Ubik Prime – Andy-palmer.co.uk

10 thoughts on “Ubik

  1. says:

    Phillip K Dick's Ubik flirts with perfection. I inhaled this novel over three days when one of my kids was sick and Christmas break was ending. I started the book on the couch during a Mythbusters marathon. By page fifty I wanted to shut the door and leave my kids to forage in the refrigerator for Gatorade and string cheese. And on Sunday night, when I closed the book, I felt satisfied and excited with a novel in a way that doesn't happen much. Ubik is fun, smart, and exhilarating.

    Ok, let me take a shot at the plot summary. Joe Chip works for a team that shields organizations and the general public from illegal super-psychological activity like, for example, the unethical use of precognition. I think. Anyway, Mr. Chip is down and out, almost too broke to pay the nickel necessary to operate his apartment door. He is charged by his employer (and his employer's wife, currently in “half-life”, a finite state in which the dead and living can interact) with leading a team to Luna in search of the criminals of whom they lost track. From there Ubik takes off into territory defying summarization. I'd need a chart to track all the turns and potentialities. The novel addresses Chip's attempt to separate multiple realities and discern exactly who he is, where he is, and when he is. Somewhere in there Dick batters around the I-Ching and Plato's form philosophy. Ubik's genius emerges in Dick's obsessive attention to detail. He's a remarkably disciplined writer for a guy who sounds completely messed up (more on his biography in a second). The novel never goes dry; Dick balances the esoteric, theoretical analysis with an urgent storyline. Joe Chip's inner monologue, his attempts to piece together the myriad of clues pointing to the establishment and resolution of his questions, is paranoid, desperate, and brilliant. Ubik, and PKD's work in general, is a significant element of the genre's template. This is the third PKD novel I've read, and although I don't want to snap them up in a rush, I'll hit more this year.

    Oh, I should mention that I read the Library of America edition of this novel. The LOA edition (you know, those heavy black books with the nifty attached bookmark) includes three other novels, notes from Jonathan Lethem, and a detailed author timeline/biography. Holy hell, PDK lived a fucked-up life, between social anxiety, industrial strength drug use, and multiple stints in psychiatric care. That said, I love the fact this novel was published in 1969. Put Ubik in your summer of love pipe and smoke it, hippies.

    I don't want to become a star-whore. Over the last year I've assigned four books five stars. Maybe I'm getting soft. The little note over the fifth star, however, reads “It was amazing”, and those three words fit Ubik, so I'm sticking with the fifth star. This novel is the poster child for the difference between workmanlike genre fiction (nothing wrong with that) and the kind that makes you want to jump and down with your hands in the air like you're a twelve year old at his first rock concert. I want to hang its poster over my bed and blow kisses to Ubik before I fall asleep.

  2. says:

    I began reading some of Philip K. Dick’s short stories and quickly became hooked. His style and imagination have left an indelible mark on science fiction since and his influence is unmistakable. His novels are genius, and Ubik may be the best one I have read yet.

    Telling an inventive sci-fi tale that is entertaining on its surface, this is also a theological metaphor that keeps the reader thinking and trying to figure out what in the world PKD is getting at. His brilliance is compelling and his forays into a more absurd fiction only heighten his return to substantial narrative, but all is held together by his unmistakable voice.

    Ubik explores many of his usual themes like alienation, isolation, theological mystery and a disconnection with advancing technology. PKD is one of the more cerebral of the genre’s authors and if Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke are the “Big Three” of hard science fiction I would submit that Dick, Bradbury and Le Guin are the masters of the soft science fiction side of the house.

    For a PKD fan, Ubik is a must read, but it is a fine book all by itself and would be a good introduction into his world.

    ** 2019 addendum - it is a testament to great literature that a reader recalls the work years later and this is a book about which I frequently think.


  3. says:

    “I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am.
    Philip K. Dick, Ubik


    I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, then do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.”
    ― Philip K. Dick, Ubik


    Friends, this wild review is 100% PKD approved. Ubik the review is only seconds away! Ubik the review is easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, nonflammable, and avoids directly mentioning those aspects of your existence that might make you squirm. Safe when read as directed. Avoid prolonged viewing. Beware grammatical and typographical errors.

