Jack Stovold's Reviews > Solar Lottery

Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick
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Jun 03, 12

Read from May 29 to June 03, 2012

Solar Lottery is Dick’s first true sci-fi novel, (The Cosmic Puppets was more of a fantasy, and also not published as a book at this time), and his third novel over all. It was also the first novel of his ever published, so we have it to thank for jump-starting Dick’s career as a novelist. Dick himself stated that if Solar Lottery had not been published, he would have given up full-length novels.
I didn’t think Solar Lottery was a bad book, but it’s not my favorite Dick work at this point. The left-field weirdness of The Cosmic Puppets left more of an impression on me. This is Dick in action mode, reminiscent of his shorts “The Variable Man” or “Paycheck” in tone, and it’s certainly a fast paced, entertaining read.
There’s a lot going on in this book, maybe a little too much. I don’t need my hand held, but particularly at the beginning it’s fairly difficult to follow what’s going on. It seems like Dick had a lot of ideas for this book but for whatever reason wasn’t able to flesh them out as thoroughly as he should have. I still have a lot of questions, like what it is the Quizmasters actually do besides trying not to be legally assassinated. Or really anything at all about what the “quizzes” actually are. Or what Ted Bentley’s job is actually supposed to consist of. And I’m not sure of the significance of the entire subplot about Preston and the Flame Disc. Character motivations are muddy too. Bentley himself is a fairly standard likeable Dick protagonist, a world weary middle aged man who thinks there’s something wrong with the way the whole world is run. But Cartwright and Verrick are less clear. Verrick seems to contradict himself, and Cartwright seems to have been striving for some sea-change but just kind of decides to just disappear in the ending. The ending also seems fairly rushed and was a little unsatisfactory.
I also can’t really discern any real theme from the book either. Dick seems to have had some things to say but it kind of gets lost in the shuffle. Or perhaps it just went over my head. Perhaps the clearest is a message for freedom, and for doing the right thing even when society is against you. And the virtue of pledging one’s loyalty not to people but to ideals.
The usual charming Dick stuff is on full display here. Everyone smokes like a fiend, and the positions of every female character’s breasts are meticulously detailed. His sometimes clunky dialogue becomes more apparent at novel length, especially that of his female characters. But it’s the little moments that I appreciate. For some reason one of my very favorites is the scene of the leader of the world and the former leader, a judge and Bentley sitting in an old room on a vacation report on the moon at a table with a pitcher of dirty looking ice water and two overloaded ashtrays. It’s a great image.
The action sequences are exciting and there a lot of interesting concepts at play in this book. It’s not the typical futuristic dystopia you might be expecting.
On the whole, I found this a worthwhile book, but it probably shouldn’t be your first Phil Dick experience.

# People knew that the outer planets were gas giants in the 50s, right? How many times is Dick going to mention colonies living underground on Neptune or Uranus?

# This book went through a lot of edits and revisions which might account for some of my complaints. The British version, titled “A World of Chance” is apparently fairly different. Might be interesting to check out and compare.

Up next: “The World Jones Made”!
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