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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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1,17686,861 (3.69)16
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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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 Earthâ??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 aren├é┬â??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 |
Has many of the familiar PKD elements: reality-altering drugs, a faltering marriage, simulated realities, political conspiracy and talking taxis (seriously, talking taxis whose soulless electronic circuits seems to thrum with the wisdom of the ages seem to me to be a reoccurring PKD story element). Good stuff though I wouldn't rank it amongst my PKD favourites, perhaps because I'm coming to it when many of the elements are so familiar now? ( )
  iftyzaidi | Jun 6, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Berni, OlivieroCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary 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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