By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 188th in my series of Forgotten Books.
One of my early writing heroes was Philip K. Dick. The man was a lunatic genius. Somewhere around 1966, my friend Joe Pearson gave me a copy of The Man in the High Castle in paperback. It was mind blowing. And I reread it almost immediately.
And nearly failed German because of it! With a name beginning with “C,” I was in the front row. But my German teacher was a Luxembourger who fled the Nazi invasion, so she was death on the Nazis and a swastika would send her into a tirade in three or four languages. Well, the Popular Library edition had a US map with the Swastika and Rising Sun over the map. I had just finished my final exam (I was carrying a strong A in the class) and I was reading High Castle right in front of her while she was grading my paper. And that cover was facing her!
When I realized what I was doing, I immediately put the book cover on my desk top. I continued reading but she could no longer see the cover.
So I was a rabid PKD fan and every time I found one of his novels or collections, I bought it. Most of them were 50 cents or less. In 1969, Galactic Pot-Healer came out and I read it and it moved to the top of my favorite PKD books. For most people, the list is High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik, Martian Time Slip, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said and A Scanner Darkly, in some semblance of that order. But I really loved Pot-Healer, The Game Players of Titan, The Zap Gun and Counter-Clock World, too. The mid to late 1960’s were a very productive time for Dick.
When I saw Galactic Pot-Healer in the Waldenbooks at North Star Mall, I plopped down my 60 cents and took it home. At 144 pages, it did not take long to finish. Wow! Teenage mind blown. I eventually got the SF Book Club hardcover version and kept that for many years,
Joe Fernwright is a pot-healer. He takes pots – ceramic and otherwise – and restores them to their former glory, sometimes better than originally made. Unfortunately, in his future America, there is not much call for his line of work. So he gets his daily cash dole and spends it immediately. It devalues up to 80 percent in 24 hours. He has a depressing life until he gets a message: “Pot-Healer I Need You. And I Will Pay”. He gets another note that says, “I Will Pay You Thirty-Five Thousand Crumbles.” He checks with his bank to get an approximation of how much this is in real money. He is told $200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00.
Joe’s interest is piqued. An entity known as the Glimmung is raising the sunken city of Heldscalla from the bottom of an alien ocean on Sirius Five, aka Plowman’s Planet. He is part of an elite team of humans and aliens brought to the planet to achieve this task. The Glimmung (also featured in PKD’s YA book Nick and the Glimmung) is hard to describe, looking sometimes like a gyroscope or a teenage girl or the contents of an ocean all at once.
Arriving at Plowman’s Planet, Joe is greeted by the Kalends, another alien race, who sell him the Book. They only sell one book and it claims to know the past, present and future. In perusing it, Joe sees that things may not go so well for him or the Glimmung, which brings about interesting discussions of fate, fatalism, predestination and other philosophies PKD puts interesting spins on. Joe learns his fate may or may not involve dying, meaning his character has a very trippy experience.
It’s a very complex book and one I understand somewhat better at 64 than I did at 17. If you like PKD, and you all really should, it is a rewarding experience.
But as always, your mileage may vary.
As I quick throwaway, just a few minutes before writing this I finished up The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax, a first mystery novel by Andrew Cartmel, and it was fabulous! Nearly 500 pages and I read it in two evenings. All about collecting jazz records from the mid 1960’s and the wonderful mania that is searching for treasures (like PKD paperbacks) and the joys and pitfalls of finding it. It’s just out from Titan Books for $14.95 and worth every bit of it. I am now anxious for the next book in the series which is scheduled for May 2017. Check it out.
Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.