Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s
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Known in his lifetime primarily to readers of science fiction, Philip K. Dick (1928-82) is now seen as a uniquely visionary figure, a writer who, in editor Jonathan Lethem's words, "wielded a sardonic yet heartbroken acuity about the plight of being alive in the twentieth century, one that makes him a lonely hero to the readers who cherish him." Posing the questions "What is human?" and "What is real?" in a multitude of fascinating ways, Dick produced works-fantastic and weird yet developed with precise logic, marked by wild humor and soaring flights of religious speculation-that are startlingly prescient imaginative responses to 21st-century quandaries. This Library of America volume brings together four of Dick's most original novels. The Man in the High Castle (1962), which won the Hugo Award, describes an alternate world in which Japan and Germany have won World War II and America is divided into separate occupation zones. The dizzying The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) posits a future in which competing hallucinogens proffer different brands of virtual reality. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), about a bounty hunter in search of escaped androids in a postapocalyptic future, was the basis for the movie Blade Runner. Ubik (1969), with its future world of psychic espionage agents and cryogenically frozen patients inhabiting an illusory "half-life," pursues Dick's theme of simulated realities and false perceptions to ever more disturbing conclusions. As with most of Dick's novels, no plot summary can suggest the mesmerizing and constantly surprising texture of these astonishing books.