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Next Up: Ubik

Science Fiction.

Science fiction and I have a checkered past. I really despised Neuromancer. Snow Crash wasn’t much better. After those two books, I thought I was done with this genre. But I was sorely mistaken.

Enter Ubik by Philip K. Dick.  (Sidenote: I’m even more leery of my search terms after writing about an author with the last name “Dick.”)

I’m prepared to hate science fiction even more. I honestly know zero about this book going in, but here are a few facts about Ubik and its author, Philip K. Dick.

  • Published in 1969, the book was highly praised by Time critic, Lev Grossman. He called it “a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you’ll never be sure you’ve woken up from.”
  • A film version of Ubik has never been completed, though three versions have either been attempted or are currently in the works, including a version that Michael Gondry was said to be working on in 2011.
  • In 1998, Cryo Interactive developed a video game based on Ubik. The game was available for PC and Playstation.
  • Dick wrote a trillion books (actually 36), including Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? which loosely inspired the film Bladerunner.
  • He won the 1962 Hugo Award for The Man In The High Castle.
  • After struggling with mental health issues for years, Dick passed away from heart failure in 1982 at age 53.

I can’t get over my sense of dread about reading this novel. I’ve had nothing but terrible experiences with science fiction.

I seem to get science fiction about as much as Rush Limbaugh gets humility.

Tell me there’s hope!

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25 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sam #

    I’d like to paint a rosy picture, but I’m not a fan of Lev Grossman so I’m not inclined to believe him.

    Best of luck, brave warrior!

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  2. Good luck! I don’t know this book, but I’ve enjoyed other works by the author. (Your results may differ.)

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  3. “I seem to get science fiction about as much as Rush Limbaugh gets humility.”
    Great line! I agree on both accounts.

    Like

    November 7, 2013
    • Yep. I guess you can tell I’m not a fan.

      Like

      November 7, 2013
  4. Reblogged this on KMSRAJ51-Always Positive Thinker.

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  5. aedanwriter #

    Reblogged this on The Hot Topic.

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  6. Like all genres there is good and bad Sci-Fi, and of course that is relative to the expectations and the judgement of the reader. For me, good Sci-fi is writing that sets out to imagine different possibilities for the development of society and culture, with science often being the central catalyst for change. At its best I would argue that Sci-fi is a none-essentialist genre, in other words it doesn’t treat people as being naturally predisposed to act in certain ways, but rather, highlights the systems and processes that bring ‘people’ in to being. Change one aspect of the world and you dramatically change how people might dress, behave and consider themselves. JD Ballard comes to mind when I say this, with a novel like ‘The Drowned World’, his first novel, providing a careful analysis of what might happen as a result of global warming. Ballard doesn’t just describe the rising of water levels and the changing ecology, but also describes the changing psychological states of protagonists subjected to a kind of neo-primordial environment.

    Aliens, space ships, heroes (and I say heroes because they are often masculine stereotypes) represent, for me, things that are cliché elements of Sci-fi and are actually not essential to the purpose of the genre. In fact, these elements can be the obvious trappings of bad Sci-fi writing that effectively rehashes all kinds of assumptions about race, gender and narrative. It’s just ‘space-themed’ writing, you could take a western script and just swap all the elements so the stage coach becomes a space ship and a lasso a laser. So, I’m being a bit arch in my comments here, suggesting a quality framework for the genre. But ironically that’s because I think it should be a genre that is well placed to affect our assumptions, challenge or egocentric sense of the world around us and make strange the things that are familiar.

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  7. It could be, too, that your experiences with SF are a reflection of the tastes and predilections of the TWO critics who put together the list in first place. Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Ubik, and Gravity’s Rainbow are NOT a representative sample of science fiction. Where are the best works of SF–Frank Herbert’s Dune, Walter M.Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, to name just a few? Not on Time’s list. There’s a whole lot more to SF than dystopian horror (and more than the cowboys-and-indians-in-space of the space opera sub-genre). Unfortunately, you won’t see that in these 101 books.

