With this book, for the first time I get close to what is considered one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. In fact, Philip K. Dick is familiar to me for countless film adaptations of his works, but this is the first time I actually read a book of his.
The impact was a bit weird. Of course, reading a science fiction novel set in a future (1992), which nowadays is already past (more than twenty years ago!), has a certain effect on me. It's fun to see how often in the past we thought of a future with much more technology in some aspects than what was then, with men going to the Moon as something normal, for starters. In other respects however you will immediately notice something anachronistic, which emerges from the details and the language of the characters. This is the so-called trend of a certain type of fiction to have an expiration date. Nevertheless, in this book we observe an even stranger phenomenon: the prediction about something that actually exists today, that is the mobile phone.
Beyond these elements, which can easily be put aside during the reading, this book by Dick deals with far deeper issues. In an atmosphere full of paranormal elements, so that in the story they have become a real business (with various types of people with a wide range of powers), the narrative focuses on the human desire to defeat death, or at least to enter in-touch with what comes after it, a contact in which the boundaries between reality and dream are not yet clear.
The whole book uses this deception to pull us within an even more incredible succession of events, confusing and making us doubt everything we have so far taken for granted, in an almost spiritual journey. Dick plays with the readers, entertaining and leaving them open-mouthed. This is aspect that is common to all his work, or at least most of it, i.e. what cinema have presented to us so far. Paradoxically, "Ubik" is one of the few books of Dick which has never reached the screen, big or small, although he had written a screenplay years after the publication of the novel.
The impression I got reading it is that Dick was really "crazy", just a real volcano of ideas, which he struggled to contain. The result is a prose that follows almost absurd paths, but built well enough to be brilliant even after more than forty years.
Nevertheless, you feel the passage of time in some way and I think that's the reason which prevented me to appreciate it fully. I do not know if nowadays such a book could ever have been written, or if it would be well received by the public, because times have changed, but I'd be really curious about how a contemporary filmmaker could shape it to fit modern tastes, if someone is visionary enough to be able to do so.
In any case, I think a book like this deserves at least a second reading, just to catch all those little traps placed by the author and really be able to fully appreciate his genius.
Ubik on Amazon.com.