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We Can Build You

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  2,163 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Louis Rosen and his partners sell people--ingeniously designed, historically authentic simulacra of personages such as Edwin M. Stanton and Abraham Lincoln. The problem is that the only prospective buyer is a rapacious billionaire whose plans for the simulacra could land Louis in jail. Then there's the added complication that someone--or something--like Abraham Lincoln may ...more
Paperback, Sixth DAW Printing, 206 pages
Published January 3rd 1983 by DAW Books Inc. (first published 1972)
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Maureen
We Can Build You, as a novel, is perhaps as schizophrenic as its characters are. It begins by introducing the narrator, Louis Rosen, co-owner of a not entirely legitimate distributor of organ and spinet pianos with Maury Rock aka Frauenzimmer. Maury's daughter, eighteen-year old Pris has recently been let out of a mental hospital on an out-patient basis: in this world radiation has not only caused physical deformities but mental ones and a large segment of the population functions (or doesn't, a ...more
Monk
So much for me becoming a Philip K Dick fan. To try to capture the story line would be next to impossible, as the book lacks helpful elements such as a beginning, middle and end. At times, it is about the extent to which androids are more or less alive than humans. At other times, it is an irrational love story. Finally, it becomes the story of a person's decent into apparent madness. But there are too many problems with this thing to keep track of. First, the book might work better as a Kurt Vo ...more
Jeremy
Dick shows his usual dazzling blend of vision and narrative energy in this novel. The ideas he is playing with and the manner with which he uses humanity and technology to play out these ideas is five star worthy.

However, maybe due to the above, I can't help being 3 star disappointed upon finishing... I understand the demented manner with which the narrative focus is in play with the theme, but I really wanted more from the simulcra: I wanted them more up front in the story, and found myself wan
...more
Lyn
I want Wes Anderson to make this into a movie.
I want Wes Anderson to make this into a movie.
I want Wes Anderson to make this into a movie. Starring Paul Giamatti, Oliver Platt, Abigail Breslin, Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.

We Can Build You, first published in 1972 could have been one of Dick’s best novels, but his was an inconsistent genius and that is evident here. I will go way out on a limb here, but this could also be seen as the anti-Fountainhead, setting Rand’s objectivism on its ear, as
...more
terpkristin
Audiobook from Brilliance Audio
Narrated by Dan John Miller
Length: 8 hours, 22 minutes

Published in 1972, Dick uses the premise of a "future" (the book takes place in Dick's imagined 1982) where programming is advanced enough to allow programming the appearance of sentience into androids to provide a treatise on mental health and mental healthcare.

In short, Louie Rosen and his partner Maury run a business making and selling electronic organs. One day, however, Maury decides to make an android of E
...more
Sandy
Although Philip K. Dick's 28th sci-fi novel, "We Can Build You," was first published in book form as a 95-cent DAW paperback in July 1972, it had actually been written a good decade before, and first saw the light of day under the title "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum" in the November '69 and January '70 issues of "Amazing Stories." As revealed by Dick biographer Lawrence Sutin, the book was in part inspired by the centennial of the Civil War and by a simulation of Abraham Lincoln that Phil had recently ...more
Denis
I read this a few years ago but never reviewed it. "Lyn" did such a brilliant bang-up job at it, so I re-read it to give it a go for myself.

Written in '62 but not published until '69 (magazine serial) and '72 (book form). Why so? I don't know. It is a really interesting novel mostly about mental illness as an epidemic in America set in 1982 (the year of PKD's death -oddly enough). First off, it covers common PKD themes: The "common man" setting of a father and son business that makes and sells s
...more
Chris Hearn
Entertaining and smooth enough that I got through 200 pages of this in transit between 3:30-6:30am this morning, still, it doesn't really go anywhere. This is a sci-fi book about a musical organ company, who, upon realising that their technology is becoming obselete, choose to enter into the market for androids. Philip K Dick is pretty famous for this sort of thing, just missing huge technological leaps - I mean, they couldn't have built synthesizers instead? - and not really having the foresigh ...more
Simon
A mish-mash of themes and ideas in this book with occaisional flashes of brilliance but never quite weaved together as expertly as he has done elsewhere.

Themes explored in this book include those that he has examined in other books such as simulacrums ("Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep", "The Simulacra"), what it means to be alive and mental illness/breakdown ("A Scanner Darkly").

Certainly the focus of the book seems to shift from the former to the latter which leaves one with the impression
...more
Sonic
This book seemed more cohesive than many other Dick books. I have often felt like he goes off on tangents of possibility and explores new ideas without fully investigating his initial premise. This book was different than that. His brilliance as a writer is often overshadowed by his amazing philosophical imagination, but there were some moments during this book where I thought to myself
"Wow!"

