Science Fiction Book Review


Cantata-140

Cantata-140 (1966/2003) Philip K Dick, Gollancz, 6.99, pbk, 188pp, ISBN 0-575-07459-0

Though not one of Dick's best, this is nonetheless a welcome reprint. In 2080 overpopulation has become so bad that millions of people are placed in cryogenic suspension. Jim Briskin, presidential candidate, has launched a desperate appeal to restart off-world colonisation when a flaw in a Jiffi-scuttler engine opens a doorway to an alternate Earth. As soon as word leaks out Briskin, George Walt (a two-bodied, one-headed mutant in control of an entertainment empire), the current President, and industrialist Leon Turpin all vie for the power control to the access of this new world will bring them...

Both in modern SF terms and in terms of Dick's own output this will probably appear to be a bit of a lightweight excursion, but it still contains the two defining elements of his work - an alternate world and its effects upon ordinary people. As much as the high-powered characters it is the 'little people' that enthrall the reader, from the Jiffi-scuttler repairman to the dentist and actress enjoying an affair. While by no means is this a classic, it is still an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

Tony Chester


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