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Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Ubik (original 1969; edition 1978)

by Philip K. Dick

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4,337801,140 (4)96
Authors:Philip K. Dick (Author)
Info:Panther (1978), Edition: (Reissue), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction

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Ubik by Philip K. Dick (1969)


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Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
The first time I read Ubik I enjoyed it very much, thanks to the strong premise and the way it subverts expectations. Since then, however, I've reread the book not once but twice, and I find that it falls in my estimation with each new reading.

While it seemed to me upon my first reading that the first portion of the book was intentionally meant by Dick to establish expectations so that later he could pull the rug out from under you, upon rereading there are indications that Dick had no such plans in mind. Instead much of the early portion seems as though it was Dick throwing stuff onto the paper and seeing what would stick: there's an extended portion where the clothes of this future are discussed, and everyone is wearing utterly bizarre outfits. Nothing is done with this idea, and in fact shortly after this when a character is introduced they are wearing what we would consider a regular outfit- and neither the bizarre fashion of the previous segment or the normal fashion of the latter segment warrant notice by the characters.

On a similar, and much more significant scale, the psi and anti-psi aspects of the world also appear upon rereading not to be a central element of the story, but an idea that Dick conceived of and abandoned without exploring. The entire first portion of the book focuses on the psi vs. anti-psi dynamic, and this rivalry is what leads the characters to the moon and their injuries. When the bizarre reality shifts begin to occur in the second part of the novel it's natural to assume that somehow the psi and anti-psi powers are somehow involved, especially given the introduction of Pat Conley and her reality altering powers earlier in the story. Instead, however, the psi/anti-psi angle is revealed in the end to be a red herring, as the explanation has nothing to do with psychic powers. The first time I read Ubik this twist struck me as unexpected and impressive, but here's what I noticed upon my rereadings: the story never actually engages with the psi/anti-psi idea at all. If instead this story was exactly the same, except that people with psi powers were replaced by leprechauns and Joe Chip's team were leprechaun exterminators, would anything be substantively different? Drawn to the moon to combat a leprechaun infestation Joe Chip and his fellow exterminators are ambushed by a tribe of leprechauns, awaking in a bizarre world that they suspect is a group hallucination caused by leprechaun magic. Everything would work out exactly the same, as the anti-psi powers of Joe's team never play a role in the half-life world. Nor do psi powers even make an appearance. Pat Conley's powers never even manifest outside of her lengthy introduction, even when they seem to be able to cure the situation that the team finds itself in. Despite the fact that psychic powers are introduced in the book nothing is actually done with the idea, so that while it does serve as an interesting piece of misdirection, it feels as though this could just as easily have been a happy coincidence for PKD as an intentional choice.

As with many books by Dick the ending includes a twist that appears to draw everything into question, but which doesn't actually make much sense or add anything to the story once you think about it. So what if what the twist ending suggests is reality? It would mean that the story of Joe Chip that came before retroactively doesn't make any sense, or that the rules of where Joe Chip is are different in a way that was never previously hinted. As to the character the twist occurs to, the book ends without that character ever taking action, so the twist is all style and no substance. It's the equivalent of an ending line asking "woah dude, what if what YOU SEE as the color blue is different from what I SEE as the color blue?" Any level of critical thought will leave you unimpressed by the idea on its own, and PKD never explores it in an interesting way either.

Anyway, this book is a fun read, but the first part is largely divorced from and superfluous to the second part. It works to subvert expectations, but it's not clear that Dick deserves much credit for this given that he doesn't ever engage with the ideas that constitute the misdirect- though he could have. The ending twist is stupid when you think about it, but doesn't hurt the book much (not that it ever really does in PKD's work, though I find it a particularly annoying blemish on The Man in the High Castle). If you read Ubik, only read it once and try not to think too hard about it. And don't read this review, I guess. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
I read Ubik last year. It is one of those books you go back to every now and then and it seems that every time you do, something new pops up. Treat yourself with this wonderful story. You won't regret it. ( )
  Irena. | Nov 28, 2014 |
I'm not going to pretend I really got what was going on, but that's ok. I'm going to read some more Dick, and then give this one another go in a year or two, that's what I'm going to do. ( )
  behemothing | Oct 25, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed Ubik. It has elements of time travel, social commentary through the many forms Ubik takes, mystery and horror, all set in the near future (now past) of 1992 and the past of 1939. ( )
  pussreboots | Oct 23, 2014 |
I got to be honest, I had completely no idea of what I was going to get into when I started reading Ubik by Philip K. Dick. It's a title that's on "Time's 100 Best English-language Novels" and is written by one of the biggest science fiction writers of the 20th century. After reading Ubik, it's become one of my favorite science fiction books of all time.

In this world, there is a struggle between people with mental abilities (telepaths, sightseers, etc.) and those who have abilities to fight them. Glen Runciter and his wife, who he can speak to through technology even though he is dead. He and and a team of his strongest anti-psychics were then ambushed while on assignment and the books descends into a crazy journey through time and space.

I found it really hard to really understand what was going on in the book at some moments, especially when Dick was setting the plot up at the beginning. He really just threw you into the world with very little to go off of. Yes, there were some explanations of certain skills or people, but it was hard to figure out what was going on in the big picture of things. To make this confusion a little worse, the book is chock full of twists and turns. What you think was going on at one moment isn't reality... and that also may not be reality either. It makes for a very entertaining read, much better than the crazy thrillers that you can find today, but without a strong introduction, it lost some of its clarity in the process.

Its a bit of a conundrum really. I really enjoy just how crazy the book seem to be. It almost felt like it constantly left me wanting, but not necessarily related to the advancement of the plot. It's more of a wanting to figure out just what the heck is going on in the first place. You are almost stuck in the "now" time frame instead of the "what's next." It's a really different type of feeling of a book, in my opinion, and even for the trouble it gives, it is most definitely worth it.

Since it's a science fiction book, one of the major parts of the book should be the idea of a "vision of the future." In a way, Dick turns that idea on its head and fuses it with a "vision to the past." It starts with that vision of the future, a world where psychics and anti-psychics have become a business, a world where everything requires payment. By the end, everything just flips over. I don't want to spoil the book at all, but things can get pretty crazy as you make your way through the pages of the book. You can find yourself moving back in time just as time is moving forwards as well. It's a really weird concept, but it is also really intriguing.

Ubik has become one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time. Apart from the initial confusion from the near-nonexistent introduction to the world, it will grab you and not let you go until you reach the end of the book. It feels like a breath of fresh air from the types of plots and novels we find today. I can easily recommend Ubik to anyone and especially if they are interested in science fiction stories. ( )
  Plyte | Jul 21, 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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