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The Zap Gun

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,582 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
Scaldingly sarcastic yet enduringly empathetic, The Zap Gun is Dick's remarkable novel depicting the insanity of the arms race. Lars Powderdry and Lilo Topchev are counterpart weapons fashion designers for a world divided into two factions–Wes-bloc and Peep-East. Since the Plowshare Protocols of 2002, their job has been to invent elaborate weapons that only seem massively ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published 1998 by Voyager HarperCollins (first published 1967)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,942)
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Oct 21, 2015 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and mind bending, classic PKD!

The Zap Gun is also more than eclectic and pulpy science fiction fun from Philip K. Dick; it is a scathingly funny cold war satire that blends elements of Why Are We in Vietnam?, Starship Troopers, and Stand on Zanzibar.

As I read this, I asked myself again and again why was he not more popular in his own time? From reading articles about his contemporaries, he was much lauded by his peers, but just never enjoyed the commercial success of Heinlein or Asim
Jan 14, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Project Plowshare, or don't touch my Love Gun.

zap gun

I ended up liking this one way more than I thought I might. I started reading thinking this was going to simply be one of PKD's early, pulpy sci-fi novels. Look. The guy wrote over 44 novels (and hundreds of short-stories). Not every book is going to be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Ubik, but I had a copy, so...

Yes. I read it because it was there. Was it pulpy? Hell yes, even pulpier than I could have imagined. I'm not sure everything was
Charles Dee Mitchell
I was about fifty pages into The Zap Gun when it hit me. This PKD novel is a sustained satire on a focused topic. Each chapter did not introduce new characters with no discernible link to those I had already met. The plot had not yet splintered into blind alleys and drug-induced hallucinations. And PKD's writing seemed relaxed. It lacked the driven quality that can inform both his best and worst books. He was having fun with this one.

The object of his satire is the cold war arms race. The novel,
Mar 31, 2013 Ensiform rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was like a lot of PKD books - many names; many characters, almost all with Dick's education and interests; some bad writing; some good writing; a demented, convoluted plot. This book was even more convoluted than most: (a) there are weapons designers for East and West, who get weapons from trances; (b) the weapons are not real, due to a secret agreement; (c) a real nut, a weapons fanatic (who like all civilians thinks the weapons are real) is appointed to the government; (d) alien satellite ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cult author Philip K. Dick's 20th published sci-fi novel, "The Zap Gun," was first released in book form (Pyramid paperback R-1569, with a cover price of 50 cents) in 1967, after having been serialized in the November '65 and January '66 issues of "Worlds of Tomorrow" magazine under the title "Project Plowshare." Phil's previously published book had been "The Unteleported Man," later expanded as the largely incomprehensible "Lies, Inc.," but "The Zap Gun" is a completely understandable, reader-f ...more
Ben Loory
Nov 23, 2008 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ah, lars powderdry! how can one not like a book with a main character named lars powderdry? it would be impossible.

anyway, here we are back in the land of exhilarating imagination... ghanaian cartoonist of blueheaded cephalopod superhero accidentally transmits advanced weaponry designs to government researchers in the u.s. and u.s.s.r. via telepathic means, alien invaders accidentally destroyed by hyper-puzzling children's maze game, etc. oops, now i ruined the book for you. oh well, it was good
Josiah Hawkins
I've long thought that The Cold War was probably the stupidest "Conflict" That America was ever involved with. There were never any troops on the ground slinging lead at one another for some cause, there were never any planes bombing vast amounts of land, and no mass amount of casualties could ever be attributed to the war. The Cold War was simply of conflict of ideals fueled by Americas irrational fear of the spread of communism (Don't get my wrong, communism is bad but looking back we went ove ...more
Nov 25, 2015 Edgar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Hello, I'm Philip K. Dick. I sit down to write with a vague idea of the message I want to convey and make the plot advance as I go, throwing in crazy sci-fi cliches to my own rescue whenever I reach a dead end. You try to do that, and you'll obtain a mess; I do it, and it kicks ass. That's because I'm Philip K. Dick."

