Ubik • 1969 • SF novel by Philip K. Dick


Meta: isfdb. SF Master works #26. SF novel of Philip K. Dick published in 1969.

This novel is a very typical PKD involving several tiers of reality: You never know where reality ends and an internal, imaginated world starts. It is a near time scifi work from 1966 involving psi talents like telepaths and precognition and anti-psi talents. The reality tiers are created using two mechanisms: The first one is a preserved after-death state where humans can be contacted and life in their own reality before they really die. And the other one being a special psi-talent that alters the past. Most of the characters are not alive during the most of the novel.

The eponymous Ubik manifests at every chapter start as a consumer good in an advertisement. It is more than defined, it is over-defined: It could be anything, e.g. coffee, beer, hairspray, razor, cereals, cars,… It even could be god. It gets a more significant role in the novel’s last third.
The ads remember me of those massive ad walls in the movie „Blade Runner“ (which is based on PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). The novel itself hasn’t been used in a movie, though.

I already loved the middle high german start citing the Carmina Burana:

"ich sih die heide in gruoner varwe stan!
dar suln wir alle gahen,
die sumerzit enphahen!
des tanzes ich beginnen sol, wil ez iv niht versmahen!"


PKD quotes the same text in his Deus Irae as well as other texts, like Shakespeare’s Richard III or „De die lucii“ in chapter 7 („Dies irae, dies illa…“). The last one, I had to learn by heart in high school Latin 🙂 We don’t know if the author was Beda Venerabilis or Thomas Celano. It was (before Vatican II) traditionally sung before the Holy Gospel in the Catholic Mass.

Maybe you want to hear it as a Gregorian Chant?

Then there is the excellent world building. E.g. everything asks for coins to be operated – even doors to appartments need coin to let you out. PKD discusses mercantile philosophy and consumption relations a little bit.
There is a very good analysis of this novel (though only in German) available at http://www.epilog.de/texte/roberts-ad…

20 years ago, I read a little bit too much PKD – after a while it got repetitious. But after this time, I’m ready once again to read a couple novels of this grandmaster of scifi.

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