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Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K Dick

Now Wait For Last Year (original 1966; edition 1968)

by Philip K Dick

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Title:Now Wait For Last Year
Authors:Philip K Dick
Info:MacFadden-Bartell, paperback, first edition
Collections:Your library
Tags:speculative fiction, fiction

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Now Wait for Last Year by Philip K. Dick (1966)

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Welcome to the science fiction world of Philip K. Dick’s 1966 novel, Now Wait for Last Year. We are plunged into the teeth of a mid-21st century interplanetary war: Lillistar, (human-like beings with superhuman strength) vs reggs (human-size semi-mechanical bugs) and Terra (Planet Earth) as a potential big player in the outer space battles. Main characters feature Kathy Sweetscent, who occupies a key upper-echelon post at TF&D, a San Diego based company manufacturing wiring for interplanetary spacecraft with subsidiaries in cities like Detroit developing powerful drugs and her husband, Dr. Eric Sweetscent, a surgeon performing futuristic implants and who also occupies a top slot at TF&D.

Additionally, the novel features robots engaged in various activities and occupations, including cab drivers who zip around in flying cabs; a large dose of political intrigue with a particular focus on Gino Molinari, supreme leader of Terra, a man who makes a habit of failing health just at the right moment; and, most dramatically, JJ-180, a powerful, instantly addictive, toxic drug with very strange properties. One user tells Kathy that JJ - 180 alters one’s sense of time so that it should be called a tempogogic drug instead of a hallucinogenic drug, however, as we find out after Kath and later Eric take the drug, JJ – 180 does much more: the pill popper is propelled into the future or into the past.

Ah, JJ- 180, bender of time. It is this drug-induced time-travel that is the most fascinating aspect of the novel. For example, here is Eric under the influence of the drug: “Eric confronted a face which he had seen many times and yet it was distorted now, witnessed from a weird angle, as if inside out, pulled through infinity. The man’s hair was parted on the wrong side so that his head seemed lopsided, wrong in all its lines. What amazed him was the physical unattractiveness of the man. He was too fat and a little too old. Unpleasantly gray. It was a shock to see himself like this, without preparation; do I really look like that? He asked himself morosely.” I suspect most of us would have a similar reaction if we encountered our 20 year older self on the street.

There is never a dull moment. The novel’s action is fast-paced and told in crisp, staccato, hard-boiled language similar to James M. Cain, Charles Bukowski or Jim Thompson. And all the science fiction elements are combined in crazy combinations. Time travel has been around for decades – H.G. Well’s The Time Machine published in 1895 – and the first novel of alien abduction was Jean de La Hire’s 1908 novel, The Fiery Wheel, but with PKD the science fiction imagination kicked into overdrive. Perhaps the place and time (the US in the 1960s); perhaps common use of new drugs (speed, meth, LSD), perhaps the political climate (Gotta revolution!), but whatever the reason, reading a PKD novel is a kind of literary acid trip.

Also, there is a good bit of social commentary. In this novel, for example, Eric makes many social and cultural observations as he makes his way through Tijuana, Mexico. “A girl during daylight hours on the streets of Tijuana dressed with incomprehensible smartness: high heels, angora sweater, shiny purse, gloves, coat over her shoulders, preceded, as she hurried, by high, sharp-as-tacks breasts, the smartness carrying even to the detail of her modern bra. What did these girls do for a living? Where had they learned to dress so well, not to mention the problem of financing such a wardrobe?”

Through the effects of JJ – 180, knowing what the future holds for him personally and what happens to his wife Kathy, Eric faces hard ethical choices. Why continue living when there will be so much pain? How much do his future selves depend on his decisions in the present? What is his ultimate responsibility to Kathy and to himself? By way of this time-bending drug, PKD explores the moral dimensions of our all-too-human existence. Now Wait for Last Year isn’t as well-known as some of his other novels but perhaps it should be.
( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
I've spent a day, basically, trying to determine what I make of this one. I read a lot of Philip K. Dick when I was in my late teens, and I specifically remember trying to read this one twice - and giving up before I got very far in at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure video evidence exists of me reading this book at community college. This time, more than a decade later, I decided to try it again as one of Brilliance Audio's rapidly-expanding range of PKD audiobooks - and although I finished it, and I can only applaud the performance of Luke Daniels, it's pretty obvious to me why it was a bit of a slog.

