Phoebe's Reviews > Nick And The Glimmung

Nick And The Glimmung by Philip K. Dick
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May 10, 10

bookshelves: fantastic-kiddy-lit, sciffy
Read in May, 2010

I don't like David Lynch.

I know, I know. This probably makes me a bad person.

(And, I know, too, that you're probably shaking your head, asking how this could possibly be relevant to this review, but I promise you that I'll get to that.)

It's not that I don't appreciate the artfulness of what he does, or how difficult it must be to produce narratives that are creative in plotting or form. It's not that I don't think that he's probably an admirable iconoclast in some ways. It's not that I don't think he's talented, or smart.

It's that I don't enjoy watching his work. And I've watched a bit of it. Yes, even Twin Peaks. No, I didn't even like that. Really. I didn't. Please don't ask me to watch it again.

Because watching it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. There's something about David Lynch that stirs in me a unabating sense of terror. A sort of Cyclopean horror. I don't mean the fun kind of scared--thrilled and edgy but still alive--that I get when reading a good, juicy Stephen King novel. I mean that feeling when you're trapped in a nightmare and can't wake up. That kind of fundamentally nauseating sensation of being really, really afraid, and really, really unhappy and just wanting it to stop.

That's how David Lynch makes me feel.

And, were I a child, I imagine that's how Nick and the Glimmung would make me feel, too. Hell, I felt a little bit of it already, at twenty-six, reading Philip K. Dick's only kid's novel for the first time.

You might not think Nick and the Glimmung would be nightmarish at all, if you were to judge it by the synopsis alone: Nick lives in a future where pets aren't allowed, but his family has managed to keep a black and white cat named Horace hidden for awhile. When Horace escapes, rather than relinquish the animal to the Anti-pet Man, the entire family decides to leave Earth for the Plowman's Planet where cats are allowed.

I would say that that's where it gets weird, only Nick's story isn't really very normal to start with. From the outset, Dick does little to modulate his tone or themes to be more appropriate for children. Usually, I would view this as a sign of respect for young readers. However, this is Philip K. Dick we're talking about. While I enjoyed Nick's father's lengthy monologue on the desperation of meaningless desk jobs, I suspect it would be lost on most children.

So I'll say, instead, that the weirdness is compounded once the Graham family leaves the planet. The narrative becomes suddenly dreamlike--Nick moves from one bizarre situation to another with little sense of continuity or unity of plot. Plowman's Planet is a richly terrifying setting, and every creature Nick encounters is eerie and strange. There's the Wug, who communicates only via index cards; and the formles Printer, who produces depressingly inferior copies of existing items; and the creepy, soulless "Nick thing," an exact duplicate of Nick who wants to kill him and take his place; not to mention the Wrejes, who give Nick a book that tells many different versions of the future, including one that details the eventual death of his cat. There's even the Glimmung who, as far as I can tell from this book (I haven't read Galactic Pot Healer, set in the same universe) might just be the devil--or at least, from the illustrations, resembles him.

Sure, Dick's prose is strong here, as always. It's firm and sparse and clear, and the story is certainly creative. But it was spooky. It creeped me out. I didn't enjoy reading it. And I definitely can't imagine that a kid would, either.

Just a note--I was thrilled when I found a new edition of this, released by Subterranean Press, at the local library. It certainly looked handsome, and was nicely illustrated, to boot. Unfortunately, it's riddled with a distracting number of typos. I'm not sure I'd recommend this edition--if you really want to try, despite the book's inherent ickiness--for this reason.
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