Philip K. Dick: Time Out of Joint

I had never actually read a book by Philip K, Dick before, despite having seen what must be around twenty movies based on his works. I forget how this particular one — it’s not one of his more famous books — ended up on my reading list, but there it was, and I was in the mood for a shortish science fiction novel.

It was pretty good. There’s a common problem with a lot of speculative fiction, which is that it’s a lot easier to come up with an interesting premise than an interesting plot. So it is here; the premise is pretty cool, and the first half of the book as we slowly uncover it is interesting. Then it turns into a more generic adventure story, and that’s where my interest started to wane.

My attempt to keep these posts spoiler-free is a problem with books like these, since the whole point of the book is discovering the premise, so I feel like I can’t discuss it at all. So I don’t know how much more there is to say. The premise was cool (although totally implausible), the writing was fine, and the characterization was as good as it had to be. Apparently this is pretty early Dick, before he really hit his stride, and I will try to check out something from his classic period.

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4 Responses to “Philip K. Dick: Time Out of Joint

  1. Tom DePlonty says:

    Goodness. Read the Valis trilogy.

    Philip Dick is much, much more than a speculative fiction author.

  2. Maclaine says:

    Yes, read Valis, but don’t read it first. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is as good a place to start as any (it’s where I started). The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is also great. Then tackle Valis.

  3. Iain says:

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is where I started too, and it’s great. You probably won’t go far wrong if you read his most famous novels — Man in the High Castle, Palmer Eldritch, Flow My Tears. His short stories are great too; the five-volume collected stories gives you a great feeling for the arc of his career.

    But looking at my bookshelf, man, I love almost all the novels, and I think I may like the flawed ones like Time Out of Joint even better. (That wasn’t one of my suggestions, was it?) The particular charm of that one for me is the skewed depiction of the 50s lifestyle; it’s directly capturing the zeitgeist, whereas he usually does it indirectly (or accidentally).

    My personal favourite is probably The Zap Gun. What I most love about Dick are the insane moments of left-field genius where the gears of the plot grind like crazy and the whole thing goes off in a bizarre new direction, and he pulls it off a bunch of times in that one short novel. Clans of the Alphane Moon and The Game-Players of Titan are great fun too for the same reason. And Valis, come to think of it.

  4. Darius K. says:

    I agree with Iain: his flawed or less famous works are a lot of fun. I can barely remember Galactic Pot Healer, except that it was a fun read. And there’s something about PKD’s writing style that makes me able to breeze through his books in a single sitting.

    Another *fantastic* PKD book is Ubik.

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