The Zap Gun
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The Zap Gun

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  1,295 ratings  ·  66 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 1965)
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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,...more
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
Simon Mcleish
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...more
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
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...more
Karl Kindt
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
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
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...more
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 Asimo...more
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...more
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
A future world beset with the tension of two sides diametrically opposed bent on the destruction of the other. Ehh... just another low stakes setting for PKD. It is a futureistic world where weapon designers appear as fashion divas with each design more extravagant and opulent than the other side. While the public may clamor and praise, the designers themselves are filled with doubt. The designs come via drug induced states and supported by a special effects media industry. The designer, Lars Po...more
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...more
Ben Loory
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...more
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.
Matteo Pellegrini
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
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...more
Far and away, my favourite of Philip K Dick's novels will always be "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". I also really enjoyed "The Man in the High Castle", but predominantly, I've always preferred PKD's short stories. I find in some of the novels I've read, that the plots often begin to waver and the end don't always satisfy, but in the medium of the short story, Dick's satire is first rate, his pacing taut, and the imagination runs wild.

So the Zap Gun is a weird duck - it's not as good as th...more
Roddy Williams

The terrifying arms race roared on. Daily, East and West produced more dreadful weaponry. And, daily, yesterday’s weapons were turned into toys, souvenirs, egg beaters, furniture… and never, never used as weapons. Which was just as well, since they wouldn’t have worked.

It may have looked crazy, but it kept the 21st Century world peaceful and its population securely under the domination of the monstrous, ubiquitous security agencies.

But then, the Sirius Slavers arrived from out...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
Scott Holstad
This was another crazy book (in a good way) by Philip K. Dick. It's more lucid and centered than many of his other (later) books. This was written in 1965, but is set in 2004. In this book, the Cold War still exists, seemingly, between Wes-bloc (us) and Peep-East (the Soviets). There is a weapons race between the two sides, and each employs "weapons fashion designers" to design their new weapons. The thing is, a peace treaty had been agreed upon years ago between the sides and these weapons don'...more
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
A different look at the arms race,for sure. And right,to me,in pointing out that what remains are books and photos and myths. But I didn't like the presentation. It seemed to me sort of dull,boring. The concept of unmanned gun made to fire at anything that flies is frightening,yet shows what we have brought ourselves into. An above-average read.
Moss Drake
Imagine a future, from the point of view of the Cold War, where the West-bloc and East-bloc countries have come to a détente by creating ever more insidious weapons. These weapons, however, have economic benefits for daily life across the globe as they are plowshared into useful household items. This is the premise of “The Zap Gun.”

“The Zap Gun” was written in 1964, the same year he wrote “Clans of the Alphane Moon,” “The Penultimate Truth,”, “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” and “The Unt...more
It's interesting to read older science fiction and compare the author's vision of the future with how it actually turned out. A number of details date the text, which was written in the mid-60s, prompting me to pay closer attention to the author's take on the future.

The story itself presents a take on the Cold War arms race between the US and the (former) Soviet Union, where weapons are "designed" by specialists from each country. The weapon's power is demonstrated via the media and then "plowsh...more
It took a few pages for the ball to get rolling, but then it rolls right along, brisk, imaginative, and (I guess I'll keep getting surprised by this) a hair more lighthearted than I was expecting.
Maria Grazia
Un mondo drogato di armi, diviso tra i cons, i capi occulti sui quali pesa l'onere della consapevolezza, e la gente comune, i fin troppo moderni consumatori. Un mondo nel quale persino i due blocchi storici sono fasulli e al servizio del mantenere la gente comune nel suo stato di non consapevolezza.
E al centro di tutto ciò ci sono i potentissimi sognatori d'armi, che attraverso la trance ipnotica progettano sempre nuove armi che mantengono nel popolino l'illusione della sicurezza.
Ma è tutto un b...more
Daniel Ausente
Aunque es un Dick poco citado y considerado menor, lo cierto es que me pareció divertidísimo. Escribí una reseña aquí:
This one feels like a first draft. Seems PKD didn't care for it too much. And yet still, there's a lot of cool ideas in it.
Uma obra extraordinária sobre a empatia!
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
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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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