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The Cosmic Puppets

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  2,418 ratings  ·  204 reviews
Yielding to a compulsion he can’t explain, Ted Barton interrupts his vacation in order to visit the town of his birth, Millgate, Virginia. But upon entering the sleepy, isolated little hamlet, Ted is distraught to find that the place bears no resemblance to the one he left behind—and never did. He also discovers that in this Millgate Ted Barton died of scarlet fever when h ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1957)
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3.45  · 
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 ·  2,418 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Aug 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Go into an old friend’s house. Look on the walls, in pleasant frames on end tables and on the kitchen counter. You see someone who looks like your friend: younger, taller, more hair, broader of shoulder and smaller of waist. See the younger self, not older nor wiser, but green, full of kinetic energy and verve.

This is how I read Philip K. Dick’s 1957 publication, The Cosmic Puppets. Phil was only 29 when this was released by Ace Books as a double, the other novella being Sargasso Of Space by And
Glenn Russell

"I've never seen this town before," he muttered huskily, almost inaudibly. "It's completely different." He turned to his wife, bewildered and scared. "This isn't the Millgate I remember. This isn't the town I grew up in!"

The Cosmic Puppets by American science fiction author Philip K. Dick is set in the small town of Millgate, Virginia during the 1950s. Ted Barton spent his boyhood in Millgate but when he returns as a man in his late twenties, the entire town has completely changed - the street n
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Zoeytron by: Glenn's review
Strange things are afoot in the small hamlet of Millgate.  Why is it that the townfolk consider them to be perfectly natural?  A little boy putters around in an old barn loft, communing with his creepy crawlies and messing with time.  Nearby, a young girl gathers information from bees.  After an absence of 18 years, Ted Barton returns to the place of his childhood.  Clearly unacquainted with the famous admonition that "you can't go home again", he is mystified when nothing is as he remembers it.
Susan Budd
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
PKD ~ Where have you been all my life? I never read Philip K. Dick before this year, but I finally decided to give him a try. I read through all the book blurbs and chose Ubik to be my introduction to this author who is revered by many, yet virtually unknown to me. I wanted to make a good choice because, if I chose an inferior book, I might not try another. I think I chose well. So well that I feel confident that I will want to read through his oeuvre.

Perhaps The Cosmic Puppets seems an odd choi
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, american, scifi, fiction
"Remember Millgate?"
- Philip K. Dick, The Cosmic Puppets


Ted Barton returns to the small Virginia town of his youth and discovers the town is completely different. It is ground zero for an eternal battle between two Zurvanite Zoroastrian demigods/twin brothers -- Ahura Mazda (Ohrmuzd) and Angra Mainyu (Ahriman). This fight is being waged by proxy using two of the town's more precocious tweens (Mary and Peter).

The novel starts like a typical Rod Sterling production, but like PKD is want to do, it
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe some of these people prefer the illusion?”

Poor Ted Barton! When, on his way back home from a holiday with his wife Peg, he decides to pay a spontaneous visit to his old hometown Millgate, a secluded little place in the mountains, he finds the whole town strangely altered. Anyone who has yielded to the foolish impulse of re-visiting a childhood place will share this experience, but in Barton’s case, there is more to it than just the unacknowledged reluctance t
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not among PKD's best, this is a fairly decent read. It combines several of his perennial obsessions: alternate realities, uncertain identities and Manichaeism.

Another frequent obsession here seems to be ... uh ... boobs. PKD takes the time to mention just about every female character's breasts. They almost seem to have an active life of their own: sweating, heaving, glowing and sometimes just being "thick." I wasn't sure if PKD was feeling poorly weaned when he wrote this novel, of if he
Charles Dee Mitchell
Apr 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: mid-century-sf
If written today, this could have been Dick's foray into YA fantasy fiction. He would have needed to change the protagonist into a plucky teenager instead of a full-grown man, but other than that all the elements are in place. On a road trip to Florida with his almost estranged wife, Ted Barton wants to stop off at Millgate, the Virginia town he left as a young man eighteen years before, They find the town, but everything about it has changed. (Cue the Twilight Zone theme music here.) Street nam ...more
Hertzan Chimera
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What are Ted and Peggy Barton doing in Millgate, VA? Does the place even exist?

