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The World Jones Made
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This is the place to discuss our May Classic SF novel:

The World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick The World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments I have been overwhelmed with work for the past few months and unable to participate in discussions. But I am not likely to ignore an excuse to read a Philip K. Dick novel that I haven't read before.

An interesting future, but not one of PKD's best IMO.

A general question that comes to mind: Did any of the 1950-era SF writers imagine a future world in which tobacco products were no longer socially acceptable?

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The World Jones Made by Philip K Dick isn't hard to is still in print in paper copies, and can be had in digital editions (I got mine from the Amazon Kindle store), and in audio book form from

The World Jones Made is more about the people that have to live in the world Jones makes than about Jones himself...that was my take anyway. We first find Jones in a traveling carnival working as a fortune teller. Being this is SF, Jones actualy can see the future...with limitations. (there are no spoliers in the learn all this in the first few pages).

Philip K Dick was one of the great SF writers...possably THE greatest, and I include the Big Three of Asimov, Clarke, and RAH. The World Jones Made is not his greatest work, but it is one of his best. He's best known for The Man in the High Castle and his Valis books. PKD often wrote about the nature of reality, theology (at least his version of it), and PSI powers (like in this book...for those not in the know, PSI powers are stuff like ESP and seeing the was all the rage in SF back in the 1950s, in large part to John W Campbell's interest in the subject (Campbell was editor of Astounding and had a lot of influence on SF at the time).

One of the questions this book raises (in my mind at least) is the future written in stone? Can it be changed, or are we just puppets playing out our assigned parts? In theological terms, is it all about predestination or free will?

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You may have come into contact with PKD's work and not have known it...his stories were the basis of the movies Blade Runner, Total Recall, Through A Scanner Darkly (that one was a animated feature), Minority Report and others I can't rember. Blade Runner was taken from PKD's story Do Androids Dream of Eletric Sheep, Through A Scanner Darkly from the novel of the same name, Total Recall from We Can Rember it for You Wholesale, and Minority Report from the short story of the same name.

I don't think this is a credit (I'm not sure), but for my money the Terminator movies have their roots in PKD's story Second Variety.

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over the course of this month I will be talking about PKD, his life, his work, and his influence on SF. I hope you enjoy the book, and invite you all to read and discuss it...and as I pontificate (some will say trash I invite you all to comment futher, or toss stones my way (don't be shy...I can take it).

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Sarah, I'm not sure about SF stories with a world that's anti-smoking. However, I seem to rember that Isaac Asimov was very much anti-smoking (it was one of the reasons he gave for divorceing his first wife...she was a smoker)...he also wrote a non-fiction article (I forget the name of was one of those cristal-ball jobs...what life will be like in the year 2000 sort of thing) where he predected that in the future smokeing would only be allowed in "smokeatoriams", sort of bars set up for smokers smokeing in public, at work, or at home. I can also dimly rember a short story I read as a kid (sorry, I don't rember the author or story title) where a planet had a atmosphere of tobacco smoke, the earthmen had a nice trade in 'air sticks'

PKD wasn't a smoker as far as I know, but I do know for a fact he smoked a lot of dope and popped a lot of pills at one sad point in his life. I'll talk more about his drug use later.

message 7: by Rose (new)

Rose | 201 comments Spooky1947, call me crazy but I get the impression that you may like PKD's work (tiny bit of gushing going on). Just funnin' with you.

I'm personally NOT reading this one because as much as I think he had some great concepts...super-amazing original ideas really...I'm not a fan of his writing style. When I see a book of his, I read the synopsis, I think to myself "that sounds really good", then I remember his writing style and I generally move on to something else. Maybe it's a case of 'the crazier he got, the wordier his books became'?

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LOL Rose, I have yet to begin

I think his later stuff could be a bit harder going, particulary the Valis books....I'm going thru those now, take out all the thelogocial commentary and I think they would have been longish short stories instead of novels. The WOrld Jones made is a bit more strightfoward...give it a try, I think you'll be surprised

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments It is definitely worth reading.

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments Very often writers creating future worlds will look at current trends in technology and imagine how these advancements with impact a future society. Of course nuclear warfare offered huge radioactive pools of speculation-potential during the 1950s. The World PKD Made, while now feeling somewhat dated, is still intriguing because we get a well-developed society populated with genuine human characters.

