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A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick
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A Maze of Death (original 1970; edition 2013)

by Philip K. Dick (Author)

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1,518258,434 (3.7)19
A sci-fi murder mystery set on a mysterious planet, with a twist ending that leaves the reader wondering just what they've been witnessing the whole time. Delmak-O is a dangerous planet. Though there are only fourteen citizens, no one can trust anyone else and death can strike at any moment. The planet is vast and largely unexplored, populated mostly by gelatinous cube-shaped beings that give cryptic advice in the form of anagrams. Deities can be spoken to directly via a series of prayer amplifiers and transmitters, but they may not be happy about it. And the mysterious building in the distance draws all the colonists to it, but when they get there each sees a different motto on the front. The mystery of this structure and the secrets contained within drive this mind-bending novel.… (more)
Member:jimctierney
Title:A Maze of Death
Authors:Philip K. Dick (Author)
Info:Mariner Books (2013), Edition: Reissue, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick (1970)

  1. 00
    The City & The City by China Miéville (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two tales of paranoia and murder set in very odd worlds that just get stranger....
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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This is a quick Sci Fi read, just 200 pages, and it moves fast. It tells a bizarre story of a group of 14 people sent mysteriously to a new planet to form a colony. The book parenthetically alludes to the religion of the distant future, with various parts of the deity appearing to people in person for some reason. The explanation is annoyingly thin.

As soon as the protagonist, Seth Morley, arrives on the planet, colonists start being murdered mysteriously. The book moves quickly after that.

I found the book written in sort of a slapdash manner, without adequate explanation. It's written in 1970, so the technology descriptions are kind of silly as read today (computer components described as having magnetic tape!), but that's kind of fun.

The good news is that the ending does wrap things up reasonably well, with a pretty cool twist, which rescues it from a lower rating in my book. ( )
  DanTarlin | Jan 1, 2020 |
I like this one -essentially a more thoughtful, focused rewrite of Eye in the Sky. A bummer to be sure, but I like the tragic ending. Might be a seminal PKD read in the third tier of books. ( )
  arthurfrayn | Nov 17, 2019 |
Not one of Dick's best but still a pretty good one. This is the novel he wrote whilst depending on the I Ching for plot direction, and it becomes pretty apparent how it drastically changed the plot near the end. ( )
  DF1158 | Oct 20, 2019 |
This was another one of Philip K. Dick's novels that, for me, fell a little flat. The plot was loosely constructed and seemed to be based more on ramblings and theological reasoning, which were not overtly developed or conceptualized. The characters felt like cardboard characters and the dialogue was neither appealing nor revealing. Overall, it was a disappointing read.

2 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 5, 2019 |


"A million stars burst into wheels of light, blistering, cold light, that drenched her. It came from behind and she felt the great weight of it crash into her. "Tony," she said, and fell into the waiting void. She thought nothing; she felt nothing. She saw only, saw the void as it absorbed her, waiting below and beneath her as she plummeted down the many miles. On her hands and knees she died. Alone on the porch. Still clutching for what did not exist.”
― Philip K. Dick, A Maze of Death

If you are a fan of PKD’s fast-paced craziness hop aboard. Here’s the setup: Over the span of two months, traveling one or two at a time in one-way rocket ships, fourteen men and women are transferred to the planet of Delmak-O to live as a small community in isolation. When the last of the colonists lands, they all anxiously huddle around a transmitter to listen to a General Treaton explain the reason for their assignment.

Unfortunately, right at the critical point when their mission's purpose is about to be explained, the transmitter goes haywire and no further communication is possible, either giving or receiving. Oh, no! No defined goals, no more contact; no more rocket ships - now they are truly isolated.

Also unfortunate is the fact not one of these men or women has a shred of community spirit; quite the contrary, they are all antisocial in the extreme. But fortunate for readers, the more unsociable and unfriendly their behavior, the more color and flair and weirdly provocative twists contained in the story, an entire cornucopia, as we follow the zigzag of their cockeyed misadventures. To share a more specific taste of this novel's uniqueness, here are nine specimens of PKD exotic fruit:

Seth Morley – A marine biologist who receives timely advice from a Walker-on-Earth to switch from his chosen noser (small one-way rocket) for flight to Delmak-O, a noser called the Morbid Chicken. Wow! To be saved by a higher life form - Seth is most grateful. Little does Seth know, once on Delmak-O, circumstances will propel him into the role of an Indiana Jones-style hero following a couple of other harrowing episodes: being sexually assaulted by the big breasted Susie Smart and shot by plastics technician Ignatz Thugg. Ah, community.

