Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick
In many ways, Philip K. Dick is the quintessential science fiction author. His novels are rich with ideas, dizzying in scope, and profoundly concerned with the human condition in a world made sick with progress. On the other hand, his novels are often unwieldy, his writing at times an afterthought. It would surprise no one - having read a novel like “A Scanner Darkly” or “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” – to learn that Dick himself was prone to hallucinations, mysticism, and extensive, punishing drug abuse. Even without the frequent (and typically institutional) drug use in his novels, they are clearly the product of a mind straining against itself or, possibly, a world out of joint. Both are frequent themes in his work.
It would be impossible to sum up even one of the four novels in this collection using this space. Needless to say, they represent some of the best of his work. “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” contains some of Dick’s wildest ideas (which is saying something) while “The Man In the High Castle” is a more conventional – yet totally entertaining – alternate history set in the early 1960s wherein the US has lost World War II. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” would later be reduced to “Blade Runner” and probably remains his best-known work for that reason. However, “Ubik” is his virtuoso performance: formally, it is his most readable and densely layered work. Illusive, allusive, elusive, it is one of the very few Dick novels that puts it all together without falling apart. His vision of a commoditized future is only one element with the ring of prophecy to it, and like the best works of the genre it poses many more questions than it hopes to answer.
More than describing fantastic worlds or space battles, Dick’s best work seeks the human element in a confusing and shifting world. And what is most surprising, of course, is how familiar it all is.
- Phil Rollins, Learning Technologies Developer (prllns on Goodreads)