One advancement that certainly influenced many stories about mutants was the then-new technique of mutagenesis, forcing plant mutations with gamma rays. Interesting that today these mutest food crops are so widely used that they are not even labeled as such in organic foods.

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Good stuff Sarah...back in the 1950s they were just a few years after the first use of The Bomb, at first only he USA had one, then the then USSR got their hands on one too, the Cold War kicked into high gear and for decades we lived under the threat of total destruction of...well, everything (heck, things aren't looking so great now for that matter). You are right, everyone as writeing after-the-bomb stories in the 1950s, PKD included, and after-the-end stories still abound.

PKD used the after-the-bomb background in many stories, most noteably in the novel Dr. Bloodmoney (we actualy get to see the bombs fall in that one if I rember right) of my favorate short stories by PKD, Second Viratity (sp, sorry folks) is so close to the end it may as well be the end...and we see the aftermath again in The World Jones Made with the implaction being Jones is a mutant.

Another think I find interesting about this story, and again this isn't a plot spoiler so don't get upset by my mentioning it, is Jones becomes a preacher of sorts...PKD was fasnatated by philosophy and theology, particularly in his later fact I'm in the middle of the last book of his Valis trilogy and one of the main characters is a bishiop. If you read a lot of PKD you will find him returning again and again to the same backgrounds for the people in his stories, there almost always seems to be someone either working in a music shop (PKD once worked in a record store and had a life-long love of classical music), recovering from a divorce (PKD was married several times), a writer (just like Phil), takes dope (PKD use to take uppers), I could go on...PKD belived in the old writer's maxium, "write what you know".

message 12: by Bryn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I'm halfway through this short novel, finding it interesting without being a mystifying read like Valis. A future committed to Relativism after a war between atheists and religious of several persuasions. Now Relativism threatened by a new messiah.

As yet I don't understand why Jones should want to start a movement of any kind, why he can be -- in the sentence I end my night's reading on -- "The untiring din of an impassioned man." Yet so weary since he has no future-sense, with what's ahead the past to him, been there done that. I'll find out.

message 13: by Bryn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I'm quite disturbed at the lynch-mob gasoline-burnings of the quiescent plasms from outer space.

message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited May 04, 2015 01:54PM) (new)

I'm only just starting reading this, so I'm just going to throw out some tangential remarks:

Sarah wrote: "Very often writers creating future worlds will look at current trends in technology and imagine how these advancements with impact a future society. Of course nuclear warfare offered huge radioactive pools of speculation-potential during the 1950s...."

Another story in this class was A Canticle for Leibowitz which we discussed back in January.

Spooky1947 wrote: "back in the 1950s they were just a few years after the first use of The Bomb, at first only he USA had one, then the then USSR got their hands on one too..."

In some random reading I've done recently, I was reminded of Robert Heinlein's short story Solution Unsatisfactory (which Baen has kindly made available for free on their website.) Written in 1941, well before the Manhattan Project, Heinlein imagines the US developing an atomic weapon, and the effect it would have on the world.: "Once the secret is out — and it will be out if we ever use the stuff! — the whole world will be comparable to a room full of men, each armed with a loaded .45. They can't get out of the room and each one is dependent on the good will of every other one to stay alive."

(By the way, Heinlein's introduction to that story at the link above is also interesting reading, though largely unrelated to the story itself!)

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About the bomb...DAW (donald a. wollham...I slaughtered the spelling, he was sf editor at Ace at one time...) wrote a book about SF just after the bomb called The Universe Makers...he recalled the cold feeling he had after we dropped the only 2 nukes ever used in anger...he noted how everyone that read SF at the time knew this would come to no good end...we were supposed to develop a world government before the bomb....otherwise we would eventually blow ourselves up....say what you will, humanity still has the bomb, humanity is still in danger....

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BTW, PKD started out trying to write mundane fiction, wrote several mundane novels, but no one wanted to publish he turned his hand to SF and became arguably the greatest SF writer ever...all his mundane novels are now in print now that he's gone...