PKD of course never said that, but he could've, had he been a less nice guy.
Apr 09, 2016 Giuseppe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un romanzo molto confuso nel suo inizio ma che ri rifà nella seconda parte trovando ritmo e colpi di scena. Una semidistopia/allegoria della corsa agli armamenti del secondo dopoguerra (è scritto nel 1964), i temi sembrano più attuali di quello che possono sembrare: a parte le riflessioni sul deterrente simbolico delle armi dietro la corsa agli armamenti, c'è la manipolazione della comunicazione di massa, la presunta democraticità e trasparenza degli organi statuali. Non mancano i capisaldi dick ...more
Coni Warren
The first half of this book was very slow. I was not very interested in the world building. The fake war didn't interest me or even designing the fake weapons. I could see the overall bigger picture that Dick was trying to create, how he was trying to relate it to wars going on, and how the government was run, but it wasn't really all that interesting to read. The only part I enjoyed was how quickly Lars, the West weapon fashion designer, could travel across the U.S. or over to Europe and Russia ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jan 06, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in November 2001.

Philip K. Dick had two concerns which appear over and over again in his novels, the meaning of humanity and the chance or occult motivation of events. The second theme is of primary importance here. The idea of the novel is that the arms race is effectively over, but that those not in the know ("pursaps" as opposed to "cogs") need to be persuaded that weapons research is still going on. So there has arisen a "weapons fashion industry", which
Felix Zilich
Профессия Ларса Паудердрая уникальна. Он – главная надежда западного блока в борьбе с коммунизмом. Именно поэтому каждый день, погружаясь в наркотический транс, Ларс изобретает новую разновидность стратегического оружия, которое всего лишь через несколько дней будет создано и сброшено на головы ничего не подозревающих врагов. Есть только один важный нюанс. Ни одно из придуманных Ларсом видов вооружения никогда еще не было создано. На самом деле это всего лишь обман и надувательство, с помощью ко ...more
Jack Stovold
Oct 25, 2012 Jack Stovold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Philip K. Dick Project

Entry #29 - The Zap Gun (written Oct-Dec. 1963, published Jan 1967)

From the back cover:


Now this one is hard to get a handle on at first, until it becomes evident that this is a comedy of sorts, and can almost be read as a self-parody. On this level, it succeeds, although this book is also filled with some of Dick's most bizarre and original ideas yet. I constantly have to wonder how he came up
Karl Kindt
Aug 04, 2013 Karl Kindt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is the 34th book I have read by PKD. He amazes me every time. Critics did not favor this book. He did not favor this book. It may, in fact, be one of his worst, but it is still better than most sf ever written. It is more lucid than some of his books, perhaps a bit less philosophical, but it still wrestles with empathy in a gritty and yet fantastic way. Androids, aliens, and time travel. In one novel. And yet the main thrust of the book is the issue of empathy in humanity. Where is someone ...more
One of the entertaining things about reading science fiction books written in the 1950s and 60s is often you find that the future they are set in is now the past. The Zap Gun takes place in 2004, six years ago, and the assumption is that there are two world powers, America and the Soviet Union. Or at least what will become those two countries. A bit of advice to any budding science fiction writer out there, set your novels far enough in the future that your children won't be alive in the year yo ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Morgan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, pulp
The reason why I gave this 3 stars and not more is probably the same reason why PKD himself wasn't so happy about this one: the beginning is nearly impossible to comprehend. What exactly is Lars thinking about, actually? I don't know. This is more confusing than normal PKD fair.

Everything else is awesome. The completely, ridiculously, absurdly, wacky weapons designs were phenomenal. How does one come up with these things?

Well, when one is Philip K. Dick, they're almost mandatory.

The paranoia, as
Dec 12, 2009 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's obvious the first half of the book is rushed and needed to be rewritten, but Dick probably had the rent due or one of his ex's hounding him for money so he couldn't exactly get around to it. However the second half of the book makes up for it by being tighter and faster and introducing (almost) too many good ideas together, and wrapping up everything in a great conclusion that I wanted even more time for.

Don't read this unless you're already used to reading Dick but if you're a fan there's
Apr 25, 2012 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not his finest moment, but certainly a good read. This is much lighter in tone than some of his others, but it has plenty of twists and turns to keep a reader interested. Some of it can be a bit hammy and it's hard to tell where sincerity ends and parody begins in some places, but this may be a sign of what sci-fi was like in the 70s (I'm not a fan of sci-fi, more a fan of Dick....fnar fnar). The satire on the arms industry and the surrounding consumerism is great even if the characters aren't a ...more
Jan 26, 2015 Miguel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
perhaps i am not a dick guy =(
Jun 16, 2014 Matus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kindof a mess in terms of the story (a melting pot of half-ideas and stock pkd-isms), though PKD is in pretty good form in terms of conveying the confused psychological state of his characters (which is after all his writing strength, and in this book avoided his occasional weakness of indulging too much in depressed characters and/or characters that too much mirror his primary personality traits).

(Spoilers follow.)

