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Book discussions > Post-Read Ubik Discussion Thread (SPOILERS)

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message 1: by Miron Gains (last edited Mar 18, 2013 08:54PM) (new)

Miron Gains (mirongains) | 19 comments Exclaimer: If you haven't completely read the book by now, turn back. I plan to use this thread to openly discuss the book in reckless abandon, so spoilers avast ye who venture further. You've been warned.

I finished the book a few days ago(we really should adapt the outline relevant to the length and difficulty of the book), and to no surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have read PKD work in the past (do androids dream of electric sheep, and a scanner darkly) and was levelled by his ability to take such abstract sci-fi concepts and make them seem so commonplace. I really do believe that his ideas have greatly shaped modern sci-fi works (not including faithful adaptations). Recent titles that come to mind are Looper, and in the case of Ubik: Inception.

Organizations that use metaphysical abilities to work against competition, dwelling in the subconscious dream states of others, architects (jory in the case of Ubik) who have the ability to alter these dream states. And most of all, the end where the nature of reality is questioned - ie: Joe Chip on the coin and Leo Decaprio's spinning top. The themes of Inception and Ubik both cover the nature of reality and perception. To say Christopher Nolan wasn't influenced by PKD would be a stretch.

When it comes to negatives, my biggest gripe with Ubik is the disposable side characters. PKD introduced concepts such as anti-cogs, and telepathy as central points to the plot, and gives us an ensemble of characters who are apparently very gifted in these arts, yet he fails to utilize these concepts to a large degree. I was really hoping to have a multi level narrative where certain psi's would act on information gathered that the reader didn't know about. The plot seemed a bit too linear for me given the potential.

I also found the complete disregard for the rogue psi's around 3/4 through the novel to be somewhat lazy. You have these central villains set up who we think are putting the plot in motion, and once the characters get on their way, it's like we are supposed to completely forget about them. What are they doing now? Is Runciter not actively working to counter their activities?

Other than that, I was pleased with the book. PKD creates worlds that are very lucid and surreal to say the least. When Joe was racing to find a can of Ubik was slowly deteriorating physically and mentally with the whole world shifting around him was a hell of a ride.

8/10 bro's

What did you all think? Sorry for the disorganized mess of text.

message 2: by Ethan (new)

Ethan Downs | 2 comments I just finished it about 10 minutes ago, and I'm not sure how I felt. I think it was very well written and I enjoyed the characters, the imagery, everything, it just felt disorganized and chaotic. But that was probably a point PKD meant to make.

message 3: by Skippy (new)

Skippy | 18 comments Other than HHGTTG, it's the only proper book I've read.

I really enjoyed it, I read two or three chapters a night and when I got 2/3s in, couldn't put it down.

I have to be honest, I didn't completely understand what was going on but I got the gist of it. The huge descriptions for each character before Luna, especially as there were so many, lost me, I just imagined my own characters based on how they acted.

Can't wait for the next book, I fancy Yes Man or something real but I will wait for the next poll to decide.

message 4: by Komrade (last edited Mar 19, 2013 10:01AM) (new)

Komrade (komradevalter) | 19 comments Mod
Finished the book several days ago,so I had time to organize my thoughts about it. At first I thought it was going to be a mystery novel taking place on Luna, which made the chapters following the bomb explosion a bit dull,until the plot picks up halfway through the book. Yes,it was pretty chaotic,and some of the tension is lost when Joe is left alone and has to find his way to Des Moines - he leaves his car for 10 minutes,and it regressed for over 10 years...then he takes a long plane flight and nothing happens(yes,I know that this is explained later, it just deflated the whole situation).

Also,the whole twist that it was actually Pat who was the cause of everything was very suspicious to me(as she is the first person everyone would suspect),so the whole "it was the kid from the beginning" twist wasn't as big as I was told.

Overall,very nice,enjoyed it greatly(except for the somewhat fast-paced and chaotic prologue).

Skippy wrote: "The huge descriptions for each character before Luna, especially as there were so many, lost me..."
This so much. He spent so much time describing each of them(the only that they have in similar is their outlandish way of clothing) that I forgot nearly all of them,and had to go back and re-read the description for each of them when they came back into the story. The only ones I remembered were Al(token black) and Zafsky(the teenager).

message 5: by Roy (last edited Mar 22, 2013 11:13AM) (new)

Roy Blackstone | 14 comments Finished the book a few days ago myself, and there's definitely a huge Inception feel to this book. I could see a movie very easily being made with a certain director in charge!