    Dick, like Pynchon, has a THING for entropy and he perfected this theme in Ubik. While not a direct part of Dick's Gnostic God trilogy (VALIS, The Divine Invasion, & The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), Ubik still manages to be one of Dick's minor God novels (if the Valis trilogy:Dick's trinity :: Ubik:Dick's Demiurge). Dick seems more than willing to bend entire universes to create a world where he can ask some really BIG questions in ways that give you two more levels of uncertainty. What? WHAT?

    My first introduction to Dick was age 19. In a SLC airport I bought a copy of Valis (cover looked cool) and figured it would be a fun book to read on a plane. Hours later the plane landed and 20+ years later, I don't think the Earth I landed on was the same as the one the plane left prior to me cracking open Valis. Every time I read another of PKD's novels it is the exact same thing. Something breaks. Time freaks out or at least flips a bit. Something in my brain gets frozen, something else in my head gets lost, and a memory gets replaced. Each Dick novel should come with its own Ubik-type of warning: this novel will alter your reality, even when read as directed.

  4. says:

    “He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from outside.”
    ― Philip K. Dick, Ubik

    Over-the-top zany madness, Philip K. Dick’s 1969 acclaimed work of science fiction opens in the year 1992, by which time humanity has colonized the Moon aka Luna and individuals having various psychic powers are commonplace, so much so some companies hire men and women (called “telepaths” or “precogs”) based on their power to predict the future and other companies hire individuals (called inertials) who have the psychic clout to block the future-telling capacities of those telepaths and precogs.

    If all this sounds wild, you are absolutely right – novel as sheer craziness, a book defying any straightforward synopsis. To share a glimpse into the world of Ubik, here's a round of zaps from PKD's outlandish fictional zippy zap gun:

    Glen Runciter – Crusty, lovable head of Runciter Associates, a “prudence organization” which employs inertials to counter evildoing telepaths and precogs who go about snooping into other people’s stream-of-consciousness in order to predict the future. Glen is a man of integrity, forever attempting to uphold individual freedom and dignity, the kind of guy you would always want around even if he were murdered. Yes, that’s what I said – to better understand the dynamics of the novel’s unique cycle of life and death, please read on.

    Ella Runciter – Glen’s deceased wife kept in a form of cryonic suspension, a state of half-life” enabling the dearly departed a degree of awareness sufficient to communicate with their loved ones left behind and other half-lifers. Ella is kept at the Beloved Brethren Moratorium in Zurich since the Swiss have developed a superior method to effectively extend life beyond the grave. Considering the Swiss mastery in manufacturing timepieces, their superiority in cryonic technology makes perfect sense. Ah, leave it to the Swiss!

    Joe Chip - Debt-ridden Runciter Assocation technician loyal to Glen, Ella, the Association, truth and justice. An All-American Joe, you might say and you gotta love the name Chip as in potato chip or chocolate chip. As it turns out, Joe takes center stage as main character when he is propelled into the role of an Indiana Jones-style American hero and leader in a unique time travel adventure that could only be concocted from the fertile psychedelic imagination of the incomparable PKD.

    Joe Chip is the prototypical All-American Joe

    Inertials – Don, Al, Wendy are among Glen Runciter’s top inertials chosen for a special mission to Luna. If they only knew the challenges they will be forced to confront once catastrophe hits - time warps enough to confuse, blur, muddle and cloud the most perceptive minds. What those inertials really need is leadership and guidance from none other than down-to-earth Joe Chip.

    Pat Conley – An enigmatic, cagey dark beauty with the unique psychic ability to undo events by changing the past. Having such a unique ability, Glen Runciter decides to include Pat in the critically important mission to Luna. As events transpire, Pat might even be judged a femme fatale along the lines of Phyllis from James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity in the sense that she not only deals with death and dying, she loves death and dying in all its grim, deadly detail. Just the kind of gal you want along when your group starts dying off one at a time in mysterious ways.

    Beyond Pay Toilets - The author’s futuristic society includes speaking doors, speaking refrigerators and speaking coffee machines that demand money to be used – one aspect of future technology we can only hope never becomes a reality. I wonder if PKD’s personal experience with the appearance of pay toilet back in 1960s America prompted him to include these obnoxious speaking objects requiring money to operate.