One neat thing was that it was long unclear how effective the trance-sketched it
This was quite disjointed even for Philip K Dick. I think part of the problem may have been I read it as bedtime reading over a couple nights rather in one go as I normally do for his books. I didn't quite grasp the whole weapons to plowshares concept and the jobs of the telepaths coming up with the ideas. That said it did get better about half way through and I found the ending and the last chapter with the main character one of the most emotional and moving things that I've read by Philip K Di ...more
Nov 18, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible writer, but not perhaps his best or most accessible book. The narrative is loaded with ideas and dense with new language which makes it a little difficult to follow at first, but it is certainly a cut above your run of the mill sci-fi. It mixes drug induced weapon design, time-travel, post cold-war politics, deep psychological problems on the part of most of the protagonists together with a fairly black view of the human condition. Great stuff.
Jan 17, 2015 Shane_finnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm just back in the door from the Ramblers rest pub, where I skulled copious amounts of the finest of porter with my nearly best friend again Carl. I have moved on from his last recommendations, and we are trying to patch up our friendship. But any way I digress... On with my review.
Carl is an avid Philip k dick fan. A 'dickian' he would often refer to him self, as he swirls his brandy with his good hand. He put this book in front of me and said in his unusually high pitched voice "Thane you
Abram Jackson
Oct 25, 2014 Abram Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plenty weird, but not one of Phillip K. Dick's best. I think part of the problem is that the publisher set up the story poorly on the jacket. OTOH, I loved the golden age cover.
Matteo Pellegrini
Jan 22, 2014 Matteo Pellegrini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantascienza
In un mondo ancora diviso tra due superpotenze, Pop-Ori e Bloc-Occ, i sognatori d'armi vengono impiegati da entrambe le parti per progettare ordigni mortali. Ma le armi terrificanti che i due blocchi sfornano regolarmente sono in realtà cianfrusaglie senza alcun potenziale bellico, frutto delle intuizioni paranormali dei "sognatori" e dal valore puramente estetico. Tra visioni lisergiche di motori a vapore, autori di fumetti che diventano inconsapevoli padroni del mondo e minacciosi satelliti a ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was frequently mentioned by Philip K. Dick as one of his worst novels, but I thin it is actually among the best of his prolific mid-to-late-60's period. He revisits a couple common themes in his work: a 21th century cold war world split between democratic West and communist East, and an arrogant elite class that keeps a dangerous secret from the general population. In my opinion, The Zap Gun actually does a better job and tells a better story than his similar novel The Penultimate Truth.

Mar 07, 2014 Fantifica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reseña de Laura Fernández · Nota: 6,8 · Reseña en Fantífica

Estamos en 2004. En el planeta Tierra se libra una guerra inacabable. Una guerra que enfrenta a Oriente y Occidente, o, mejor, al Bloque-Occidente con el Pío-Oriente, una guerra que demanda nuevas armas constantemente, armas que fabrican diseñadores médium a los que resulta indispensable entrar en trance para imaginar el aspecto que tendrán. Cada uno de estos diseñadores será reemplazado (algún día, cuando ya no resulte operativo) por ot
Nick Heyns
Dec 22, 2015 Nick Heyns rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was still learning to read English when I tackled this book. The words Mr Dick used were enough to drive a little boy to tears! Some of these words couldn't be found in any dictionary I had access to. The one phrase I asked my father was "sexual intercourse". Heaven knows why I had to ask him that one! I suppose by the time I got to that chapter I had given up on finding the meaning in a dictionary. There was a long moment of silence before Dad replied! Otherwise, the book was full of mind spi ...more
Rich Meyer
Aug 04, 2015 Rich Meyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Another quirky but thought provoking book by a Science Fiction Master, The Zap Gun is set in the near future (2005) when the US and the Soviets have come to terms and are continually (and literally) beating their weapons into plowshares - big-name (and psychic) weapons designers have their ideas turned into pop culture kitsch. However, when actual aliens show up to enslave the planet, they've got to figure out how to make things work like they did before.

The story has plenty of twists in the Ph
Mr. Lars, sognatore d'armi, in originale "The Zap Gun", edito anche come Il sognatore d'armi, è un romanzo di fantascienza di Philip K. Dick pubblicato nel 1967. È uno sguardo molto crudele sul futuro da parte di un autore che si è sempre distinto per la considerazione dedicata alla realtà alternativa, virtuale, che induce a sovrapporre piani diversi di esistenza. Viene considerato come uno dei più crudeli, allucinati sguardi sul futuro di Dick, il romanzo ci racconta un'America immersa nel clim ...more
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Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. 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 Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Di ...more
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