There is No Stigma with Stigmata

The Three Stigmata of Palmer EldritchThe Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My second Philip K Dick novel in a month...now I am really confused, scared, paranoid and unsure what is real and what is not. That is what reading Philip K Dick can do to a person.

He wrote many more novels and surely he could not have kept up this level of weirdness for all those years. These two novels (Ubik and Peter Eldritch), are pretty spectacular. Almost unreadable, but spectacular.

OK, that is an overstatement and they really are readable, but it is just that somehow he manages to make me feel like finishing it is a little bit of a slog, and I am glad when the story plays out so I don't have to read more to finish the book.

I did it again (overstated the case), I enjoyed both stories but again there is some crucial storytelling component that is just not laid on thick enough to make me really long to pick the up the book again during reading breaks.

That said, the PKD atmosphere is so thick it stays with you all day. And I am really glad I read them, but for now I have my Philip K Dick appetite satiated. But everybody in the world should read this book, that is my real recommendation.

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UbikUbik by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ubik starts with pretty standard Sci Fi and Dick-ian elements. The US is now the North American Federation but I don't see how this particularly matters except to emphasize the slightly future world is different. The more interesting change is that your front door, toaster, TV all have to be fed money for each use so that if you don't have any change you can't leave your house.

Anyway, the world now hows gift people who have different skills like mind reading and precognition (seeing into the future). And then there is the group featured in the book, a company of “inertials” who are not so endowed but manage to nullify the psychic powers. It seems one some businesses will hire the psychics to gain information about the competition and the assailed company hires this other group of anti telepaths to prevent this.

But all of the is just a tool to get to a scenario where the characters end up in a world that somehow begins to devolve in a surrealistic manner so that the reader doesn't know what is going on and the people in the book struggle to identify the currents that are ruining their existence.

As an example of science fiction I don't think it fulfills the traditional goals of the genre and aside from the key three or four characters I had trouble remembering who was who. But as a metaphor for a life of existential uncertainty it is spot on.

I read it because while reading Gibson's Nueromancer I thought it reminded be of Ubik which I read many years ago. But the only real connection is of atmosphere and maybe a slight similarity of pace in a few scenes.

Aside form these superficial likenesses of some parts, the fundamental difference is that aside from the gritty atmosphere of Neuromancer, the ultimate worldview of the characters is upbeat and positive. Even the drug addict feels good about himself in the end and the assassin is at peace with her profession. But PKD being PKD creates a world of uncertainty and suspicion about what is “real”.

It may be a possibly sad insight into my psyche (not psychic), but I find myself relating much more to the unease of the Philip K Dick world than the masculine certainty of Gibson's cyberpunk approach.

One recurring feature of the story in Ubik was that the items people handled would strangely be old and worn out even if purchased moments before, things were stale, yellowed. Anyway, after I finished reading and thinking about Neuromancer vs Ubik it realized that I read a digital version of Gibson's book but my copy of Ubik was from 1977 and was old, yellow and some of the pages were brittle. So I am kinda proud of my self for accidentally reading each novel in an appropriate format.


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Goodbye McTavish

McTavish is gone now...

A good boy cat
He always used the litter box,
never bit a human,
never fought another cat

Harpo remains,
See the perplexed cat
In the background
Never reliable
In the categories declared


Vurtual Reality on a Virtual Book

Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)Neuromancer by William Gibson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

OK, OK, I finally got around to reading Neuromancer but William Gibson. For some reason I always meant to read it but just never seemed to make the time. I think I was slightly turned off by the cyberpunk hype, not a good reason but there it is.

Yes I like it. It good.

The thing is, I dug all the “jacking in” and accessing the matrix and all, but maybe I think for all the supposed noir atmosphere that is supposed be there...everybody is pretty at peace with themselves. The bad guys are totally cool being bad, the junkie is at peace being a junkie and the assassin is fine with tall the killing.

Armitage/Corto is confused but not really conflicted.

I don't know that a story has to have people struggling to find themselves but I guess I am saying everybody seems to be a little bit of cardboard cut outs. Maybe a little too predictable.

Then again it Sci Fic which sort of has a tradition of one dimensional character.

I tell people something about it reminded me a little of Philip K Dick and not because there is a superficial similarity in setting to the movie blade runner. Rather I seem to remember a scene from Ubik where you don't know what is “reality” and what isn't, so maybe I was waiting for the paranoia and fear. But in Neuromancer the virtual world is just another room in the real world and there is no need to fear anything. But HEY, maybe that is the insight of the whole cyberpunk worldview. I think I just learned something!!

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On the Road Again

I took the day off and spent a good part of the day riding my bicycle.

But I had the stop Bicycle Cafe at Lawther and Northwest HWY and have second breakfast and some coffee

Then I worked my way to the Park Lane DART rail station and rode it up to the Parker Rd station in Plano

Once there I rode over 75 and found the Chisholm Trail  and took it up to the Bluebonnet Trail

Somebody forgot to mark the southbound Preston Ridge Bike trail  but I figured it by following the power lines

Central Expressway and the trail
Then Cottonwood Trail and onward to White Rock Trail
I was pla.nning to take it all the way to Downtown Dallas but I guess I need to work up to since the heat took it out of me and I just headed home


Remembering Gatsby

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The fact that I don't remember it probably proves my fear that I am more susceptible to subliminal suggestion than I think I should be. You see one day recently I had a sudden but strong urge to re-read The Great Gatsby and fortunately found many used copies in the used book store I frequent (where it just happens I work).

Anyway, a few days after that I saw a commercial for the new Gatsby movie, and even though I really thought I had spontaneously decided to read it, it is much more likely I caught a glimpse of the ad and unthinking tucked it just out of conscious view.

That said, I only read it once before and then as an adult, having defiantly, and in retrospect stupidly, refused to read it for a high school lit class. And although I read it sometime in the last 5 to 10 years all I remembered was that I told people that I liked it. So this was almost like reading it for the first time.

From my middle aged perspective I can see why it is considered a classic and I can also see why I probably only read a few pages in high school and threw it aside. For me the characters are somehow simultaneously shallow and complicated, and the story itself even more so. And I have to admit that in high school my literary depth never got much past A Separate Peace and even that was a stretch.

Ready Gatsby also clarifies for me why I didn't do well in lit class even if I had to read a book I enjoyed. In Gatsby there are loads of allusions, possible metaphors, foreshadowing and other literary attributes one could write a paper about. But for me that would take all the joy out of reading and letting all of the possible meanings and ambiguities roll over you as you read. Of course I suppose I could read it once for delight and then for possible analysis, but since I don't now and haven’t for years had to read to write a paper to get a grade I'll just hang onto what I have and luxuriate in its ambiguity.

So yes I think it is a great book and the more I reflect in general about what I just read the more I feel that way. But gun to my head, had to write a paper about it for high school or community college American lit class I am pretty sure anything I could come up with would NOT be what the teacher might be hoping for.

And writing this just now make me kind of want to read it again already. BUT now I'm off to Neuromancer by William Gibson.

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