Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Simulacra

Ok, I just finished up my second Philip K. Dick novel, The Simulacra. I of course started off with his most famous novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and was reasonably impressed. While The Simulacra does share some similarities in the style and also Dick's way of making you wonder what's real and what isn't, but it is also completely different in what seems to be the reason it was written.

The Simulacra could easily be classified as a dystopian novel. We are presented with level upon level of government corruption, and we aren't even sure if every level has been revealed until the end. The control of the government is revealed slowly in a series of roughly five plot lines that are all interconnected but also seemingly unrelated at first. The setting is a world in which psychoanalysts have been outlawed and the society has been divided into two different classes. Every person fits into either the upper or the lower based on whether or not they know the upper class secret. However, the government corruption wasn't the most significant thing to me.

What I found to be the chief message of the book involved discrimination. I suppose more precisely racism, but I think it can be applied to any group. The book was written during the sixties and makes several statements that could easily be missed that suggest the black community has moved into a place of superiority, mainly financial but it can only be assumed that political power came with it. I thought that it was just Dick's way of incorporating the time period until I came to the end of the book. One statement at the end regarding a group outcast by society seemed to imply that Dick really did have that very theme in mind when he wrote the book. I actually think it makes the book a bit more powerful when viewed from that perspective because it makes the book than just another paranoid fiction books. I suppose you could draw any number of themes from the book, but what I got was the idea that groups put down by society will eventually rise above when the time is right.

Overall though, the book wasn't great, but it was far from bad. Again, it's another short read, so I don't see a reason why you shouldn't at least give it a go. However, the plot isn't the most cohesive, and the characters definitely aren't the most lovable. It is definitely marked by Dick's way of making you wonder about the behavior of a character at the end. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I think after a couple novels it would become almost annoying.

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