Hillary Major | 436 comments Enjoyed this one (as usual w/PKD). Rose, I'd say this is definitely one of PKD's less "trippy" novels -- I've most recently read Ubik & A Scanner Darkly, which make The World Jones Made seem practically conventional. The very conceit of Jones & his power, of course, is a bit trippy (view spoiler).

message 18: by Hillary (last edited May 04, 2015 05:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hillary Major | 436 comments A consciousness of WWII definitely pervades the book; Jones is frequently compared to Hitler (I also detect traces of some other 20th C figures, including Franco). There's also more than a little Mengele in the figure of the doctor (view spoiler) (sorry, don't have the book to hand & forgot his name). That doctor is portrayed entirely negatively, but PKD seems to go out of his way to cast Dr. Rafferty in a positive light despite the very dubious medical ethics of his project -- is the distinction fair? do the ends justify the means in the case of the Refuge-dwellers? (view spoiler)

What little we hear about "The War" (I think it's supposed to have ended in 1995) -- as Bryn wrote, "war between atheists and religious of several persuasions" -- doesn't sound that much like WWII, though. World Jones Made was published in '56, before American involvement in Vietnam but after the Korean War. I wonder whether it's just hindsight that makes PKD seem prescient re: the particularly messy nature of modern warfare, or whether the details are thin enough that it would seem to reflect any future that included some conflict (certainly there seems to have been conscription during the pre-Jones war).

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments I thought the war in the story took place in the 1970s, but may be misremembering.

Hillary Major | 436 comments Predestination vs. free will is an obvious theme. I'd say the novel comes down on the side of predestination -- but PKD's handling of this topic here didn't quite feel convincing to me. Every time someone acts in a way that seems to be predestined (view spoiler), I just don't buy it. (view spoiler) And I don't know what I think of Jones' (view spoiler).

I'm personally more intrigued by the conflict between relativism and idealism. We have several characters who could potentially be considered protagonists, but I'd say the story seems to rest most on Cussick's shoulders. It must mean something if our hero is a Relativist -- but he's also very aware of the paradox of acting on one's "belief" in relativism.

message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited May 05, 2015 12:23PM) (new)

Sarah wrote: "I thought the war in the story took place in the 1970s, but may be misremembering."

Dick has a rather protracted view of nuclear World War III. We're told Jones was born in 1977, and "the war was still going on." We're soon told Jones was 9 years old when the first hydrogen bomb hit Colorado; so 1986, and it's still underway; Jones is drafted when a5 years old, and just as he's moved to the front, the war ends. So 1992 or so. Almost two decades of war.

Most other authors who've written of thermonuclear war have considered it a quick, massive paroxysm of radioactive destruction.

Hillary Major | 436 comments in terms of resolving the conflict, I wonder which came first -- the formation of a world government (which still seems very US-centric) or the adoption of Hoff's Relativism ...

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Hillary wrote: "in terms of resolving the conflict, I wonder which came first -- the formation of a world government (which still seems very US-centric) or the adoption of Hoff's Relativism ..."

I haven't exactly grokked this world's Relativism laws. Based on examples cited, almost any absolute opinion is illegal, E.g., saying "The only science fiction worth reading is from before 1970," is (technically) punishable by imprisonment (though they are "only looking for the ones who are dangerous.") By which logic we won't see much of Spooky1947.

Hillary Major | 436 comments :-) & I couldn't quite reconcile how it was illegal for the government to impose an opinion on taste or religion but had no problem imposing itself in childcare and custody decisions

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Nope G33, the only SF worth reading was published before the New Wave...but then I like PKD who published before, during, and after the New Wave....

as for the continuity questions you pointed out, PKD was notorious for that sort of thing...he could be brilliant and sloppy at the same time....part of that comes from the dope he sometimes took while writing, part from the lousy job his editors usually did, part from the break-neck pace he had to keep the words flowing from his typewriter to keep the bills paid, and just plain sloppiness....

message 26: by Andreas (last edited May 06, 2015 01:42AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Andreas PKD was the first author I was oversaturated with - I read some 10 or 15 novels in a row back in the 80s because I was so flashed by Blade Runner and fascinated by his topics. After that reading row I couldn't read his works anymore for some 20 years. Most of them I don't remember clearly anymore, but I instantly recognize his style whereever I come across, like in Minority Report or Total Recall.

World Jones Made is an easy read with lots of ideas - transhumanism with precognition, relativism, mobility, public drug and sex consumption, hermaphroditic sex, mutants ready for Venus, Venusian environment, alien blobs. Also references to Hitler and Mengele, no wonder 10 years after WWII.

On the negative side lots of sloppiness quite typical for PKD, missing protagonist motivations, unbelievable biological models.

I wouldn't consider it as one of his better works, maybe only for completionists who want to read an early PKD with less formed style but same intensity.

I'm sorry to say but I'd rather have preferred some later work.

message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited May 06, 2015 03:25PM) (new)

About this precognition thing.

