Paging Dr. Spaceman – Philip K. Dick – “Dr. Futurity”

For a guy who was such a fan of doctors (and other providers of, er, powerful pharmaceutical remedies), Philip K. Dick sure loved his cigarettes. However, I need to make a correction: When writing about “Dr. Bloodmoney,” I said his characters smoked Camels. I was wrong. According to “Dr. Futurity,” in the year 2405 the cigarette brand of choice will be Lucky Strike.

ABOVE: “8 out of 10 Doctors, Conquistadors and Astronauts Agree: Lucky Strikes Take You to a Whole New World of Flavor!”

The titular “Dr. Futurity” is one Dr. Jim Parsons (not related to the actor from “The Big Bang Theory,” thankfully). Parsons is jerked out of the year 2012 into the year 2405, where an advanced society has done away with racism ( by eugenizing everyone into one big, happy, standard brown look) and with old age (by embracing the joy of death and prohibiting medicine.) Parsons, who is white and in his 30s, seems comparatively leprous and ancient.

And so you think Parsons is going to be a stranger in a strange land and walk around meditating on race or euthanasia… but PKD quickly moves on to the next three or four topics that interested him that week (speed is a hell of a drug). That’s why it’s virtually impossible to figure out from the opening chapters that at one point Sir Francis Drake will be an important character.

“Dr. Futurity” is one of PKD’s earliest novels by date of conception (the original idea goes back to 1953 or so). Its reputation is not great, with many fans considering it the worst of all his novels. I enjoyed it quite a bit, however; the obvious awkwardness of its construction makes it unpredictable. Among its many virtues, it effectively puts to rest the so-called “grandfather” paradox that wannabe time-travel “theorists” are always bringing up: “What if I traveled back in time  and killed my grandfather before he had children?” WELL, obviously, if you did that, then you wouldn’t exist, so if you exist is because you DIDN’T do that. DUH.

Also, if you’re using your time-traveling benefits to kill your poor grandfather, then you’re a DICK, and not in the awesome Philip K. way.

ABOVE : So THAT’s what was in the “Pulp Fiction” briefcase!

RATING : I find it pointless to rate individual Philip K. Dick novels. He’s a “body of work” kind of guy. They all tend to be “GOOD ENOUGH” to “GREAT!” building up to a cumulative “MASTERPIECE!!!”

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One thought on “Paging Dr. Spaceman – Philip K. Dick – “Dr. Futurity”

  1. Pingback: Talk Like an Egyptian, Please : William Golding – “The Scorpion God” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

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