In the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late 21st century, tedium can be endured through the use of the drug Can-D, which enables ...Show synopsisIn the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late 21st century, tedium can be endured through the use of the drug Can-D, which enables the user to inhabit a shared illusory world. When industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from an interstellar trip, he brings with him a new drug, Chew-Z, which is far more potent than Can-D, but threatens to plunge the world into a permanent state of drugged illusion controlled by the mysterious Eldritch. THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH is, by universal consent, one of his three key novels, and the book in which he first took his perennial interest in the fragile nature of reality to a new level of imaginative intensity.Hide synopsis
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This is one of Dick's best, a disturbing but also funny reflection on the nature of what is real and what is not. With Ubik, Do Androids Dream and Eye in The Sky, among the best novels about what constitutes reality in a complex universe where perception can be manipulated and what we believe can be subtly altered by forces we do not control.
Even by PKD's standards, this is a convoluted novel. Dick himself wrote in reference to it, "I not only cannot understand the novel, I can't even read it." Understandable, considering that the story revolves around drugs that project the user's consciousness into illusory "realities," and the characters aren't always sure whether they're currently stoned. It starts out straightforward enough - promising, even - but eventually takes a downturn into psychedelia from which it never recovers.
Convolution aside, Dick does a much poorer job than usual here of making his "science" credible. That there are drugs that produce fully realized and realistic illusions I can accept readily enough, but that toking them is a group experience and that they require physical dollhouse props into which they somehow project the user's consciousness is stretching things a bit far. That alone I could handle, but there's also the matter of what Dick calls "E-Therapy," which is described as being a treatment that accelerates the process of evolution. Dick's idea of evolution, however, is not the genuine scientific theory, but the sort of half-formed notion that one might expect a very young child to get out of an explanation of the term: evolution, according to Dick, is a linear, predictable process that progresses not as mutations occur in the reproductive cycle, but as mutations occur in individual organisms over their lifetimes. Even the explanations of precognition aren't as believable as they are in Dick's other precog stories.
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