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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Nonlinear Time Series Analysis
Thomas Schreiber, Holger Kantz
Progress: 29/320 pages
The Politics of Neurodiversity: Why Public Policy Matters
Dana Lee Baker
Progress: 9/239 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1: Rocannon's World / Planet of Exile / City of Illusions / The Left Hand of Darkness / The Dispossessed / Stories (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 440/1100 pages
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated
Charles Darwin
Progress: 332/346 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 110/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 76/448 pages

Clans of the Alphane Moon, Philip K. Dick

Clans of the Alphane Moon - Philip K. Dick

Dick is unique in the field of SF as far as I can tell. Nobody else I've read or even heard of would have thought up the premise for this book, which I'm not going to give away. Yes, it's about a CIA propagandist caught up in an interstellar web of conspiracy, largely through his own foolishness, but no, it's not really about that, at all. It's difficult to talk about the true theme without spoiling the effect, so I will save that for the bit hidden behind spoiler tags.

 

Before that I will just mention that the opening chapter gives away the theme and in a manner that is pure genius; one of the joys of SF is being dumped in an unfamiliar setting (future/culture shock) and trying to figure out what is going on from the clues in the writing. Done well, great wads of exposition are avoided - but it's all too frequently done badly. This first chapter is a masterclass in how to do it properly and displays Dick's uniqueness in a show-case.

 

The theme here, as in so many of Dick's books, is mental illness. The idea of exploring what might happen if the inmates took over not only the nuthouse but the entire moon it was built on is pretty radical, as is the speculation that a society that more-or-less functions would arise. It's fascinating to think about and extremely useful in that it gives a reminder that even people with extreme mental health problems are people. Having more than a passing acquaintance with these issues I find this extremely positive and useful - and Dick's attitudes, as expressed here seem well in advance of many folks you might encounter today, despite having been set down back in the 1960s. One interesting observation is that the protagonist, despite bouts of depression and paranoid seeming behaviour is eventually declared sane. Insanity can be temporary and paranoia is delusional. When they're really out to get you, you're not mad for thinking so.

(show spoiler)

 

This book, whilst interesting, fast paced, short and readable does have a few small flaws and is therefore not on the top shelf of Dick's work. An important supporting character's motivations are left completely mysterious and seemingly self-contradictory - but it is an alien - should we expect to understand it? The ending also feels a little unsatisfactory because not entirely convincing, character-wise. It is rewarding enough to make it worthwhile despite this, however, just because of the crazy imagination and subtext.