Now Wait for Last Year was composed during PKD's incredibly prolific early '60s period, although it wasn't published until a little later. Strong books from the period include Martian Time-Slip, We Can Build You, and perhaps most especially, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Like most of his writing in the '60s, PKD is playing with fluid ideas of reality and time, the relationship between the hell of drug addiction and the excitement of an altered perception, the power of nostalgia, and of course, what it is to be human (and when it is that the humans, or good guys, are actually less human than the ones they abhor). They're big ideas, and that's what I always really enjoy about Philip K. Dick: this is not a man who kept his big ideas under wraps. He laid them out for everyone to see, even when they twitched and sputtered and were a little bit discomfiting.

And therefore I have to admit that I found this an uncomfortable book, for all its interesting qualities, and it's really down to one strand of the text. PKD is never somebody you can go to for totally fair depictions of relationships between men and women; women - especially wives - are often presented as shrews, as manipulators, or as enigmatic mystery desires. (I guess to his credit, PKD never pulled a Friday and tried to suggest he knew anything about a woman's mindset, so he was at least pretty honest in his misogyny.) Sometimes, these depictions are minor enough to fall away before the sheer grandiosity of his ideas; sometimes, they even benefit the plot, as with the cold and alien "andy," Pris, in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, or the mysterious guide figure of Ella Runciter in Ubik. Here, though - ho boy. The toxic relationship between the main character, Dr. Eric Sweetscent, and his wife, Kathy, is the focus of the novel, and (unsurprisingly) while neither of them is a saint Kathy is undeniably worse. She is the woman scorned of every man's nightmares, and she revenges herself in ways that don't even befit a teenager. Other women glide in and out of the narrative, most of them shown to be manipulative, self-centered, and unsympathetic, with the possible exception of an actual teenage girl, Mary, who functions as the lover of the aged leader of Earth and one of the few competent - even world-weary - characters in the novel. I found myself wishing she had a bigger role, for no other reason than that she actually felt grounded. I think another author might have tried to use her as a sort of idealized surrogate for Kathy, or even a potential mistress for Eric. Not PKD, though. He hovers over a similar possibility late in the novel, and ultimately rejects it. The result feels very one-sided; there's a lot of worrying about Kathy, there's a lot of venom toward Kathy, and there's ultimately some acceptance of Kathy - a lot of it achieved through encounters with secondary characters. Kathy, though, remains an alternately pathetic and vicious representation of everything wrong with Eric's life.

It's hard to guess what was going on with PKD when he was writing this one. He was in the middle of the third of his five marriages; perhaps there's a clue in that he didn't publish Now Wait for Last Year until that marriage ended in divorce. And for those who think I'm barking up the wrong tree, it's clear from the final pages that he intended the reader to see Kathy and Eric's relationship as central to the novel. It's hard, though - since he abandons Kathy as a functional character midway through the narrative - to see the end result as anything other than very, very bitter. And that's my summation, really: Now Wait for Last Year leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. I enjoyed a lot of the ideas at play here, but it's probably not one I will revisit again. There are other, less uncomfortable PKD novels to be enjoyed. ( )
  saroz | Dec 22, 2015 |
Dick's books sometimes collapse under the weight of the conceptual elements he puts into play--futuristuc psychedelic drugs, time travel, alternative universes, aliens, dopplegangers, space colonies, ESP and more. This one has most of those elements, but manages to keep reasonably focussed. Though it all frays at the edges--there's too much concept and not enough development--the book works. ( )
1 vote ehines | Sep 21, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Earth is allied with the planet Lilistar against the alien Reegs. Gino Molinari, the leader of Earth??s forces, has just hired Eric Sweetscent as his personal physician. For his new job, Eric has to leave his wife Kathy, who has just become addicted to a new hallucinogenic drug. Eric is glad to leave, though, because he and Kathy arenƒ??t getting along.

