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The Game-players of Titan (Voyager Classics) (edition 2001)

by Philip K. Dick

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9941213,545 (3.48)11
Philip K Dick's classic dystopian novel set in the future where the remaining human survivors on Earth must gamble for their future with aliens from Titan, one of the moons circling Saturn. Roaming the pristine landscape of Earth, cared for by machines and aliens, the few remaining humans alive since the war with Titan play Bluff, allowing them to win or lose property and also form new marriages in order to maximise the remote chance some pairings will produce a child. When Pete Garden, a particularly suicidal member of the Pretty Blue Fox game-playing group, loses his current wife and his deed to Berkeley, he stumbles upon a far bigger, more sinister version of the game. The telepathic, slug-like Vugs of Titan are the players and at stake is the Earth itself. The Game-Players of Titan is a brilliantly conceived vision of a future dystopia, full of imaginative detail, moments of pure humour and thought-provoking musings on the nature of perception, as the seemingly straightforward narrative soon turns into a tumultuous nightmare of delusion, precognition and conspiracy.… (more)
Member:dennymeta
Title:The Game-players of Titan (Voyager Classics)
Authors:Philip K. Dick
Info:HarperVoyager (2001), Paperback, 224 pages
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The Game-Players of Titan by Philip K. Dick

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This was a very decent novel. The story is wrapped around the game called "Bluff" which determines the course of the story and the fate of its protagonists. Especially eventful is the final showdown, which I will not spoil. I thought it was a story that started off slow, but then picked up massively and ran full-force to its conclusion. If you like Philip K. Dick, don't miss this one.

3.5 ( )
  DanielSTJ | Apr 5, 2019 |



Power to the people! Unfortunately, in Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel The Game-Players of Titan, we're two hundred years into the future, the people are the entire human race and humans have anything but power – in the aftermath of Hinkle radiation and losing a war with the Titanians aka vugs from Planet Titan, the human population has been decimated, only a handful of couples can have kids and those vugs hold the real power.

This is a world of advanced technology with such things as The Rushmore Effect wherein elevators, medicine cabinets and flying automobiles are programed to answer questions by speaking the truth. It’s also a world where playing The Game is of central importance: those fortunate humans who play the Game are referred to as Bindmen. And the vugs? There are some vugs here on Earth to keep tabs on human activity, participation in the Game heading up the list. Vugs can manifest as either flies or humans, one can never be sure when one’s dealing with a vug. It’s the roll of the dice.

The Game-Players of Titan is one weird, wild, freaky fiction. PKD works his magic to scramble all sorts of spaced out madness into his speculative stew. To share a taste, here are a number of key ingredients:

The Game: board game that’s similar to Risk or Monopoly requiring a combination of skill and luck, where a spinner and a deck of cards are needed to play and players trade properties and wives back and forth. What’s particularly helpful for a game player: an ability to read other players, knowing when your opponent is or is not bluffing.

Pete Garden: an ordinary kind of guy with suicidal tendencies and gloomy, manic-depressive phases, a guy prone to addiction to liquor and especially drugs. Oh, yes, Pete can get extremely paranoid, frequently for good reason - he has hallucinations that we humans are all surrounded by vugs. Or, maybe he's actually seeing the truth? Even paranoids have enemies. I bet when he was a little kid, Pete saw the sippy cup as half empty. And you've has such bad luck playing the game recently, Pete! You lost Berkeley, California and also your latest wife. You need a three to get yourself a new wife – and you desperately want Berkeley back; you're willing to trade three small cities in Marin County. What you really need, Pete, is some luck - either in yourself or in a new Game playing partner.

Joe Shilling: Poor Joe! He lost big time to Lucky Luckman from New York City. Subsequently, he dropped from Bindman to a non-B (the major distinction in status in this brave new depopulated world). But thanks to his good buddy Pete, Joe can rejoin the game. Once at the table for the ultimate stakes, Joe shares a true gem of wisdom: the biggest enemies for a game player are greed and fear. Thus spoke Shilling. Lesson to last a lifetime.

Psychic Pat McClain: This PKD-style femme fatale is a telepath. Since this luscious lady can read minds, she is automatically disqualified from the Game, forever relegated to non-B status, a fact of life that makes her furious. There’s something funny about Pat – she refuses to submit to having her own mind read, such a curious stance for a mind-reader. Sounds like Pat might have something to hid from the Bindmen.

Mary Anne McClain: Holy psychokinesis! Mary Anne is Pat’s eighteen-year old daughter, a young lady having the power to invoke the Poltergeist effect, moving people and things through space and through walls. Oh, funky baby! I want you on my side. As do Pete and his fellow players.

Jerome Luckman: lucky guy at the Game: lucky guy at having children. Is there such a thing as too much luck? The fate of this New Yorker adds yet again another philosophic dimension to the novel.