    Boom! - From the moment of the explosion on Luna, the group begins to experience strange shifts in reality and time, including a number of chapters in their adventure covering the United States back in 1939. One of the more humorous parts has Joe Chip flying in one of those newly invented two-person single prop airplanes from New York to Des Moines, Iowa. Wow! Now that's a dedicated hero!

    Gnostic Cosmology – The further and deeper Joe and the group progresses in their odyssey, the more they become aware that they are living in a universe where the forces of light battles the forces of darkness. But then the question arises: Who or what is the ultimate source of light on one hand and darkness on the other? Enough PKD unexpected twists to keep any fan of science fiction or speculate fiction going right up til the last page.

    UBIK – “Perk up pouting household surfaces with new miracle Ubik, the easy-to-apply, extra-shiny, nonstick plastic coating. Entirely harmless if used as directed. Saves endless scrubbing, glides right out of the kitchen!” Oh, yes, short advertisements for Ubik like this one precede every chapter. And please keep in mind that any cosmology, even a dualistic cosmology, might be held together by a unifying underlying metaphysical principle. What is meant by this quizzical statement? You will have to read Ubik for yourself to find out – proceed with caution and take only as directed.

    “Wake up to a hearty, lip-smacking bowlful of nutritious, nourishing Ubik toasted flakes, the adult cereal that’s more crunchy, more tasty, more ummmish. Ubik breakfast cereal, the whole-bowl taste treat!”
    ― Philip K. Dick, Ubik

  5. says:

    A clever, original and often very funny sci-fi story. It is about psychic power battles, the nature of death, alternative reality and changing the past. Or not.

    FUN, FUN, FUN - the clothes
    It was published in 1969 and starts off in a sufficiently plausible but amusingly implausible 1992. In particular, the clothes take the flamboyance of the late '60s to extraordinary heights, for no obvious reason, other than fun. On the second page, we meet a man wearing a tabby-fur blazer and pointed yellow shoes, which is fair enough, but only three pages later, an elderly man wears a varicolored... suit, knit cummerbund and dip dyed cheesecloth cravat. After that, you're on the lookout for them, so here are more:
    (view spoiler)[
    * gay pin-stripe clown-style pajamas
    * a sporty maroon wrapper, twinkle-toes turned-up shoes and a felt cap with a tassel
    * electric yellow cummerbund, petal skirt, knee-hugging hose and military-styled visored cap plus gauntlets. And that's a man.
    * a cowboy hat, black lace mantilla and Bermuda shorts
    * wrapped in a superior and cynical cloud of pride
    * floral mumu and spandex bloomers
    * natty birk-bark pantaloons, hemp rope belt, peek-a-boo see-through top and train-engineer's tall hat (a man, as most of these are)
    * hip-hugging gold lamé trousers, yet somehow created a stylish effect. Perhaps the egg-sized buttons of his kelp-green mitty blouse helped... he exuded a dignity!
    * a shift dress the color of a baboon's ass (a man)
    * fuchsia pedal-pushers, pink yak fur slippers, a snakeskin sleeveless blouse and a ribbon in his waist-length, dyed white hair
    * the elastic band which - fashionably - compressed her breasts... had elegant embossed fleur-de-lys
    * tweed toga, loafers, crimson sash and purple airplane-propeller hat
    * green felt knickers, gray golf socks, badger-hide open-midriff blouse and imitation patent-leather pumps
    * A girl wearing jeans, a canvas work shirt and muddy boots is told she's dressed oddly!
    (hide spoiler)]

  6. says:

    Many PKD fans refer to Ubik as Dick's strangest novel. That's saying a lot!


    With the pervasive advertisements for Ubik intruding into reality (or what passes for reality in the character's world), I too found Ubik bizarre in a compelling and absolutely relentless way.
    It's somewhat nightmarish too for our protagonist as he races to understand the messages from his former boss. And survive. The question of what really constitutes reality is one of the central underpinnings of this short novel and Dick causes us to repeatedly question how we perceive and experience reality. Even if it is somehow not the real reality! This was a fun ride!