When Eric arrives at Gino Molinariƒ??s side, he finds that the man has some strange health issues. At first Eric thinks Mr. Molinari is a paranoid hypochondriac until he discovers that he has survived numerous bouts of cancer. Soon there are other strange discoveries about Molinariƒ??s health that baffle Dr. Sweetscent. When he finds out that the drug that Kathyƒ??s hooked on came from off-world and causes its users to travel through time, he wonders if her drug addiction and Gino Molinariƒ??s bizarre symptoms could be related. He also starts to wonder if Earth is on the wrong side of the war.

You never know what youƒ??re going to get with a story by Philip K. Dick. Well, thatƒ??s not exactly true. You can almost certainly expect aliens, spaceships, robots, drug use, paranoia, bad marriages, time warps, alternate universes, and badly inaccurate psychology. What I mean is that PKDƒ??s stories vary greatly in quality ƒ?? some of them are incredibly clever and innovative, while others are almost painful to read. This may be because, according to biographers, Dickƒ??s novels reflect his own unhappy life and his struggles with drugs, divorce, and mental illness.

Now Wait for Last Year (1966) is definitely one of the better ones. Eric Sweetscent is a complex character with complex problems for which there are no obvious solutions. A wrong move could endanger all of humanity! Thereƒ??s mystery, whimsy, and humor here, too ƒ?? the scenes with the talking taxis are funny (humorous situations with automatons are a familiar PKD element).

What stands out most, though, is that Now Wait for Last Year is an unusually emotional novel for Philip K. Dick. Eric deals with a whole spectrum of feelings toward his wife: grief, love, hate, treachery, anger, disgust, and pity. I actually dissolved into tears during the final scene of Now Wait for Last Year when the talking taxi gives Eric some beautiful advice.

I listened to Brilliance Audioƒ??s version of Now Wait for Last Year. Luke Daniels performed it perfectly, as usual. I love old science fiction and I love audiobooks, so I absolutely adore Brilliance Audio for putting so much old science fiction on audio this year! ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Berni, OlivieroCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mamczak, SaschaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ziegler, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Don Wollheim --

Who has done more for science fiction

than any other single person.

Thank you, Don, for your faith in us over the years.

And God bless you.
To Nancy Hackett
... A way where you might tread the Sun, and be
More bright than he. -- Henry Vaughan
First words
The apteryx-shaped building, so familiar to him, gave off its usual smoky gray light as Eric Sweetscent collapsed his wheel and managed to park in the tiny stall allocated him.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
First, Gino Molinari was assassinated by a political Rival. Then he died of a heart attack. But now he is back, younger and more vigorous than ever, giving Earth new hope of survival in the war against the alien reegs. But is this really Molinari, or a robant masquerading as Earth's overlord? Whatever the truth, only he can save the Solar System - if he can stay alive long enough, or at least not stay dead for too long.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679742204, Paperback)

Dr. Eric Sweetscent has problems. His planet is enmeshed in an unwinnable war. His wife is lethally addicted to a drug that whips its users helplessly back and forth across time -- and is hell-bent on making Eric suffer along with her. And Sweetscent's newest patient is not only the most important man on the embattled planet Earth but quite possibly the sickest. For Secretary Gino Molinari has turned his mortal illness into an instrument of political policy -- and Eric cannot tell if his job is to make the Male better or to keep him poised just this side of death.

Now Wait for Last fear bursts through the envelope between the impossible and the inevitable. Even as ushers us into a future that looks uncannily like the present, it makes the normal seem terrifyingly provisional -- and compels anyone who reads it to wonder if he really knows what time it is.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:28 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A world leader uses his strange ability to die repeatedly and be brought back to life to ward off a global catastrophe.

(summary from another edition)

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