I wanted to read this for a long time, but had so many other P.K. Dick novels to get through, I kept putting it off. Even the title didn’t seem to make sense, or give any idea what might lie within. Having finally read this, I have to say that this is one of his best mind bending stretches of imagination ever. A total mind f@&k (excuse my French).
It was somewhat difficult to get into from the first few pages. I kept asking myself ‘what the hell is going on here?’ Ideas are discussed in the first chapters, which are quite confusing, just because they are not explained. I like this style; I don’t like to be spoon fed. But to give you an idea of the confusion; we are dealing with pre-cognitive company directors, artists designing miniature household items, CAN-D, Chew-Z, Perky Pat Layouts, Martian colonies, evolved humans, alien technology, divorce, kidnap and... a God-like man named Palmer Eldritch.
Now all I have to do is explain how the heck this all fits together, and make a story. Well believe me it works, but your mind may be dragged through a mincer before you’re finished.
I can tell you that human colonists, particularly on Mars, are so bored with their awful life on desolate outposts, that they are all totally dependent on mind altering drugs. The current ‘approved’ drug is named CAN-D. This is taken by groups of friends together, usually all sitting around a P.P. layout. The P.P. comes from ‘Perky Pat’, a mass produced doll who epitomizes an ideal woman with a perfect lifestyle. (Barbie for adults). The ‘layout’ is like a doll house, into which the ‘users’ can place purchased ‘miniature’ items, like sofas etc. The drugs, dolls, layouts and miniature items all supplied by the same corporation. When the CAN-D is chewed, the users will transfer their minds into the layout, and begin to live the life of Perky Pat and friends, linked together as a group. This perfect escapism lasts an hour or so. This is just one example of the kind of thing that is ‘normal’ in this messed up future.
That was hard enough to explain, so I shall leave it there. Just to say that this is an amazing book, full of satire, paranoia, strangeness beyond belief. P.K. Dick's usual study of human desire and desperation shines through every page. I love his work and this is no disappointment. Be prepared to have to do the brain work on your own.
But be warned, drugs can seriously damage your reading ability.