The Power of Philip k. Dick
picture:© Philippe Hupp/Bridgeman Images
© Philippe Hupp/Bridgeman Images
Spoiler warning: this article contains the ending of one of philip k. Dicks books, namely Ubik. If you don’t want to know, stop reading now. If you don’t mind, read on.
I know, I know. I have written about Philip K. Dick a lot lately, but give a man his obsession.
I have been obsessed with the matrix and it’s philosophy (that is the movie that überhaupt got me interested in philosophy) for about 16 years now. I love that movie and regularly (when I have forgotten enough details) rewatch it.
Philip K. Dick’s books were a big influence (although to my theory) on the matrix, so off course, I had to read what he has written.
I love multiverse theories and stories and simulation theory stories and philosophy. PKD has written a lot of those, of which Ubik is a very fine example, and perfect to illustrate my point about Philip K. Dick as a writer.
The man has penned a fantastic oeuvre together in only a few decades, which to me is remarkable all on its own, but PKD also succeeds in keeping you thinking about his books long after you have finished them.
Ubik is an awesome example of this. The book tells the story of a group of people on a mission to the moon for a reason I am not going to divulge here (although I gave a spoiler warning already), if you have read the book, you know what I mean anyway and the last few sentences are needless, but anyhow… after that the world starts to regress. Cigarettes become stale, food becomes molden, money becomes not useable because it becomes money with the face of the founder of the lunar mission on it (runciter). At the end it is shown that Runciter (who was also on the lunar mission) was the only one of the group that didn’t die, and is communicating with his employees who are in a kind of half-life state. They are dead, but Runciter can still communicate with them thanks to technology.
At the end of the book, and this is why PKD is so awesome. He turns the whole story on its head. You believe at that point that Runciter is the only one not in half-life state, not in some kind of simulation. He takes out some money and lo and behold… it’s not usable and has become some fantasy kind of money. That is literally the last image PKD gives you before you are left with nothing anymore.
It is a connondrum you get, that isn’t finished, and this is the power. He does this too in his stories. He gives you a fantastic story and at the end, he shows you a detail, as plausible as the rest of the story, that could be a story all on its own, but he finishes the story then and there. You figure it out. Personally, I think this is frustrating but I love it all the same. I admire it. I haven’t read a writer that has the same bravado to turn the idea of his own story completely on its head before leaving the reader on its own. Fantastic, and for this, he has my eternal admiration.
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