Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my July to be read list. I know it’s August but I was close. And boy have I got a weird one for you today.
When catastrophic overpopulation threatens Earth, one company offers to teleport citizens to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious émigrés. But there is one problem: the teleportation machine only works in one direction. When Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that some of the footage of happy settlers may have been faked, he sets out on an eighteen-year journey to see if anyone wants to come back.
It is the far future and Earth has become overcrowded. To make matters worse, the planets in the solar system that might have been habitable could not for one reason or another be colonized. But one company has a solution. A satellite found a planet that did have a habitable environment. For years now, people have been stepping through a teleportation gate that will take them to this planet. It seems like a perfect solution and a perfect paradise with plenty of room. At least, that’s what the videos that come back seem to indicate. Not everyone in the world is convinced. One man, Rachmael ben Applebaum is convinced that the videos from this planet are fake. He happens to own a ship and wants to go to the planet and see if anyone there is dissatisfied and if possible bring them home. The problem? It’s an eighteen-year trip to get there.
While this sounds like a great setup and could have made for a classic Phillip K. Dick novel full of interesting ideas about the future and the meaning of life and governmental control. Instead, we got a novel full of bizarre images with a plot that just barely holds together and never quite works.
The opening lines are brilliant. “The Sub-Info computers owned by Lies, Incorporated had been caught in an unnatural act by a service mechanic. Sub-Info computer Five had transmitted information which was not a lie.”
This is the type of opening that makes the reader think we are in for an incredible ride. However, by the next page, our main character is hallucinating about rats because of this. It just gets stranger from there. There is a plot that can be followed relating to the planet and the companies that are competing for dominance on it but at least a good third of the book is a bizarre collection of hallucinations including a book that tells the present and the future and strange alien creatures that eat their own eye-stalks for food.
This was a missed opportunity for what could have been a brilliant deconstruction of government, authoritarianism, capitalism, and espionage. Those elements are there but they are not explored nearly as much as the odd hallucinatory monsters that our main character is infected with, creating a dizzying narrative that simply does not make enough sense.
If you like Phillip K. Dick’s books and want to read all of his work, of course, this should be on your reading list. But, if you are a casual science fiction fan and want an introduction to Dick’s incredible work, go with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Also known as Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) It’s a much more engaging read.