Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Review: The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Phillip K. Dick

Very few Science Fiction authors manage to create memorable works that easily retain their relevance in the near and/or distant future. Phillip K. Dick is one of those talented few, and The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is one of those works.

Dick's not-so-distant dystopian future is one where global warming is an adaptable but growing dillema, with the bulk of humanity virtually sealed away in air-conditioned office buildings and apartment complexes. The solution, space migration to nearby planets, is such a bleak and arduous task that 'settlers' need to be drafted. These off-world settlers often resort to drug-induced shared hallucination involving miniature recreations of life back on earth. Within this structure we find corporations employing psychics to predict future sales trends, upper class elitists physically evolving themselves into 'superior beings', naturally created drugs that allow users to connect on different plains of reality and traverse freely throughout space-time, to name a few. In the center of it all is the titular Palmer Eldritch, a powerful and mysterious businessman who has spent decades communing with alien races, and has returned with what he claims to be mankind's mental and spiritual salvation.

What would normally be a one-trick-pony for other authors becomes a multi-layered examination of everything from religion and philosophy to physical/mental evolution and individual freedom versus responsibility. Dick doesn't bother with simple 'Good Vs. Evil' conflict, but instead shows us that both possibilities are sides of the same coin, and simply asks us to call it in the air. Highly recommended for those who like to think about a book long after reading it.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

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