As for the book itself, it really was amazing. Right from the first paragraph it sets you into PKD's grim-dark future, with no real hand holding as to the plot itself. You have to figure out your own explanations and solutions to certain things (how was Ubik created in the original time-line? Why was Joe Chip on the coin? etc). The world building was very well done (one exception where they called it 'Earth' in one instance then 'Terra' in the other), with almost nothing mentioned in the book feeling anachronistic or out of place (fear the future for the money-hungry doors shall take dominion over mankind!). The narration itself was well done, though I feel a bit more detail and time could have been taken with the various stages of the novel.

With a plot like this, however, it feels like there's so many characters, environments, and possible outcomes at play that the book could not entertain them all, and (to me) it warranted a longer book where more things could have been better explained/closed up.

Overall, I'd say this book was a 9/10 for me, it is truly EXCELLENT and I would advise anyone to read this book as the theme really hits home to all of us (what is reality?) in an increasingly entertaining way.

Oh, and that ending.

message 6: by Bernardo (new)

Bernardo (hiffwe) | 5 comments Fucking stairs man! remind me of the day after legs day.

message 7: by Post (new)

Post | 51 comments Mod
Shit well now that the first reading is done. How would you guys better organize this? Maybe I should start the post-read discussion with some questions to better start discussion? Is also seems it would be best if we set the reading time based on how long the book is

message 8: by Komrade (last edited Mar 25, 2013 11:05AM) (new)

Komrade (komradevalter) | 19 comments Mod
Post wrote: "Is also seems it would be best if we set the reading time based on how long the book is "
Definitely. Ubik, being around 100 pages, and written as it is, can be read in two to three days, a week at most. I doubt 2 weeks would be enough for either one
of those books in the current poll(maybe 3 weeks for the Myth of Sisyphus?)

message 9: by Post (last edited Mar 25, 2013 11:44AM) (new)

Post | 51 comments Mod
It is a philosophy book so it might take longer. It might be best to have ongoing discussion throughout the whole book to better comprehend it and for people to ask questions for things they don't understand or are not sure of. Spoilers don't apply to stuff like this so I think we can do it

message 10: by Lucius (new)

Lucius | 1 comments I thought Ubik was a well-written ride through the half-life that PKD created. A few things about the antagonists of the story.

I originally thought at the beginning that Jory would become an helper along with Ella Runciter throughout Joe's entire experience in half-life. I was half-right. As well, Jory never really reveals a true motive other than survival. Does Jory just want a friend, as possibly evidenced by the brief exchange with Runciter in the beginning? And what of Jory's millionaire family? Wouldn't they be interested in contacting him? Why else keep someone mentally alive, if little to no future contact is established?

All in all, I felt the twist of having Jory as the chief villain was a tad underdeveloped, and had so much potential for a better ending. Or a sequel.

What of Ray Hollis? We learn about him breifly, as he plans on framing Joe Chip for the murder of Runciter on Luna. Was it really just Jory the entire time. If it was, does that make the Ray Hollis and the psi's truly irrelevant to the story line?

Lev Grossman expresses my >feels on Ubik perfectly:
"[Ubik is]a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you'll never be sure you've woken up from."

message 11: by Gynomite (new)

Gynomite | 5 comments Overall, I thought the story was good. It certainly was ambitious, tackling some pretty heavy metaphysical material, and probably my main point of criticism is that it bit off a little more than it could chew. The writing was a bit chaotic and unfocused at times, and the peripheral characters, protagonists and villains alike, were either not particularly well-developed, or quickly and inexplicably presented and then discarded without consequence. I think that these problems arise from what I said earlier, that this story attempts to tackle such heavy metaphysical material that it tries to do too much in a limited time. I feel that this story would have benefited from PKD pacing himself and taking a little more time with it. It's rare that I say a story should be longer, but this is one of those cases where I feel that way. That said, I would much rather see a story attempt for ambitious heights and barely miss rather than languish comfortably in mediocrity, and this story I feel does the former.

With my nitpicking of the presentation out of the way, I would like to say the content of the story was overall good. While the peripheral plots seemed extraneous, or at the very least underdeveloped, the central plot was very thought-provoking. I think PKD accomplished his goal of telling a thought-provoking story, and it packed a punch, even if it lacked some polish. I was left reflecting on this story for a while after I had finished, and still find myself questioning the "reality/realities" established in the story. It has staying power.

This story to me is a primer-coated '67 GTO: powerful, effective, but lacking polish. I'd still take it over the overspoilered disasters that teenage "gearheads" pour their McD's paychecks into. Substance is more important than style.

Rating: 3.5/5

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