Carol Holt: Pete's new wife. He did come up with a three, after all. Shortly following their marriage, turns out Carol is pregnant. Oh, lucky day for both Carol and Pete. Now our protagonist truly has the stakes raised as he gambles at the Game and takes his chances at life.

Dave Mutreaux: A pre-cog, that is, someone able to tell the future, another type of person excluded from the Game. And the players have an EEG Machine to detect if someone wishing to come to the table is a pre-cog. However, the more PKD develops his story, the more Dave and his pre-cog abilities rise in importance. In the game of life, always a good idea to befriend a person who can warn you of the consequences of possible bad decisions.

Vugs on Titan: There's the ultimate Game. It's Pete and his group versus the vug master game players on Titan. But alas, even if the vugs lose, those critters still wield tremendous power. The vugs just might take W.C. Fields seriously when he said, "It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money."

Life, a Game of Chance: But seriously folks, there’s a great sense of play in The Game-Players of Titan. Who can Pete trust when appearances frequently differ so radically from reality? Whatever choices Pete makes depend so much on LUCK, big time. Pete recognizes we ordinary humans are at such a disadvantage - we can't see into the future, we can’t read other people’s minds, we simply have to take our chances.

In many ways, the challenges Pete and his fellow players face are similar to our own. No answers are provided (unlike VALIS and other PKD novels, The Game-Players of Titan does not even touch on theology). Decision making here is more in the spirit of gaming and game theory, of bluffing and calling bluff, of relying on skill and playing the odds, all along counting on a bit of luck. And please remember, no matter where you are on the game board or where you are in life, greed and fear will rarely work to your advantage.

Such a flaky, fun novel. One of the most enjoyable PKDs I've come across.



"Junk, like a billion golf balls, cascaded brightly, replacing the familiar reality of substantial forms. It was, Joe Schilling thought, like a fundamental breakdown of the act of perception itself... "I'm scared - what is this?" He did not understand and he reached out groping in the stream of atom-like sub-particles that surged everywhere. Is this the understructure of the universe itself? he wondered. The world outside of space and time, beyond the modes of cognition?" - Philip K. Dick, The Game-Players of Titan ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but I have read just about every "SF" novel PKD has written (some 30-odd books), and dammit, this one is probably close to my favorite. I know that Game Players of Titan is commonly dismissed as the more or less "failed" novel Dick wrote following on the heels of Man in the High Castle, however I beg to differ on the "failed" part ... it's just a completely different kind of novel than "High Castle", and for me, it's one of Dick's most thrilling examples of "a universe that falls apart two days later", to steal a quote -- a title, actually -- of a talk PKD gave in 1978.

This novel has Everything in it ... it's Dick's ultimate "kitchen sink" novel, with precogs, aliens, drugs, alternate and constantly changing realities, multiple (unreliable) narrators (mostly the unforgettably flaky and fucked-up Pete Garden), time travel, staggeringly imaginative and inventive bits in everything from the smallest details to the entire plot trajectory, and, neither last nor least, filled with drastic shifts and surprises in the story, places where Dick pulls the rug out from under the reader in a way that makes my head spin even on second and third reading.

Does it all add up at the end, or even 1/2 or 2/3 of the way through? Well, no, of course not! But does everything ever "add up" in ANY of Dick's novels? Most decidedly NO, not even in The Man in the High Castle, certainly not in Valis or in Scanner Darkly or -- good heavens, Ubik? The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch? The Simulacra (another personal favorite)? No, no, and absolutely not! But the way the world Dick creates falls apart in this book is, well, it's just epic ...

So give it a read with an open mind, and be ready for anything. ( )
1 vote bookaholixanon | Nov 25, 2014 |
This was a pretty exciting book to read with lots of action. The plot revolves around a dystopian Earth where an atomic war caused by the Red Chinese has resulted in the sterilization of the human race and with that, humans also fought a war with the Vugs of Titan and lost, leading to the Vugs as overseers of the human race. They've instituted a game called Bluff that Bindmen, or people who are property owners, must play, the stakes being property and wives. Our hero, Pete Garden has been married to 18 different women and in the first chapter, he loses Berkeley and another wife. And is pretty ticked about it. The person who won Berkeley sold it to an east coast Bindman who wants to dig his claws into California and flies out to participate in the game. And winds up murdered. The problem is, Pete can't remember what he did the day of the murder and his car has recorded the fact that he went to the deceased's hotel. Soon, the telepathic police are after him. Confusing things is the fact that six people in their Bluff group can't remember their days, so it could have been any of them. This leads to a crazy adventure featuring ESP, alcohol and lots of drugs, more murders, interplanetary travel, and more. Pete gets caught up in a deep secret and discovers there are Vugs all around him in human form. This leads to the group playing Bluff with the Vugs on Titan for ownership of the world, which I never got, and with them beating the Vugs. It's an open ended book, however, as we close with a Vug and a human wandering off to God knows where.