    Isn’t it interesting to note how many of the books on the list are dystopian in their own way? What does that say about the people who created the list?

    Like

    November 7, 2013
    • All true. I feel like it’s a little more than that, though. I’m not even a huge fan of Sci-Fi movies. But we’ll see. After about 30 pages, Ubik is actually interesting so far. Snow Crash started strong too, though.

      Also, I promise to read Dune after this project. I really want to read that one!

      Like

      November 7, 2013
      • Good for you! While you’re at it, check out Vonnegut. You like Heller’s Catch-22 and satire in general; that’s what a lot of Vonnegut’s works were (Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You Mrs. Rosewater, etc.). Vonnegut was a member of and a darling of the NY literary community, so it’s also a bit of a surprise that he didn’t make the Time list.

        Like

        November 8, 2013
        • Slaughterhouse 5 did, but that’s the only one.

          Like

          November 8, 2013
  8. I suggest that you find an essay by polish writer Stanislaw Lem entitled “Science Fiction, a Hopeless Case, with exceptions”. In it, he talks about Philip K. Dick and “Ubik” in particular.

    Like

    November 7, 2013
    • Is Ubik one of the exceptions?

      Like

      November 7, 2013
      • Yes – actually he says Dick is one of the exceptions. I really do encourage you to read the essay – it’s very insightful. Dick is one of my favorite writers, and Ubik is one of his best (though I personally like “The Man in the High Castle” and the “Valis” trilogy more). Dick once wrote that the main questions he sought to explore in his work were, “What is real?” and “What does it mean to be human?” I’m looking forward to your response to “Ubik”.

        Like

        November 7, 2013
  9. I’m cheering for you! Sci Fi is a mixed bag but I think P.K.D. is one of the better authors out there.

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  10. I hope you enjoy this. It’s one of my favourites from PKD. 🙂

    Like

    November 7, 2013
  11. I grew up reading science fiction. I can remember the first science fiction novel I read. It was The Star Conquerors by Ben Bova. And I was hooked from then on. I never cared for the dystopian stuff but I loved Jules Verne, Heinlein, Asimov, Gordon Dickson, Arthur C. Clarke and Philip Jose Farmer because they asked the question What if? Then they let their imaginations roam. The thing that tied all these writers together was science. There always had to be a scientific principle behind their work. Because of these writers, they encouraged others to believe that anything was possible. And that’s the thing that put the idea in the mind of the scientists that man could land on the moon and even go to Mars. Scratch under the surface of a good many scientists and you will find someone who first dreamed dreams bigger than themselves after reading science fiction and asking what if.

    Like

    November 8, 2013
  12. Arrrgh……

    Like

    November 8, 2013
  13. Reading this reminded me of my own dreams (nightmares?). Pretty unsettled through and through. I’m not sure why I ‘want’ you to like this one, but I do. I certainly enjoyed the unbalanced feeling that pervades the story. Maybe because it feels like an adventure?

    se divierta leyéndolo!

    Like

    November 8, 2013
  14. I have to add another plug for The Man in the High Castle. And while Neal Stephenson has written some mediocre stuff, including Snowcrash, I really liked Anathem. Some authors are just really uneven. Don’t give up!

    Like

    November 8, 2013
  15. MightyMama #

    Haven’t read that one, but I’ve enjoyed lots of his short stories. Hope it’s not too bad for you. I’m a sucker for sci fi. Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, although he is a borderline fantasy/sci fi author.

    Like

    November 8, 2013
  16. Ubik rocks. I don’t read a lot of sci fi, but this is one I kept on my shelf.

    Like

    November 10, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Philip K. Dick’s Fifth Wife Has A Blog | 101 Books
  2. Philip K. Dick: le stigmate di Valis – Carmilla on line ® | HyperHouse
  3. The Man in the High Castle | GARGUNZA.ORG

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