Thursday, September 22, 2011
100 Books 49 - Michael Bishop's PHILIP K. DICK IS DEAD, ALAS
Book #43 in this series was a Philip K. Dick pastiche by Philip K. Dick. Here is one by an admirer, and I'm happy to report it is of equal quality as well as being a marvelous love letter to a writer who would have, I think, been immensely gratified and flattered to see himself portrayed, as Dick is here, as what amounts to an agent of VALIS.
Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is not only the novel's title but also the first line of a doggerel elegy that haunts the universe of this book the way "All Along the Watchtower" does Battlestar Galactica; at least two characters believe they came up with it and its follow-up line "Let's all queue up to kick God's ass." But little time is left for these characters to mourn this important literary author whose subversive works earned him a top spot on perennial President Richard Nixon's enemies list even into the great man's third term of office; there is vital work for them all!
Third term? That's right. Not only did Watergate never happen in this universe, not only did the U.S. win the Vietnam War and establish a lunar outpost called Von Braunville as part of its detente with the Soviet Union, but Nixon has stayed on top and his ideological and actual grip on his country is as tight as any gaggle of Burmese generals could wish for. Only in death could Dick begin effectively to combat his power, and only as a non-corporeal spirit urging others towards a very spirtual coup that echoes not only Dick's VALIS books but also The Man in the High Castle. As the book winds towards its climax the Dickian elements feel piled on a bit too thickly, with even a convenient Episcopal bishop tossed into the mix, but I found myself forgiving this as it felt like another old friend come to visit; I recall similar feelings when characters from old original Oz books turned up for cameos in Ruth Plumly Thompson et al's later homages/pastiches.
If you're not a PKD fan already, I don't know that this book would have much to offer you; if you are one, your collection is as incomplete without it as it is without Emmanuel Carrere's I Am Alive and You Are Dead.