So Jones experiences everything as if he's experienced it before, a year ago, which he remembers with some clarity. I'm so he experiences everything with ennui and impatience, since he's already lived it. Presumably the "first time through" he experienced the same ennui, and knows what predictions he made. So since he already knows what predictions he made a year from now, he must know what's going to happen two years from now. It seems a simple proof by induction that he knows everything that's going to happen during his lifetime.

I'm not a big fan of Sawyer, but in his Flashforward, in which everyone on the planet receives a vision of his/her future, (view spoiler).

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I find it somehow refreshingly optimistic that Dick assumes in a half-century after he wrote this book, and despite a lengthy world war III, there would still be interplanetary spaceships available. (He's got Venus totally wrong, though it was a good guess for 1956. Today we know it has crushing atmospheric pressure and insanely high temperatures that don't make even a scientific outpost feasible. )

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one of the fun things about PKDs sloppiness with details in his books, he offten wrote about the nature of reality..I have heard his sloppiness explained by saying he was playing reality games with the reader...I don't buy that, too darn litcrit for me, I think he was just being sloppy

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as for Jones seeing the future, consider this...Jones must have been one smart cookie...part of his mind is in the present, living and interacting with the world around him, all the while remembering what he saw himself doing in the present situation exactly one year ago...meanwhile, another part of him is seeing what's going on a year from now, being careful to rember it so he can know what to do a year from effect, Jones is living two realities at once....

as for the free will vs. predisdation, he MUST have free will, if things were predestined he wouldn't need to rember what to do, it would happen as he saw it anyway....and yet....

message 31: by Hillary (last edited May 07, 2015 11:48AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hillary Major | 436 comments "And yet" indeed. I see Jones' precognition as playing more w/theology than really extrapolating what might be next in the evolution of consciousness (which he sometimes seems to be doing in other works that include ESP). Jones' worldview is Calvinist predetermination played out w/a protagonist who is verifiably conscious of the predetermination ...

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I'm just going to come out and say this: legendary science fiction author or not, this novel is an awful, incoherent mess.

Let's see, we have post-nuclear war, dystopia, space exploration & planetary colonization, genetic engineering, mutants, precognition, revolution,... and oh yeah, aliens!

And it's all pretty much tossed into a blender to make a meatball fudge ripple milkshake.

For all that, it still feels like there are missing pieces, the what's and whys. The "good guys" (and it's hard to think of the secret police of a repressive plutocracy as good guys) conclude the pre-cog Jones is a threat, because?

"The crusade had failed, the ships were returning." What crusade? What ships?

Why are we colonizing Venus?

Why does Jones drop a nuke on the human research station on Venus?

Who keeps two fully fueled interplanetary spacecraft in their basement, just in case they need to take a trip in a hurry?

I suppose there's supposed to be some point all of this. The mutant Venutians start the story stuck in a biodome they can't leave and totally unaware of their intended purpose, and the human race ends the story stuck in a slightly larger dome they can't leave and totally unaware of their purpose, neither possessing free will but helpless against the forces of the universe.

Let's just hope we don't run out of psychoactive drugs.

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments Seems to me that both Dr. Rafferty and Jones are seeking immortality. Rafferty is seeking immortality for humanity by making it possible for humans to move out into the universe and settle inhospitable planets. Jones is seeking immortality for his own self by (view spoiler)

Sarah Mankowski (sarahmankowski) | 246 comments What amuses me about his Venus is that while so much effort has go into adapting the humans, the native flora and fauna seems remarkably earthlike.

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

you don't like meatball fudge ripple milkshakes G33???? try it with whip cream and a cherry on top....


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jones is a threat cause he can see the future, thus can easily topple the government...first rule for all governments is STAY IN POWER....

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the crusade, and ships (if I remember right...I read this a month ago)...they sent out ships to save us from the aliens, didn't work....

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we are colonizing Venus because we just had WW ain't so nice anymore...besides, we may want to have a few eggs in another basket if there's a WW IV...that should be self-evdint...

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he nukes venus to destroy the ship that left earth....heading to venus.....

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as for the interplanetary spacecraft in the basement...the government of course.....

you really do have to pay attention when you read PKD......

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Spooky1947 wrote: "he nukes venus to destroy the ship that left earth....heading to venus....."

No, tWJM says Jones's nuke destroyed the previously established human-occupied research dome on Venus, not the genetically modified colonists.