I'm giving this book four stars instead of five because even though it was exciting, I never really got why the aliens insisted they play a Monopoly-like game for real property and wives, other than to find pairs of humans who could reproduce. Even though they were trying to keep the population level down. And what does the property have to do with it? Additionally, we're never really given a good description of the Vugs, other than they might have been amoeba-like or slug-like. But are they small? Are they big? Where did they get their telekinesis from? And their technology? And love for games? None of this is explained. I think Dick could have filled in a lot more holes if he had tried. Still, it was a good book and I certainly recommend it, not only to PKD fans, but to anyone. ( )
  scottcholstad | May 26, 2014 |
Originally posted at FanLit.
http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/the-game-players-of-titan/

After a devastating atomic world war, the humans of Earth have mostly killed each other off. Only about a million remain and most are sterile due to the radiation weapons developed by the Germans and used by the ??Red Chinese.ƒ? Some humans now have telepathic abilities, too.

The alien Vugs of Titan, taking the opportunity to extend their domains, are now the Earthƒ??s rulers. They seem like benevolent conquerors and overseers. For their amusement, they allow human landowners (ƒ??Bindmenƒ?) to play a game called Bluff, which is much like Monopoly where the stakes are real pieces of property on the ruined Earth. The Vugs, who seem (but may not be) intent on not allowing the human race to die out, also use the game to mix up couples, hoping to serendipitously find viable breeding pairs. Any Bindman can play in the district where they own property, using their land and spouse for stakes in the game.

Pete Garden is a pill-popping suicidal Bindman who plays Bluff nightly. With the roll of a die, Pete has just lost his 18th wife and ƒ?? worse ƒ?? Berkeley, California. When the man who won it from him is murdered, Pete is the prime suspect and since his memory of the night of the murder is gone, Pete isnƒ??t so sure he didnƒ??t commit the crime. As he and his friends investigate, they uncover plots and conspiracies and eventually travel to Titan to play Bluff with their alien overlords. This game has really high stakes.

The Game-Players of Titan, first published in 1963, is chock-full of the elements we see in so many of Philip K. Dickƒ??s stories ƒ?? appliances that talk, alien simulacra, miserable marriages, precogs, psychiatrists, paranoid delusions, lots of alcohol, and hallucinogenic drug tripsƒ?? I could go on. Itƒ??s also full of an unusual number of Philip K. Dickƒ??s crazy and original ideas, and plenty of plot twists.

I was so intrigued by the premise of The Game-Players of Titan and I thought it was a ripping fun read until Dick eventually goes off (like I knew he would) on his paranoid delusional I-have-no-idea-what-the-heck-is-going-on-here binge. At this point, weƒ??re not sure whoƒ??s a human, whoƒ??s an alien, whatƒ??s real, whatƒ??s a delusion, and even what planet weƒ??re on. Or maybe weƒ??re not even in real space, but somewhere behind reality? No idea.

Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted. The Game-Players of Titan has a great premise and is especially imaginative, but eventually devolves, as so many Philip K. Dick novels do, into a haze of incomprehensibility. Still, itƒ??s not the most obscure of PKDƒ??s stories and, if itƒ??s not among the best of his stories, itƒ??s far from the worst.

Christopher Lane expertly narrates Brilliance Audioƒ??s recent production of The Game-Players of Titan. I highly recommend it. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dick, Philip K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Breslow, J. H.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It had been a bad night, and when he tried to drive home he had a terrible argument with his car.
Tinha sido uma péssima noite e, quando quis conduzir até casa, teve uma tremenda discussão com o seu carro. - Mr. Garden, o senhor não se encontra em estado de conduzir. Faça o favor de usar o automec e de se estender no banco da retaguarda.
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Philip K Dick's classic dystopian novel set in the future where the remaining human survivors on Earth must gamble for their future with aliens from Titan, one of the moons circling Saturn. Roaming the pristine landscape of Earth, cared for by machines and aliens, the few remaining humans alive since the war with Titan play Bluff, allowing them to win or lose property and also form new marriages in order to maximise the remote chance some pairings will produce a child. When Pete Garden, a particularly suicidal member of the Pretty Blue Fox game-playing group, loses his current wife and his deed to Berkeley, he stumbles upon a far bigger, more sinister version of the game. The telepathic, slug-like Vugs of Titan are the players and at stake is the Earth itself. The Game-Players of Titan is a brilliantly conceived vision of a future dystopia, full of imaginative detail, moments of pure humour and thought-provoking musings on the nature of perception, as the seemingly straightforward narrative soon turns into a tumultuous nightmare of delusion, precognition and conspiracy.
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