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The Zap Gun

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,114 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Scalding 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, 256 pages
Published November 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1965)
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Average rating 3.42  · 
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 ·  2,114 ratings  ·  141 reviews

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Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, 2015, scifi, fiction
Project Plowshare, or don't touch my Love Gun.

zap gun

I ended up liking this one way more than I thought I might. I started reading thinking this was going to simply be one of PKD's early, pulpy sci-fi novels. Look. The guy wrote over 44 novels (and hundreds of short-stories). Not every book is going to be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Ubik, but I had a copy, so...

Yes. I read it because it was there. Was it pulpy? Hell yes, even pulpier than I could have imagined. I'm not sure everything was
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-shelf, satire, sci-fi
Oldschool Dick but still a few years after The Man in the High Castle, this particular little novel is the most comic-book zany of all of his works. Pulp to the max.

I mean, that shouldn't be too surprising in the middle of the sixties when his output was insanely high, when he was dragging out a novel as fast as he could to attempt to make a living... and a poor living at that.

And yet, he still manages to write something quite akin to Dr. Strangelove. Half satire, half comic book wacky. Quirky
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gregg_press-own
This is the First hardcover edition, originally published in 1967 as a Pyramid paperback.

This edition has a new introduction by Charles Platt.

Note: This is not a library copy.
David Firmage
Love the concept and satire but I did not gel with the writing or characters.
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Hello, I'm Philip K. Dick. I sit down to write with a vague idea of the message I want to convey and make the plot advance as I go, throwing in crazy sci-fi cliches to my own rescue whenever I reach a dead end. You try to do that, and you'll obtain a mess; I do it, and it kicks ass. That's because I'm Philip K. Dick."

PKD of course never said that, but he could've, had he been a less nice guy.
Charles Dee Mitchell
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mid-century-sf
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,
Ben Loory
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Julio Bonilla
The year is 2004. . .

Even though it has typos throughout, this book is very reminiscent of The Jetsons, a cartoon I grew up watching in the 1980s.

Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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 ...more
Abram Jackson
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Plenty weird, but not one of Phillip K. Dick's best. I think part of the problem is that the publisher set up the story poorly on the jacket. OTOH, I loved the golden age cover.
Lot of ideas which don't have too much to do with each other, but it keeps going on until one closes the deal & then the rest sort of have to show themselves the door

Was funny seeing the remark about "Where is the grave's victory?", which was much more topical when it appeared in Counter Clock World, which was the book I'd read just before
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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, ...more
Harrison Phinney
I was happy to find a PKD on the shelf I hadn’t read yet. 200-odd pages later I had just experienced one of my favorite stories by him. I’m not sure why this isn’t mentioned with the ‘greats’ like Ubik and Scanner Darkly; personally, I found immense depth here. The prose has moments of poeticism. The plot and structure may be a bit pulpy, but that’s part of the appeal of PKD. What makes him untouchable is his ability to clothe mankind’s most harrowing questions in weapons fashion designers and ...more
Nina {ᴡᴏʀᴅs ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ}
Classic PKD! But not my favourite sadly. It seems I'm not the biggest fan of PKD's stories along this kind of theme.
Jack Stovold
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Josiah Hawkins
I've long thought that The Cold War was probably the stupidest "Conflict" That America was ever involved with. There were never any troops on the ground slinging lead at one another for some cause, there were never any planes bombing vast amounts of land, and no mass amount of casualties could ever be attributed to the war. The Cold War was simply of conflict of ideals fueled by Americas irrational fear of the spread of communism (Don't get my wrong, communism is bad but looking back we went ...more
Coni (conireads or skingproject)
The first half of this book was very slow. I was not very interested in the world building. The fake war didn't interest me or even designing the fake weapons. I could see the overall bigger picture that Dick was trying to create, how he was trying to relate it to wars going on, and how the government was run, but it wasn't really all that interesting to read. The only part I enjoyed was how quickly Lars, the West weapon fashion designer, could travel across the U.S. or over to Europe and ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Jan 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Karl Kindt
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
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
Jul 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, pulp
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
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
perhaps i am not a dick guy =(
Fabrício Calado
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
For some reasons, this story reminded me a lot of David Foster Wallace's awesome door-stopper Infinite Jest.



the vidphone that resembled the device used in IJ's world, the role that drugs have for the main characters, the overall deluded characters, and right near the end, the game that turns people addicted to it (ain't that some Entertainment!).

But really, since Philip K. Dick couldn't possibly know the plot to Infinite Jest (RIGHT?!), it's probably just a coincidence.
George Kouros
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Zap GunHilarious, funny, an amalgam of PKD's instruments: funny names ( characters, vocations-if this isn't Dickian then what is?, various hilarious and bureaucratic institutions: I cannot stop laughing at all those difficult to pronounce acronyms in a conscious effort from the author to mock the compartmentalization of bureaucracy as a form of management, the military logic and various governmental flaws),
drugs (an effort was given this time from the author to make them sound more
Another novel by SF-master Philip K. Dick, and what can I say?

It's a decent book about the mock-war between the East and West being interrupted by alien invaders, but I find it lacking in intensity, paranoia and intrigue compared to his other works. It does pick up towards the end, but by then you've already read over half the book, and the juicy part is not nearly as great as it could be or as long as you'd want it to be. Simply put, it could be better.

Also, I really don't care for any of the
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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. ...more