Well, it exists in some half-forgotten form; it certainly doesn’t exist in the form that Ted Barton remembers. On his arrival in Millgate, he spends the first few hours looking for shops that no longer exist on streets that no longer exist, parks that no longer exist and people who no longer exist - not people who have died, but people who have never lived. There’s strong speculation from the inhabitants of Millgate t
Peter Tillman
If I read this one back in the day, it would have been this edition:
I've definitely read "Sargasso of Space", which was pretty good, but have no real memory of the Dick. The Ace Doubles were widely available when I started reading this stuff, and I still have a few. Not this one.

David Agranoff
Very strange entry in the early PKD canon, kinda twilight zone like. starts with a Under the Dome like set but goes in a weird Cosmic horror direction.

Full review in the Dickheads episode:
Michael Jandrok
Philip K. Dick is not a very good writer in a mechanical sense. His characters are not often fully developed, his sentence structure can be simplistic, and he has an annoying tendency to drop plot points at the drop of a hat. And this same scenario always seems to play out for me whenever I pick up a Dick book: I start out feeling like I’m reading some sort of mediocre fanfiction written by someone living in a basement somewhere. But then at some juncture I get caught up in the story and realize ...more
Aug 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
THE COSMIC PUPPETS. (1957). Philip K. Dick. ***.
The author used one of his common settings for this novel – an alternate universe. In this case, however, the new universe wasn’t somewhere else or in another time period, it was hidden from view by an overlay of a totally different identity. It starts out innocently enough: a man and wife are on vacation in Virginia. The husband wants to take a short side trip to visit the town where he grew up, but which he hasn’t seen for almost twenty years. Wh
Mar 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read quite a few Philip K. Dick stories and novels in my teens and liked them okay, but never as much as I liked Heinlein, Asimov, & Clarke. For the most part, I think the movies based on his works are much better than their literary sources.

I may've really liked The Cosmic Puppets as a teenager if I'd read it back then because it's pretty juvenile. But man, I had a hard time convincing myself to finish this one. There were a couple of chapters that had me thinking it was just on the verge
Davide Nole
Again, not the best, nor the worst of PKD's novels.
The book deals with the usual themes in the author's backpack, which is the idea of divinity and the comparison between mankind and what's above it. It's done in a more subtle way than usually PKD does, and that's something I did not quite enjoy.
I think the book carries the marks of its predecessor (Dr. Futurity) and it's sort of an attempt of the author to redeem the plot of the previous book, trying to set it in motion in a very different way.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two stars, because its ok.

Ancient gods make a small rural virginia town their battleground. Sorta like a small-scale version of The Stand, with spiders. Somewhat interesting, but it all seems for nought. No real resolution on plot, no character arcs. Things happen. Its somewhat spooky. Then it ends.

what stood out is the sexism/male targeting - although a novella, theres at least 5 mentions to breasts, and a particularly sexist punchline joke ending.
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will admit its been a while since I have read any Philip K Dick (PKD) and I guess I had forgotten how much fun (and strange) his work can be. Even more so when you consider this book was originally written in the late 50s.
Dont get me wrong - I think his work has an amazing ability to portray small American towns - or at least paint vivid pictures of them (having never experienced them for myself) - in one paragraph it feels like I am reading an ageing national Geographical edition and then ne
Apr 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: science fiction lovers
Shelves: sci-fi
Even though I enjoyed this enough to read the whole story and I liked the way the concept was delivered (a concept that has been used time and time again) there were some things that irked me.
For starters the writing style I found to be frustrating, lacking proper description and fluidity.
Then there is the fact that the main character accepted certain reasons behind what was going on so quickly. I honestly can't accept that any rational human being however open minded could accept something so o
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
This one was …weird. I don’t know that it’s really sci-fi, which is OK, but it was …weird. Ted Barton goes back to his childhood town of Millgate. He gets there and discovers the town is completely different, he doesn’t know anyone, all the buildings and streets are different, and according to the town records, he died as a child.

