Gollancz, 1969, 208 pages
Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business - deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in "half-life," a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter's face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.
Okay, I am going to refrain from "first Dick" jokes, but this was my first time reading Philip K. Dick. Ubik probably wasn't the best introduction.
It's a weird book. I understand most of Dick's books are weird, but I frankly had trouble following the plot.
Ubik takes place in the future - 1992! - where mankind has colonized the solar system, and psionic powers are relatively commonplace. Employees of a man named Glen Runciter are hired to protect a corporation from rival psychics, but are set up in a bomb blast that kills Runciter. Then the survivors start noticing strange phenomenon. They, and their environment, keep fading, deteriorating. Their surroundings, everything from the objects to the world itself, seems to be regressing back in time. And they keep getting strange messages from the deceased Runciter, on televisions, in notes left mysteriously in cigarette cases, and so on.
There's a mystery here, with a lot of twists and turns and betrayals, and each chapter begins with advertisements for the strange substance called "Ubik" that is everything from a hair conditioner to a vitamin to a coffee supplement. The novel sometimes seems like a SF adventure, sometimes conspiracy thriller, sometimes existential horror, sometimes noir mystery. By the time the story wended its way to its conclusion, I was still a bit befuzzled. Dick is certainly an imaginative author, but this one didn't leave me wanting to run back for more right away.
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