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Spooky1947 wrote: "we are colonizing Venus because we just had WW ain't so nice anymore......"

Venus is even less nice. "People" had to be genetically modified to even survive there.

message 43: by [deleted user] (last edited May 09, 2015 08:50AM) (new)

Spooky1947 wrote: "jones is a threat cause he can see the future, thus can easily topple the government...."

Yes, but unless Jones has some reason to oppose the government, some radically alternate political agenda, why would he use his foresight to take on the Government.

Also, Jones believes in Predestination, only doing what he's already done (including, when the time comes, getting killed.) So, if he foresees his revolution failing or him getting killed (as he ultimately does), he can't change that and would go ahead anyway.

Someone who sees the future but can't (doesn't) use that knowledge to alter present actions doesn't really have an advantage at all.

"What's really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn't said anything?"

Andreas G33z3r wrote: "Also, Jones believes in Predestination, only doing what he's already done (including, when the time comes, getting killed.) So, if he foresees his revolution failing or him getting killed (as he ultimately does), he can't change that and would go ahead anyway."

The strange thing is that Jones was able to dodge a headshot from a 100% profi assassin. Somehow, he was able to change the course of action this one time. In all over cases, he wasn't able to do so, right? Then, I don't understand this whole thing of Predestination; is that just a logical error?

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

G33, the research station on venus was the logical place for the rocket to be going....that GM stuff was a secret, thus Jones didn't know about it, because at no point I the future did he learn of it....thus the research station was nuked....

message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

true, Venus ain't so nice....but as I said, if we have our eggs in more than one basket...that's a concept as old as the hills....what's more, if WW III lasted as long as PKD said, I'm sure the worst is yet to come for Earth....

message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

yes, Jones DOES belive in predestination, but the GOVERMENT doesn't know that....only Jones does...rember, Jones dos have a reson to take on the Government....he's afraid of the aliens, and the government ain't doing nothing about em.....

message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

as for the predestination thing, Jones says at one point he TRIED to act contrary to what he forsaw, but couldn't...again, that's from memory, I read this book a month ago...still, we only have Jones's word on that...PKD always said reality is what is left after you stop beliveing in it...

message 49: by Bryn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I found this interesting, if messy, yes. I had a preference for the first half -- the set-up, rather than the resolution. I still thought most interesting Relativism as a political school and its critiques. The plot seemed to become impressionistic, which is fine. Loose-jointed I suppose. The mob mentality and crusade to the stars (on which he wasn't too positive) -- great to explore these, they seem to be themes of his, even when the plot didn't kind of operate to clarify his ideas for me.

I felt I was with a master writer, even with his unihibited use of adverbs (aren't they outlawed in writer's school? wouldn't know, it's what I hear). Every now and then a passage stood out, for instance Jones' afore-experiencing of the state of being dead. So, interesting throughout for that kind of thing. I wanted to give four, but the second half did drag it down to three.

Hillary Major | 436 comments Hmm, I think the non-mutant Venusians had to be nuked for plot necessity -- the mutants likely never would have become fully self-sufficient if complex manufactured imports remained accessible, and the self-sufficient fresh start of the Venusians with their pioneer mentality seems important to the book thematically.

I didn't really notice while reading, but I can't come up w/a compelling reason for Jones to nuke a Venus outpost or research station (except for the mere fact that they were affiliated with the gov't before he took it over, which I don't think is particularly consistent w/Jones' character; maybe if he feared they could target him? if so, there's no indication).

On the other hand, there are aspects of the "tossed in a blender" style that I like -- there's enough going to be interesting, and the reader has a lot of opportunity to make her own connections & interpretations. (Maybe in some cases the reader has to resort to making connections just b/c of PKD's sloppiness, but in a lot of cases, the connections are implicitly there, even if they may be ambiguous -- for example, the idea of relativism is only explored explicitly as an earth-government-sponsored political principle, but there is implicit resonance for what relativism means w/in a personal relationship or in terms of the possibility of encountering extraterrestrial intelligence.) At times, the storylines are almost allegory & at times they feel more grounded in specific characters' narratives, and I think this mix can be stimulating even when haphazard.

PKD also walks the fine b/t just giving one-dimensional characters & characters w/interesting complexities. (Or are these just contradictions/more sloppiness? Often we get some initial exposure to a character w/exposition on his character's past and the opportunity "see" his detailed reactions to and reflections on a specific events but then later see his actions only from the outside.)

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