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Ubik (S.F. MASTERWORKS) by Philip K. Dick

Ubik (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (original 1969; edition 2000)

by Philip K. Dick

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4,181731,196 (3.99)92
Authors:Philip K. Dick
Info:Gollancz (2000), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, US Fiction, Sci-Fi

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Ubik by Philip K. Dick (1969)

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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
On my to-read list for a long time, Ubik was certainly excellent, although it was infused with a bit more of the spiritual side of Philip K. Dick than I fully relate to.

Ubik was mind-bending, suspenseful, filled with earnest interesting characters, and had a science fiction invention/device that was fascinating and new to me: half-life which allows people to continue to communicate with a corpse for a limited period of time. Much of the book depends on the interplay between real life and half life and the increasingly amorphous borders between the two. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Fast moving novel that explores solipsism, perhaps, in a mind-bending manner. Dick creates a world overflowing with novelties, then shifts the entire setting of the novel, twisting the plot and characters in a manner that reminded me of the creative freedom of the novel. There's a strong whiff of meta-fictive play about the novel, but none of the pretentiousness that so often accompanies it.

( )
  Michael.McGuire | May 22, 2014 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 2005.

This novel lived up to its reputation as one of Dick’s classics.

Its theme of personal realities and the imposition of one’s own reality on others echoes Dick’s Eye in the Sky and his A Maze of Death. The intimation of personal death in the bathroom graffiti of “Lean over the bowl/And then take a dive./All of you are dead. I am alive.” echoes the death of Jason Taverner’s celebrity identity in Dick’s My Tears, the Policeman Said. The horrifying presence of entropy seen in Dick’s Martian Time-Slip is echoed here when Joe Chip senses death and entropy closing in on him.

The malevolent presence of Jory infiltrating the minds of those in cryonic suspension was a bit like the gnostic god of A Maze of Death. The omnipresent Ubik messages are a classic example of divine messages (though, of course, Runciter is not god, but he is, in some sense, more real given that he is mobile and moves about in the “real world” and not the delusional world of those in the moratorium) found in trash and advertising, the divine penetrating the mundane world.

The style of this novel got me to thinking about the virtues and faults of Dick’s often rapid and ramshackle speed of composition. (I have no idea how quickly this novel was conceived and written.) I found the jarring nomenclature odd and interesting. Specifically, there is the clever “ubik” for “ubiquitous”, but we also get the decidedly staid Latin of “moratorium”. On the one hand, I sense Dick was writing in a hurry and (perhaps like the use of “demesne” in his The Penultimate Truth) simply used a rather improbable and long Latin word when a real future would have invented a slang word or corruption (like "ubik"). On the other hand, it's a great use of the word's literal meaning -- "to delay".

However, I can't decide if the ending, when Runciter sees Joe Chip money, rather than the reverse throughout most of the book where the alive Runciter attempts to communicate to "dead" Chip via things like his picture on money, is meant to make a thematic point I don't understand or just a vestige of A. E. van Vogt's influence on Dick -- to wit, the need to pile one more plot twist on the end of the novel even if it makes or even corrodes any serious philosophical or thematic point Dick was trying to make. (It should be noted that Runciter, while generally a rather sympathetic god figure, seems not above conducting business scams to drum up clients for his anti-psi service which may make him sort of a corrupt gnostic god if we buy the Runciter world = divinity, moratorium=our flawed world analogy. Of course there was also the mandatory dark haired girl here with Pat. There was plenty of humor to be had in the plight of the financially incompotent Joe Chip in a world where vending machines have to be constantly fed, where you have to pay to even use the door out in your own apartment. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Apr 22, 2014 |
Ubik is a book where you don't really know what's happening until the end. It's skillfully written enough that you know as much as the characters throughout the story. It comes together fast at the end and makes for a satisfying story and conclusion. ( )
1 vote SebastianHagelstein | Apr 6, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Warning: Use only as directed. And with caution.

