Clans of the Alphane Moon
Book: Clans of the Alphane Moon
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick
Wild and wacky and insane -- just a terrific book. One of the moons of Alphane used to be a mental hospital, but during the Alphane wars it was forgotten and the inmates took over. Now it's 25 years later and an entire culture of insanity has taken over. The people live groups based on their symptoms: the Deps (depressed), the Pares (paranoids), the Mans (manic depressive), Skitz (catatonic schizophrenic), etc. What's cool is that PKD allows to see bits of reality through the eyes of various insane characters, including their visions, making us wonder (as usual) which reality is real. The actual story is about an Earthman who's being divorced by his psychiatrist wife. She doesn't like his low-paying govt. job as a CIA propagandist and wants him to write for TV instead. By divorcing him and suing him for huge alimony, she forces him to take the TV job just to pay her. Meanwhile, she takes off on a volunteer mission to the Alphane Moon to "rescue" the poor insane people there. The CIA wants to monitor the situation, so they send along a "simulacrum" (a robot that appears human) which is controlled by the ex-husband -- he, in effect, is traveling with his ex-wife! But his motivations aren't pure: he wants to use the simulacrum to kill her. What follows is bizarre: a nightmare of twisted reality, paranoia, confusion, odd coincidence, and nonsense. The plot and characters go every which way (brilliantly) and every time you think you know where the novel's going, it goes the opposite direction. It's unique. But the novel is also socially relevant, and is not always subtle about it. For instance, when the psychiatrist ex-wife analyzes the insane moon society she's horrified by it: but when someone asks her if it really differs that much from Earth, she's hard pressed for an answer. Very cool. From a story perspective it's a strange unpleasant tale (all the characters hate each other), but it's definitely PKD at his most imaginative. It's not one of his famous stories, but it's one of my favorites simply because it's so unconventional. Well worth your time and thought.