Sacred Text – For these denizens in PKD’s futuristic world, not the Bible but A.J. Specktowsky’s How I Rose From the Dead in My Spare Time and So Can You is held in reverence, a book containing such quizzical theology as: “God is not supernatural. His existence was the first and most natural mode of being to form itself.” As PKD himself states in his Forward, the theology in A Maze of Death is not like any one known religion; rather, as science fiction author, he developed his own system of religious thought predicated on the fickle assumption that God exists.

Prayer – If you were going to pray, would you need a transmitter where you could attach conduits to permanent electrodes extending from your pineal gland? Would you pray to an Intercessor or something akin to a manufacturer that’s called a Mentifacturer? This is exactly what Ben Tallchief and the other colonists consider before submitting their prayers.

Form Destroyer - The nature of this nasty, negative character is uncertain. Even Specktowsky admits his origin is unclear – impossible to determine if he is a separate entity from God or if he is created or uncreated by God. But one thing is for certain – the colonists must deal with the presence of the Form Destroyer, particularly after the spooky death of one of their number on Delmak-O.

Maggie Walsh - A theologian who has an after death experience that begins by her seeing iridescent colors mixed into light that travel like some oozing liquid forming itself into buzzsaws and pinwheels that creep upward, moving from her toes to her head. She hears a menacing voice calling her skywards. These images and sounds then morph into a bizarre sequence of stunning patterns and supernatural spectacles. In his Forward, PKD informs us how Magggie Walsh’s after death visions come from one of his own LSD trips in exact detail. One of the highlights of the novel, to be sure.

Wade Frazer - A psychologist inclined to continually analyze his fellow disgruntled colonists. At one point, Wade Frazer reports: “My preliminary testing indicates that by and large this is an inherently ego-oriented group.” Is it any surprise Wade is the least popular among those assembled on Delmak-O?

The tench – A gelatinous cube out in the wastelands of Delmak-O that mysteriously can answer questions written down on a piece of paper placed in front of it. But once, faced with a question posed by Seth Morley: “The great globular mass of protoplasmic slush undulated slightly, as if aware of him. Then, as the question was placed before it, the tench began to shudder . . . as if, Morley thought, to get away from us. It swayed back and forth, evidently in distress. Part of it began to liquefy.” Morley and the other colonists know they are in store for an extra dose of weirdness.

The Building – Looking like an eight-story factory, a cube-like building in the hinterlands of Delmak-O. From various reports, it could be anything from a mental hospital to a wine distillery. Some of the exploring colonists, wishing to get to the bottom of their mission’s purpose, think it wise to enter the building, others not.

The Last Two Chapters – Keep in mind this is PKD. What is really happening to all these colonists and why are they continually loosing numbers, either by killing one another or dying and disappearing in strange ways? Is some kind of thought experiment being conducted? Are they to mull over the implications of dilemmas like Brain in a Vat or John Searle’s Chinese Room or Robert Nozick’s Pleasure Machine? If your imagination is up for a few stirring jolts, I urge you to read this novel to find out.


"The same force that shut down the transmitter," Ignatz Thugg said. "They knew; they knew if he phrased the prayer it would go through. Even without the relay." He looked gray and frightened. All of them did, Seth Morley noticed. Their faces, in the light of the room, had a leaden, stone-like cast. Like, he thought, thousand-year-old idols.
Time, he thought, is shutting down around us. It is as if the future is gone, for all of us.”
― Philip K. Dick, A Maze of Death ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dick, Philip K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cap, YomaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moisan, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
浩生, 山形Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A sci-fi murder mystery set on a mysterious planet, with a twist ending that leaves the reader wondering just what they've been witnessing the whole time. Delmak-O is a dangerous planet. Though there are only fourteen citizens, no one can trust anyone else and death can strike at any moment. The planet is vast and largely unexplored, populated mostly by gelatinous cube-shaped beings that give cryptic advice in the form of anagrams. Deities can be spoken to directly via a series of prayer amplifiers and transmitters, but they may not be happy about it. And the mysterious building in the distance draws all the colonists to it, but when they get there each sees a different motto on the front. The mystery of this structure and the secrets contained within drive this mind-bending novel.

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