    And this meme maybe says everything else that needs to be said!


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  8. says:

    He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from the outside.
    -Philip K Dick

    A fool and his poscreds are soon parted.
    -Kevin Ansbro

    Please allow me to preface my review by stating that sci-fi is not normally my thang. Aside from Asimov, when I was a teenager, I've preferred to watch it, and write it, rather than read it. In fact, were it not for Obi-Wan Cecily's recommendation, I might have erroneously imagined Philip K Dick to have been a 1970s' porn star!

    Well, I'm relieved and pleased to report that this pre-cyberpunk gigglefest was an absolute joy to behold!

    Written in the late 1960s, Ubik is set in the 'future' of 1992, a future we've overstepped without one sniff of dystopia.
    From way back then, Dick presents us with an analogue dreamworld that we can still enjoy in a digital age.
    Despite mention of videotape and typewriters, it still feels futuristic.

    So how to explain this quizzical space oddity?
    I would bill it as a Truman Show-Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-Barbarella-type of sci-fi, dressed in a groovy wardrobe of clothes that would make even Austin Powers seem sartorially conservative.

    I confess to having had concerns at the start. The first few chapters had me wondering if I should permanently abscond from Goodreads altogether, for fear of offending friend-fans of this book.
    But then joyously it breaks into a canter and I was suddenly in sync with the timbre of its prose.

    The anti-hero of the piece is sullen Joe Chip, a chap who is worn down by a futureworld of talking appliances and argumentative doors (frustrating for him, but completely hilarious for us).
    Joe falls under the spell of a Lara Croft-esque mind control babe, Patricia Conley.
    They, and their Magnificent Eleven parapsychological team of individuals are conscripted for an audacious project.

    Without giving anything away, what ensues is a Memento-style mindfrig that will have you second-guessing everything.

    The author writes in an idiosyncratically surreal way: he invents words and (deliberately?) misapplies adjectives to achieve an avant-garde effect. In addition, Dick uses near-synonyms of better-suited verbs in his bid to create additional quirkiness.

    There is of course a cautionary message: he has presciently foreseen a future where automation hijacks our civilisation. Think about it; one minute we're scanning our own blasted shopping at crummy self-service checkouts, and the next thing you know we'll be held to ransom under the tyranny of obdurate machines and talking refrigerators!

    I am delighted to join the fan base of this capricious nonsense. It is altogether bizarre, thought-provoking, visionary and hugely funny.
    Ubik is the work of a mad genius - and it has immediately gatecrashed my favourites list.
    The ending is as enigmatic as its beginning and is open to any number of interpretations.
    Here, for sure, the journey is get-down-boogiewoogie-fabulous. The final destination is partly left to our own imagination.

    I owe a debt of thanks to Cecily, the Earth-based precog, who of course already knew that I would enjoy this read!
    And as a special treat to myself, I'm off to get me some gold lamé trousers, a pair of Spandex bloomers, some pink yakfur slippers and I'm hitting the town!
    Yeah baby, yeah!!

  9. says:

    “Herr Schoenheit von Vogelsang; sorry to break into your meditation, but a customer wishes you to assist in revving up his relative.”

    Haha! I don’t know if PKD intended the above dialogue to be humorous but it is so bizarre and PKD-esque it made me chuckle. There is often a weird stiltedness to his dialogue that I find oddly charming.

    I last read Ubik in 2012 (seven years ago as of today) I remember thinking “this is it, this is my favorite PKD”. Before this current reread I can barely remember anything about the plot, only a vague image that of a spray can of Ubik, but what is it? Ubik is set in the (then) future of 1992 where psi abilities are a given fact and are often used for industrial espionage, invasion of privacy and other psychic intrusions. The situation is like computer virus and anti-virus, so there are businesses that exist purely to counter these psychic intrusions. Somewhat related to psi abilities is the “half-life” business run by “moratoriums” where, for a fee, you can store your dearly departed and they facilitate a communication channel between you and your (mostly) dead loved ones. The protagonist, Joe Chip, works for Runciter Associates, a “prudence organization” that offers anti-psi intrusion services. On an assignment to the lunar colony Joe, his boss Glen Runciter, and his team are attacked by a bomb which killed Runciter. Worse still since the bombing reality begins to bend out of shape, items begin to regress back into their dated versions until Joe finds himself in 1939.

