Fiction Reviews

Martian Time-Slip

(1964/2007) Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, 7.99, pbk, 280 pp, ISBN 978-0-0-575-07996-0

This is the welcome Gollancz 2007 reprint of the 1964 Dick classic. It is a very dark comedy set in the newly terraformed Mars away from the overpopulated Earth. The stories lead characters all have their hopes and dreams but are equally each unhinged to a greater or lesser degree due to their alien environs and the life they have to endure largely without many of the luxuries common on Earth.

Jack Bohlen is a recovered schizophrenic repairman whose neighbour's autistic son, Manfred, seems to slip in and out of time. Arnie Kott is the water union boss who has a finger in virtually all the worthwhile ventures on Mars yet struggles to continue to be supplied with luxuries from Earth. When Jack's father comes to Mars to invest in a new land deal, Arnie suspects that something is up but is unaware that the investor from Earth is Jack's father. Wanting to extend his control, Arnie seeks to use Manfred's ability to see the past and future to get an edge in deals. Could it be that the native, aboriginal, bleekmen of Mars have their own insights?

This is Dick in one of his more darker moments. It also seems to reflect the author's own psychiatric demons. Familiar Dick themes re-occur: sense of identity, time and place; Earth in decline and a diaspora off planet. Yet throughout there is the battle of the individual against collective and corporate powers as well as perceptions. It is an essential read for all aspiring SF book buffs.

Jonathan Cowie

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