Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: Philip K. Dick's "Martian Time-Slip"

Disclaimer, PKD is one of my favorite authors and one of the all-time greats. His ability to effortlessly world-build, thoroughly distort the reality of the reader and (for the most part) build engaging characters are consistently great. Just needed to get that PSA out of the way.

In this tale set in the nebulously near-future of a Cold War twentieth century, Mars has been colonized. Importantly, the populace of Earth holds the Martian colony on a pedestal as the future of humanity, unencumbered by the petty trappings of Earth. Mars therefore serves as an ironic microcosm of all the worlds' problems which have followed the settlers to Mars, a fact that must be swept under the rug.

PKD weaves an intricate plot of characters who are threaded together by one Arnie Kott, a wealthy union chief who seeks to reap monetary benefit using knowledge of the future. His prophet is a young autistic child with an altered time sense. To help foster communication with the mute child, Arnie enlists his repair man and former schizophrenic Jack Bohlen to build a communication device, and so the tale begins to weave.

The characters are engaging enough to float the narrative, even though some of them are barely more than stock characters. Jack's psyche plays center stage, and probably underscores some of the author's own struggles with mental illness. Given these difficulties, this may not be surprising, and this particular work may have been written by the author for himself as a form of catharsis.

Although it requires some suspension of disbelief given our modern knowledge of the Martian atmosphere and climate, the world building is staggering in its vitality. The novel teems with feelings of capitalistic exploitation, isolation amid the loneliness of frontier life, and ultimately the futility of looking to the stars to escape mankind's failures.

I enjoyed the work overall, but like some other offerings of PKD that I have read, the narrative left me a bit unsatisfied. There was no real punch given by the story's climax. Still, that would not stop me from recommending this work, not just to PKD fans, but to fans of the genre itself. 3.5/5 stars.

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