The book follows him through his hunt to figure out what’s going on and who he is. He teams up with a couple of kids and an old, drunk guy to set things to rights and
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
A fairly straight-forward (as far as Dick goes) shorter novel that touches on a lot of Dick's more familiar themes, though perhaps a bit more shallowly than his own acclaimed work. Written in the '50s for one of Ace's double-novels and Dick's 2nd or 3rd published novel, it shows in both the prose and plot which is— schlockier, pulpier, trashier, more B-movie like, choose according to preference— than the works Dick produced once he was more established.

It's enjoyable enough for what it is, but i
Aaron Gallardo
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Yet this nouvelle being one of his early and minor works, the execution of the story and the way it's told made me think of a magnum opus, a watermark of the genre. The Cosmic Puppets is filled with delightful scenes, unconventional ideas and twists -even for sci-fi, although I think this is closer to fantasy-, and such an enjoyable prose (especially at the beginning of the chapters). Unfortunately, it had also a handful of topic, dull, efectist characters, as well as the ending. I'm expecting m ...more
Viji  (Bookish endeavors)
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
It has been going on since the beginning of time. The battle between forces of darkness and light. That's the plot here,the battle lasting billions of years. As a part of it,an entire village is hidden and replaced by another one. And many lives get caught in that change. An interesting plot. And the part of sending God's daughter to live on earth. That's one fine twist. Altogether a wonderful read. PKD stories combine science with philosophy. It makes you see reality from different dimensions.
Chris S
A'Twilight Zone'-like premise that just gets daft towards the end. Early PKD and has the usual wooden writing and characterization... but... some themes in this book are developed more successfully in later novels, so kinda interesting to see how these themes (ie: the nature of reality) are handled in this early effort.
Sean Hoade
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well, I've finally read a book by Philip K. Dick that I did not like. This seems like an attempt to write horror in the mode of Stephen King (not that SK was writing yet, so let's say Robert Bloch), but the reader (hi) thinks it's going to be a science fiction novel, so when, about halfway through, people start getting eaten alive by spiders and incredibly hokey deities show themselves, it seems even more ridiculous than it would have otherwise. Which is still pretty ridiculous.

One other thing:
Robin Stanley
Wtf did I just read.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
One of PKD's earliest works, and not one of his best. Still, even mediocre Dick is pretty good. If you like The Twilight Zone and Zoroastrianism, here's a book for you.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: softcover
This was the lightest of the PKD novels I’ve read. It seemed more short story rather than novel. Quick fast paced, simple, single idea, based story; much like a Twilight Zone story - one that would better fit the season 4 one hour episodes. Not a major work, but entertaining enough for one of it’s day (1957).
Roddy Williams
‘Millgate Virginia – It should have been the sort of town where nothing changes…

As Ted Barton is driving through Baltimore, on vacation with his wife, he is seized with an irresistible urge to head into the Appalachian Mountains and visit the town where he was born – Millgate, Virginia.

But when Barton finds his way into the little valley he grew up in, he is in for a deep shock. The town called Millgate is there all right: but it is a town he has never seen before.

It is a town where Ted Barton h
Jack Stovold
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Philip K. Dick Project #4

Originally published as a novelette “Glass of Darkness”, this is basically Dick’s first science fiction or fantasy novel (although this one is pretty firmly in the fantasy camp). Although I enjoyed Voices from the Street, I was excited to get into more genre territory, and this didn’t disappoint. The tone of this novel shares much more in common with Dick’s short stories than Voices.

In fact, the economy of the writing and the quick pacing make this feel a lot like
Jul 22, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Philip K Dick is an excellent writer and creator of new ideas, his mind is spasmodic and undulating it reaches to the most hidden recesses of creation and ingenuity. This, however brilliantly designed book, doesn't hit the mark as far as I am used to in Dick's work.
The basic story is of a man from a small town called Millgate, who is returning to find rediscover himself in his childhood. When he gets there the town in changed, nothing is as he remembered and no one remembers the Ted Barton he t
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one book, one month 1 10 Apr 07, 2008 11:54PM  

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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