Philip K. Dick Debut

OK, we’ve all seen Blade Runner.  Most of us have also watched the sequel… I remember liking it when I watched it.  The thing is that the movie, in my mind, is more of a collection of sensations, generating the same kind of feeling that noir film of the thirties did, than something I analyze as a piece of science fiction.

Now, I’ve read every major SF writer out there, in depth and in detail… except for Philip K. Dick.  Why?  I’m not sure.  I’ve had the Library of America PKD collection in my shopping cart for about a decade, but it always seems to get bumped out by something newer and shinier.

A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick

But on my birthday a year ago, a friend gifted me A Maze of Death, one of his novels.

Let’s be clear, this book is not the conventional door into Dick.  That would probably be the novella that engendered Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.  Additionally, this is a dark book, whose central theme–as foreshadowed by the title–is the human propensity to cause other people’s deaths.

So what did I think?

This boy has potential.  If even one of his minor works is so intriguing, I can’t help but think that his classics must be amazing indeed.

So let’s have a look at this one.  Without being overly spoilery, this one has three separate layers of reality all transpiring concurrently, of which one, in what, from what I’ve read online, is a typical display of Dick’s sense of humor, is only evident in the chapter list.

The book is interesting more on an intellectual level than as a typical literary enterprise.  The characters are, to put it mildly, unlikable, and they die in mostly uninspiring ways.  Nevertheless, the reader is always kept engaged by the underlying mystery.

The style–perhaps intentionally, I won’t be able to judge fully until I read more of the man’s work–reminds me more of the work of the fifties than the seventies.  It’s reminiscent of A Case of Conscience, or even Mission of Gravity.

So, as a corporate boss might say, this is a good start.  I still need to get my act together and read the meat of his output in order to give my loyal readers a better picture.  Stay tuned!

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer.  His own exploration of the human psyche is strongest in his novel Outside.  You can check it out here.

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13 comments

  1. I have read a lot of PKD, and this is one of the few I haven’t read! There are a few that are quintessential PKD and others like this one that are…apocryphal. When you get into more Philip K. Dick, you’ll know why I used that term. 🙂 Enjoy the ride!

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  2. This is one of my favorite Dick novels. Even if it’s not considered one of his best, it has all the dickian elements, plus it’s well written like most of his work. That guy was very good with words, it didn’t matter what he was writing about he had a quick yet intriguing way to get you move along with any crazy story he created.

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    1. This one was certainly intriguing conceptually, and well-written indeed. As I said, though, I’ll need to read more of his work to be able to place it in context.

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      1. A super one is the three stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. I think that is the quintessential Dick, altough many others are considered his top achievements. Bottom line you rarely go wrong with Philip K. Dick.

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  3. I like “Minority Report”, one of his works (and I think the only one? Not sure) to be turned into a film. The movie was okay, but the book really is a great piece. Part of what I like about Philip K. Dick’s work is how he manages to write such a thoroughly engrossing story in such a short space.

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      1. I’m ashamed to admit I never read the story… I have seen the film a number of times and what I like about it is more the ambience than the story, which, as you point out, isn’t perfect by any means.

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      2. I see your point about the ambience; there was something about the world of Blade Runner though that set my teeth on edge in the film more so than the books. That is just a personal opinion and maybe the film is worth a second look as I haven’t watched it for several years.

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