    Excellent Time magazine book reviewer and author Lev Grossman described Ubik as “a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you'll never be sure you've woken up from”. This surprised me a little, I don’t find that Ubik has a horror tone and it is not at all unsettling, but wacky and very entertaining, the tone is often quite humorous; especially the Ubik ad at the beginning of each chapter, always as a different product from the preceding chapter.

    Time and time again PKD pulled the rug from under this reader, just when I thought I knew what is going on, PKD pulled another fast one and I landed on my butt. For me, his depiction of an unreliable and unstable reality is what PKD does better than anybody else. The eventual reveal of what Ubik blew my mind, but even then PKD has one more rug to pull.

    If you have not read PKD before I highly recommend Ubik as the gateway into his wonderfully weird fiction. I kind of envy you.

    “Perhaps your definition of your self-system lacks authentic boundaries. You’ve erected a precarious structure of personality on unconscious factors over which you have no control. That’s why you feel threatened by me.”

    “He therefore vigorously strode to the apt door, turned the knob and pulled on the release bolt. The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”

    “Ray Hollis, whose psionically talented personnel are the object of inertial nullification and hence the target of the prudence”

    “The past is latent, is submerged, but still there, capable of rising to the surface once the later imprinting unfortunately--and against ordinary experience--vanished. The man contains--not the boy--but earlier men, he thought. History began a long time ago.”

  10. says:

    “He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from outside.”

    Ubik is a fun, fascinating, and often surprisingly philosophical look at the nature of reality and the role of our perception thereof. PKD also delves masterfully, cleverly, and even quite exuberantly, into some of his other favorite food for thought, which in this case includes entropy, alienation, and the question of (in)sanity, to name but a few. All the while, the story playfully and persistently messes with your mind in a most enjoyable way. You stray down strange, twisted corridors and arrive in ever stranger locales. Or is it merely that your own perception has changed, grown subtly yet indelibly distorted, somehow become increasingly warped and askew? One is never completely certain, and therein lies much of the fun. And even though the book contains a great deal of darkness and doubt, there is also quite a bit of offbeat, absurdist humor to complement (and at times even enhance) its frequently eerie, uncanny tone.

    I won’t discuss any plot details here. I went into it knowing absolutely nothing about the storyline, and found it highly satisfying to figure it out for myself as I wandered slowly yet ever more curiously through this elaborately constructed labyrinthine house of mirrors. I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that experience for themselves, and sometimes that carefully hidden spoiler is just begging to be clicked, isn’t it? So instead, I’ll leave you with this rather apt PKD quote I stumbled across on the Internet. It touches on one of the questions explored so buoyantly yet deftly in this wonderfully bizarre little book:
    “Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication ... and there is the real illness.”

    If you ever experience the sneaking suspicion that there are multiple realities in play, if you’re unable to shake that pesky feeling of existential dread and anxiety, or aren’t totally certain whether or not reality is all in your head (and where exactly is your head, come to think of it?), you simply must give Ubik a try! Read this book for more on how that handy spray can save the day!

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Ubik Glen Runciter está muerto ¿O lo están todos los demás? Lo que es seguro es que alguien ha muerto en una explosión organizada por los competidores de Runciter De hecho, sus empleados asisten a un funeral Pero durante el duelo comienzan a recibir mensajes descorcentantes, e incluso morbosos, de su jefe Y el mundo a su alrededor comienza a desmoronarse de un modo que sugiere que a ellos tampoco les queda mucho tiempo Esta mordaz comedia metafísica de muerte y salvación que podrá llevar un cómodo envase es un tour de force de amenaza paranoica y comedia absurda, en la cual los muertos ofrecen consejos comerciales, compran su siguiente reencarnación y corren el riesgo continuo de volver a morir

  • Paperback
  • 288 pages
  • Ubik
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Spanish
  • 03 November 2019
  • 9788498000832

About the Author: Philip K. Dick

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