The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
Philip K. Dick
Did you end up finding it, Philip? What it means to be human? Religion didn’t seem to provide your answer. Did drugs? A Scanner Darkly is famous for your search, but this appears to be some sort of transition between those two searches.
Like Graham Greene, Dick is one of my favourite authors. Over time I’m steadily trying to read all of his novels. I prefer his later ones, so that’s generally what I choose. Unlike Greene, not each of Dick’s is better than the last: A Scanner Darkly is still my favourite, and one of my favourite sci-fi novels. Sci-fi is typically a pretty pulpy genre: cheap enjoyment, with very little challenge to the reader. Even the best sci-fi with a great idea at it’s heart will present that idea in a pretty straightforward form.
Not Philip K. Dick. He did not shy from challenging the reader with unusual ideas, often in outright confusing forms. This book felt like some sort of mental trap that the reader is drawn into. Only with the hope that all will become clear by the end. The confusion is why I read this book now. How hard can you push the reader? How difficult can you make the story to follow? How many tricks can you pull? And still end up with a populist, enjoyable story.
There’s a lot to connect Dick and Pynchon. But, Dick just didn’t have Pynchon’s talent. Sometimes you are left wondering if this was meant to be confusing, or did he just write it a bit too quick. His later work does show that yes, he was aiming to confuse.