Last Christmas my brother Condy and I purchased box sets of the writings of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. A friend tells me that this is the only science fiction writer to have his works published in the Library of America series, though I haven’t confirmed that. Anyway, I have only just finished his novel, Ubik and I thought I would share just a few thoughts. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “trippy” in my life, but here goes: this was one trippy read! It was gloriously weird but also very interesting and well done. It’s hard to describe, really, but I’ll give a few summary statements to (hopefully) give a sense of what Ubik is like.
In the future, there are companies that employ anti-psi’s who are hired to thwart the nefarious actions of those with psychic powers. One such company, Runciter Associates, has its team of inertials (anti-psi’s) partially killed…or killed…or not killed…or seemingly killed…by Hollis who lures them into a deadly trap. The uncertainty concerning death has to do with the fact that, in the future, if a person is put on cold-pac quickly enough they can be kept in a state of half-life for a time where they can still communicate with their loved ones or associates.
All of this is told engagingly and with fascinating precision. Dick’s imagination really is a thing to behold!
As the story unfolds, it focuses in on the character of Joe Chip, a member of the Runciter Associates team who was one of the many targets of Hollis’ attack. As Chip begins to observe very strange things happening around him, he has to come to terms with what has…or possibly has…or has not happened to him and what it means! Throughout it all, the mysterious product “Ubik” keeps making appearance in the chapter headings in advertisement lingo heralding its marvels but also hinting at its dangers.
I’m not sure what to say next…this is really just an experience that needs to be had by the reader. It does raise certain tantalizing philosophical, religious, and existential questions. Theologically, we even see Molinism peek its head up above the surface. The vision it unfolds of the future is intriguing and also terrifying. If you like good science fiction, and if you don’t mind just holding on for the ride without always knowing what’s happening, you’ll really like Ubik. We did!