of the characters are pretty flat. But once you get used to the world (psychic powers, colony on the moon, dead people in half-life), the mood takes over, as what appears to be reality fluctuates and changes.
It's a slow start, but as I stuck with it, I found it well worthwhile, an original work with a deeply unsettling feel. Think Kafka plus Twilight Zone in the Matrix.
Down-to-earth folks whose world view is grounded in what they perceive to be reality should probably avoid this book. But despite some rough edges, I found it to be a great read.
This novel is a mishmash of ideas, which is why I like it. In this world there are people with mental powers like mind-reading, telepathy, and precognition, as well as people who have the ability to counter these powers. Also, people have the ability to communicate with the recently dead, whose personalities live on in an accessible “half-life” for a certain period. Even better is the setting, which shows a world where everything costs, from paying your stove to cook and your front door to open.
The story takes place among a group of people who work for a company that hires people with the counter-powers to deflect the advantages of people who have the powers. After an attack on the company, the world seems to regress back in time for the people in the accident—rockets become jets become bi-planes, etc. The questions the novel explores are things like, is the regression in time truly happening or an illusion? has everyone been killed and is this an experience of half-life? are some dead and some alive? is it ultimately possible to use our experiences to tell who is dead and who is alive? Heady stuff. Great stuff.
Of course, reading it now reminds me also of the weaknesses of some of the science fiction I love. The characters are not drawn particularly strongly. And even the best science fiction cannot help but be a reflection of the time in which it was written. The pay-as-you-go appliances seem surprisingly old-fashioned, and the preponderance of cigarette smoking seems to be something that writers of the 60’s and 70’s couldn’t imagine a world without. And yet, it is easy to immerse yourself in this world and ignore these quaint touches in the face of some very interesting ideas.
Top reviews from other countries
Ubik firmly deserve the accolade of "Masterwork". It's amazing to think that this visionary novel, exploring the themes of technology and reality is over 50 years old and it's clear why PKD continues to be such a massive influence on the science fiction community. The book itself is beautifully told, with the downbeat and broke Technician Joe Chip, and Prudence owner Runciter sharing the pov for the majority of the narrative. Dick's concise descriptions of a somewhat disconnected and impersonal future through its incessantly rigid machine operated systems and steampunk-esque 'retro-future' devices are brilliantly evocative, whilst his explanations of complicated physics keep you firmly rooted in the genre, yet awlays on the right side of sci-fi babble. In fact, through a seamless use of character and scene, Dick does a perfect job of maintaining tension and momentum in a story that in other hands could easily be nothing more than a massively self indulgent mess. Above all, in spite the wealth of its wonderfully inventive ideas and tehcnological world building, Ubik is much mroe than a set of brilliant concepts moulded into a story. It's a darkly comic, intriguing, and thoroughly absorbing narrative that works because of a perfect symbiosis between setting chracter and story and pushes forward to the next mind bending twist and turn with the masterful ease of an author who understands his reader.
At a basic level it's a solid sci-fi yarn, but Ubik has so much more to offer than that; with PKD's typical themes of humanity and boundaries of reality and in the case of Ubik itself, even the very nature of faith in its human and theological forms.
As an intro to PKD's writings, I can't recommend this highly enough. I for one will now be scouring through his catalogue!
-- from the back cover
Written in 1966 and published in 1969, Ubik is Philip K Dick's twenty-fifth published novel. PKD's abiding themes were 'What is reality?' and 'What is it to be human?' and it is perhaps the first that is explored most obviously.
As with all PKD's works this novel makes you marvel at his imagination but also (if you are of a philosophical turn of mind) brings you to question and consider the themes he raises for yourself. PKD also creates characters that I at least find believable. As Ursula Le Guin has said "There are no heroes in Dick's books, but there are heroics. One is reminded of Dickens: what counts is the honesty, constancy, kindness and patience of ordinary people." PKD's characters always strike me as in some way authentic.
In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik as one of the 100 greatest English-language novels published since 1923.
"[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from."
--Paul Williams, Rolling Stone
"Philip Dick does not lead his critics an easy life, since he does not so much play the part of a guide through his phantasmagoric worlds as give the impression of one lost in their labyrinth."
-- Stanislaw Lem, "Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans"
If you are new to Philip K Dick's work I would also recommend the following novels (which generally seem to be regarded as among his best):
The Man In The High Castle (S.F. Masterworks)
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (S.F. Masterworks)
A Scanner Darkly (S.F. Masterworks)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (S.F. Masterworks)
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (S.F. Masterworks)
That said, though some of PKD's works are better than others, to my mind they are all well worth reading. I would also recommend his short story collections:
Beyond Lies The Wub: Volume One Of The Collected Short Stories
Second Variety: Volume Two Of The Collected Short Stories
The Father-Thing: Volume Three Of The Collected Short Stories
Minority Report: Volume Four Of The Collected Short Stories
We Can Remember It For You Wholesale: Volume Five of The Collected Short Stories
Painful. Gave up. Tedious tosh. Think I'm done with Mr Dick after a couple such experiences. Paper thin characters. Confusing dialogue and plot.
Was quite short and I personally would not award it 'Classic' status as I was not really blown away by it. Maybe my idea of classic is not the same as everyone elses! Would try another of his books in the future, though.