Written in 1969, Ubik is one of Philip K. Dick’s most popular science fiction novels. It’s set in a future 1992 where some humans have develop psi and anti-psi powers which they are willing to hire out to individuals or companies who want to spy (or block spying) on others. Also in this alternate 1992, if you’ve got the money, you can put your beloved recently-deceased relatives into “coldpac” where they can be stored in half-life and you can visit with them for years after their death.

As Ubik begins, Glen Runciter, the head of one of New York City’s top anti-psi organizations, discovers that all the operatives of the top psi organization (whose telepathic fields they like to keep track of) have disappeared. This means less work for Runciter’s employees and he’s concerned about how they’re going to get paid. When Runicter’s company is offered a big job on the moon, he figures they’ve found the missing telepaths and he’s eager to hire out as many of his inactive inertials as he can, including the new one who has a strange and disturbing power: she can nullify events before they happen. But when Runciter’s inertials get to the moon, disaster strikes, and when they return to Earth, they find that life is not how they left it. In fact, time seems to be going backward and something is killing them off one by one. The only thing that might help is Ubik — a mysterious product in an aerosol spray can... If only they can find it!

Ubik is a fast-paced SF thriller full of classic PKD themes such as an unreliable reality, time running backward, precognition, telepathy, paranoia, drug abuse, hallucinations, and spirituality. The story is quite funny in places and includes a bit of horror, too.

There are several plot twists in Ubik, including a big one at the end, which means that the reader is as unsure about what’s going on as the characters are until the big reveal and, still, there are some questions left unanswered. Mainly we're left contemplating what PKD is suggesting about death, salvation, and God. Ubik is one of those books where, at the end, you have to review the plot in light of your new knowledge just so you can try to put it all together.

I listened to Blackstone Audio’s version read by Anthony Heald. Heald successfully handles a rather large cast of alive and dead humans, not to mention the talking appliances and doors. Thanks to Heald’s skills, Ubik on audio was thoroughly entertaining.

Ubik has been named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 English-Language Novels From 1923 (list compiled by Lev Grossman). I can’t say that I agree with this accolade, but I can say that I enjoyed Ubik and can recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction. For Philip K. Dick fans, Ubik is an essential read. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, MarcCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bishop, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorémieux, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Espín, ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langowski, JürgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laux, Renatesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Podaný, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rauch, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robertson, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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At three-thirty A.M. on the night of June 5, 1992, the top telepath in the Sol System fell off the map in the offices of Runciter Associates in New York City.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679736646, Paperback)

Nobody but Philip K. Dick could so successfully combine SF comedy with the unease of reality gone wrong, shifting underfoot like quicksand. Besides grisly ideas like funeral parlors where you swap gossip for the advice of the frozen dead, Ubik (1969) offers such deadpan farce as a moneyless character's attack on the robot apartment door that demands a five-cent toll:

"I'll sue you," the door said as the first screw fell out.

Joe Chip said, "I've never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it."

Chip works for Glen Runciter's anti-psi security agency, which hires out its talents to block telepathic snooping and paranormal dirty tricks. When its special team tackles a big job on the Moon, something goes terribly wrong. Runciter is killed, it seems--but messages from him now appear on toilet walls, traffic tickets, or product labels. Meanwhile, fragments of reality are timeslipping into past versions: Joe Chip's beloved stereo system reverts to a hand-cranked 78 player with bamboo needles. Why does Runciter's face appear on U.S. coins? Why the repeated ads for a hard-to-find universal panacea called Ubik ("safe when taken as directed")?

The true, chilling state of affairs slowly becomes clear, though the villain isn't who Joe Chip thinks. And this is Dick country, where final truths are never quite final and--with the help of Ubik--the reality/illusion balance can still be tilted the other way. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A dead man sends haunting warnings back from the grave, and Joe Chip must solve these mysteries to determine his own real or surreal existence

(summary from another edition)

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