Dick's "heroes" are often regular guys and/or losers, and maybe I related a little too well with this he
...more
Perry Whitford
Louis Rosen manages MASA Associates, primarily a family firm, with his father, mutant brother Chester and business partner, Maury Rock. They build and sell electronic pianos and organs, but sales are down. So Maury suggests a different tack.
Why not exploit nostalgia for the Civil War by creating simulacra of the combatants to sell to the government, which could use them to stage reconstructions of the conflict? In fact, he has already built a replica Edwin M. Stanton.

Rosen is dubious at first,
...more
Brandi
Philip K Dick is a master and making you go "huh?" and I mean that in a good way. His mind is so far out there that it takes a while to get in the right frame of mind to be able to enjoy him. This was the first book of his that I read and I am planning on reading much more. This book makes us question what being human is and the philosophical nature of the question is addressed with vigor here.
Sean
A few interesting ideas, most of which are abandoned for a rather dull story, and as always, a number of weird and/or creepy and/or funny sequences. But all told, the weakest PKD I've yet read.
Asta Karen
The best word to describe this book would be: strange.
I’m not sure why one cover for this book shows us a robotic Hitler, when only three robots are even made. Another cover shows a simulacra of a futuristic-looking woman. These covers are obviously just meant to sell the book and I admit that I got fooled. With the description of the book sounding interesting and the covers looking so good I just had to give it a go.
The sci-fi elements are very minimal and the science of the simulacras are mo
...more
Andy
As always with PKD... you never know what you are going to get. The story begins with a salesman in the 'future' desperate to sell electronic organs. Before you know it, however, it turns into a potential precursor of Do androids dream..., followed by a tale about corporate America, then the madness of love. All the while a terribly dysfunctional family acts as a centrifuge with other characters holding on desperately. Great for twists, great for turns, ending... well this seems to be another PK ...more
Sam
I was excited to read this one because it's set in the Boise, Idaho and Ontario, Oregon area where I'm from. And Seattle's in there too. But the setting turned out to have nothing to do with the story, so skip this if you're looking for books the NW. I also love the title, but it turns out Dick didn't come up with that himself. This is a fun book about a musical instrument company that decides to start making androids. The major flaw of the book is that half way through the plot changes entirely ...more
alissa
PKD did a good job weaving the schizophrenic elements into this book. He has a great ability to write a believable and readable narrative shaped by mental illness.

My issues with this book have nothing to do with his abilities because despite a lack of interest, I was objectively still impressed by the way he writes.

My issues with this book is that it was boring, nothing happened, it didn't go anywhere. None of the characters did anything of worth or if they did, I didn't care. It wasn't a page t
...more
David Shaw
I agree with most people on the aspect of this book slightly losing its main focus, or the feeling of it losing its focus.

Or maybe this is just a common interpretation?

PKD was too advanced to simply forget how he was going to ultimately blend in all the elements. That's what I feel. I am confident enough in him to believe that he knew exactly what he was doing. At least in terms of plot, and the overall story blueprint.

'We Can Build You' was not as impeccable as perhaps 'VALIS' or 'Do Androids D
...more
Penelope
This book is pretty weird. I kept trying to figure out what was going to happen next and I consistently failed at doing so. I thought I saw where this whole thing was going, and I was so, so wrong. I can't figure out if that's actually a good thing, though. In a way, this book could be broken into three separate stories.

1. The production of simulacra; the whole Civil War thing, Abe Lincoln, Stanton, etc.
2. The love story between Pris and Louis.
3. The entire mental illness part of the story, with
...more
David Molnar
Flawed, and Brilliant. The books that have really taken me in lately (Rothfuss, Sanderson) have done so through fascinating worldbuilding. Well, Dick is nothing like those authors, but he creates trippy worlds nonetheless. I don't know if you could say all of his books take place in the same universe, but there are familiar elements throughout his work that allow the reader to get acclimated easily, if that's the word. PKD's future is a dark one obviously, in which the best traits of mankind are ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
PKD always said that he wrote with his fingers. For a decade or so he wrote with his fingers on speed. He would get an outline together, then sit himself at the typewriter and let it flow. He wrote this novel in 1962, his annus mirabilis during which he completed 12 novels. This is the most "stream of conscious" novel of his that I have read. Not in the sense that he is creating characters who share their interior monologues. The interior monologue is all Phil's, partially put into the mind of h ...more
Eleonore Rigby
Philip K. Dick gehört zu denjenigen Autoren, deren Vorstellungskraft und Ideenreichtum die meine bei weitem übertreffen. Da, wo er hindenkt, und das, was er schreibt, liegt in dem Bereich, wo ich ohne seine Bücher niemals hinkommen würde. Dick hat einen so fabelhaften, detailierten Schreibstil, der mich vollends fasziniert. Egal, über was er schreibt - er hat sich auch bei diesem Roman "Die Lincoln Maschine" selbst übertroffen. In diesem Roman erzählt er die Geschichte von zwei Geschäftsleuten, ...more
Zantaeus Glom
While this isn't my favorite amalgam of furiously imaginative PKD mind-meld, it is a rather poignant, if not entirely absurd, extrapolation of the singularly destructive nature of mental illness.

The plot is suitably nebulous (no pun intended) ostensibly concerning the pending merger of a small-time electronic organ manufacturer (Piano, not flesh) with a duplicitous tycoon. There is also a rather hefty, somewhat spurious narrative concerning the existential musings of a pair of rival simulacra; n
...more
Jack Stovold
My Philip K. Dick Project

Entry #22 - We Can Build You (written Oct. 1962, published Jul. 1972)

We Can Build You is a slight book, especially after Dick’s masterpiece, The Man In The High Castle (#21), a tough act for anyone to follow. This quite bizarre little story follows Louis Rosen exclusively. Unlike High Castle, or the majority of his other novels, this is not a multiple perspectives story, it belongs to Rosen.
I liked the first half better than the second. One of my favorite Dick techniqu
...more
PescePirata
Scritto nel 1962, venne pubblicato solo dieci anni più tardi.
Con questo romanzo, Philip Dick testimonia il suo cocente desiderio di non essere rigidamente ingabbiato nel contenitore fantascientifico. Pur essendo ormai considerato uno dei massimi maestri del genere, il grande scrittore statunitense si è cimentato in prove narrative di più ampio respiro, con il risultato di avere creato una vera poetica, coerente nelle sue variegate prospettive. Romanzi come “Confessioni di un artista di merda”,
...more
Glglgl
In eigenartig distanzierter Weise zerstört Philip K. Dick in dieser Geschichte die Hoffnungen der Protagonisten. Und das gründlich. Die Handlung ist unspektakulär, wer auf der Suche nach einem Action-Roman ist, sollte etwas anderes lesen. Verglichen mit manch anderem Buch von Philip K. Dick geht es in diesem vordergründig recht harmlos zu. Es scheint keine akute Gefahr für die Stabilität der Realität zu bestehen - metaphysische Fragen behandelt Dick anderswo. Ganz sicher geht es nicht, wie der K ...more
Christopher Dodd
This novel starts out following the exploits of a small company that decides to create andriods of historical figures (Edwin Stanton and later Abraham Lincoln), but ends up focusing on mental illness.

There is overlap there as speculation of Lincoln's documented melancholy and what mental illnesses he may have had bridges the gap between the two sections.

Dick's characters are never very likable, and that is no exception here. I often have trouble reconciling how his characters interact with each
...more
Ian
The novel starts off well, dealing with commonly touched on theme of human consciousness, a dose of PKD humour and an interesting concept that has the creating of AI Civil War figures; however, the book changes course and the protagonist becomes obsessed with love/lust and the theme and plot changes to a confusing schizophrenia dealing with sending simulacra to the moon, and Dick doesn't effectively join the two plots together to a satisfying conclusion. Poorly developed plot and characters. The ...more
Gabor Hernadi
Despite it's hungarian title, this book is not about an android, simulacrum, impersonating Lincoln but much more a strange, sad love story. In the background there is everything makes a PKD book special. Great part of the population (allegedly) has mental illness, androids indistinguishable from humans, paranoia is a normal part of life, etc. Not his best by far, but if you like PKD, you won't be disappointed.
Kit
This book had some really brilliant parts hidden among a lot of kind of unneccesary stuff. Worth. It.
I really love the confusing way with which Philip approaches the subject of mental illness and the idea of the state mandating these tests for it, carting people off to get "fixed" enough to re-enter society as normal, all on the basis of a few questions...which, in many cases, is not too far from the truth. As we know, the author himself had suffered and struggled with a less than neurotypical e
...more
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Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. He briefly attended the University of California, but dropped out before completing any classes. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memo ...more
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“And, as I watched the Lincoln come by degrees to a relationship with what it saw, I understood something: the basis of life is not a greed to exist, not a desire of any kind. It's fear, the fear which I saw here. And not even fear: much worse. Absolute dread. Paralyzing dread so great as to produce apathy.” 5 likes
“I even gave up, for a while, stopping by the window of the room to look out at the lights and deep, illuminated streets. That's a form of dying, that losing contact with the city like that.” 1 likes
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