UBIK                                      review  

"A soul-shocking experience beyond death and infinity"

UK 1st.: Rapp & Whiting, hb, 164-9, Jun 1970, 202pp, 28/- (?)



Ten minutes later the Curtiss-Wright biplane had been gassed, the prop manually spun, and, with Joe Chip and Jesperson aboard, it began weaving an erratic, sloppy path down the runway, bouncing into the air and then collapsing back again. Joe gritted his teeth and hung on.       Curtiss Jenny

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!   My votes for the Horselover Race go to UBIK (my favorite novel by Anybody). -- Cat Simril Ishikawa, Canada

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!   As to my three favorite PKD books, that, as you well know, is a tough call. At this odd hour of the morning I will vote for UBIK, the book I always come back to, seeking the ultimate meaning of Joe Chip's experiences. The book twists in on itself at the very end -- which reality is real? Who is alive and who is dead? We'll never really know, will we? -- Bernie Kling, CA

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!   UBIK. The first PKD book I read that really crushed my head. The exquisite handling of hallucinogens and all their manifestations will always have a special place in my heart. -- Byron Coley, MA

Vote for your Fave PKD Story! UBIK. Second place is a little tougher. It surely has to go to one of the classic reality-benders of the 60s, either UBIK or THREE STIGMATA. As you can see, I've gone against the grain and chosen the former. The characters are better developed, the plot is more personal, and the conclusions are applicable to the real world. Even without the Twilight Zone ending it would be a great book. ELDRITCH is full of great ideas too, but I pick UBIK. -- ?

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!   UBIK. Like THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH it tells a story of mind-boggling uncertainness. But as PALMER ELDRITCH is a horror novel with a story-line that is a little too much for a really 'good' novel, UBIK has a portion of black humour that I like.
            UBIK -- the stuff that can fix everything, even your altered mind. Great! Until the last page you can't say what is real, who is in cryonic half-life and who controls whom?  I don't know! -- Jurgann Thomann, Germany

Vote for your Fave PKD Story! "Third choice by a whisper is UBIK, and it is the haunting description of the deconstructing world, coupled with the eerie bleeding of "reality" from one "real world" to another that makes it one of the creepiest and most intriguing sf novels ever. The last chapter, when Runciter finds Joe Chip money in his pocket is not only my favorite PKD ending, but I think my favorite actual scene from any of his books. Too bad it wasn't published under the original title of DEATH OF AN ANTI-WATCHER, which is a far more interesting name." {Geoff Notkin}

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!  UBIK. Wonderful, just wonderful. -- David Jackson, CA

Vote for your Worst PKD Story!  Most Overrated Novel (but still great): UBIK. I've got 2 1/2 chapters on it in my work-in-progress, folks, but jeez,  those opening chapters are markedly worse than anything in, say, THE SIMULACRA. (All of the post-lunar chapters are of course gold). -- Gregg Rickman in FDO 6

Ken Lopez, Bookseller catalog

DICK, Philip K. Ubik. (London): Rapp & Whiting, (1970). First. The first British edition of one of Dick's great works, the novel that caused him to be elected, in France, to the College du Pataphysique an avant garde movement inspired by Alfred Jarry's writings, which influenced the Surrealists as well as the development of the Theater of the Absurd. "Pataphysics" was the science of imaginary solutions, and the writers who have been allied with the movement are linked by their wild inventiveness and dedication to the use of the absurd in literature as a means of providing a radical social and psychological critique. Tiny tear to the foredge of one page; covers slightly splayed; near fine in a rubbed, very good dust jacket with minor edgewear. $250

PKDS-6    4:

wpe17.jpg (3889 bytes) in the GSM Collection UBIK:THE SCREENPLAY can be ordered now from Corroboree Press, 2729 Bloomington Ave, South, Minneapolis, MN 55407. The price is $23, {...} this is an illustrated hard-cover edition of PKD's original and wonderful screenplay of UBIK: illustrations are by Val Lakey-Lindahn, Ron Lindahn, and Doug Rice. There are forwards by Tim Powers and Paul Williams. And Corroboree also plans a 50-copy limited edition with tipped-in signatures from checks. "These copies will be numbered, signed by the artists, printed on special paper, and will have special binding and boxes. Final price has not been fixed: it will be $200 or a bit lower. Reservations are now being accepted for a deposit of $100, balance to be due on delivery. Only one copy per person, please." {No longer available in 1999 - Lord RC}


    In late August of 1974, Philip K. Dick received a letter from Jean-Pierre Gorin, a French director who had worked with Jean-Luc Goddard, saying he has had an offer to do a film and he wants it to be UBIK.{...}

    Dick had never written a screenplay beore (he did a few radio scripts in the 1950s, and wrote -- on spec -- a plot outline for an episode of the television drama "The Invaders"). But apparently Gorin's enthusiasm, and some money up front (with $2500 more to come on delivery of a completed draft), overcame any qualms Dick may have had about moving into an unfamiliar medium. He sat down at the typewriter and started his screenplay sometime in late September 1974, and, faced with a three-month deadline, finished it instead in three weeks{(...)}. By mid-October PKD had proudly delivered his completed manuscript and was waiting for the promised payment.
    Payment never came, alas; Gorin {...}ultimately vanished from the scene. The movie never got made. {...}

    {... ...}

    On December 28, 1974, he wrote to an acquaintance:

       Thank you in particular for what you said about UBIK. Just the other day I looked up the Greek philosopher Empedocles and I was amazed to see that UBIK in many ways expresses his world-view. It is a view generally discarded these days. In May of this year a guy from France doing his doctoral thesis on UBIK flew here and asked me, "You know Empedocles?" to which I had to admit, no, I didn't even know the name. The French guy got very angry, as if he believed I was lying, and walked out. Now I can see why. It is impossible to believe that anyone could write UBIK without having gotten the concepts from Empedocles. By the way -- Empedocles, I read, believed that he would be reincarnated and return some day. I'm not kidding. He expected to come back... But I bet he didn't anticipate finding himself in Fullerton. I guess the part where they're all dead is because ol' E. has been dead these many centuries and knows a lot about how it feels (I wish I was kidding when I say all this, but I'm not; I mean, I really sort of believe this).

{... ...}

    {Paul Williams in the 'Introduction' to UBIK: The Screenplay}


{... ...}

{...} So in this UBIK screenplay we have a couple of things Dick rarely gave us -- a story reconsidered, and one presented more directly than could be done from within the novel form. Film is a more intrusive medium, and UBIK is certainly made of intrusions; at one point Dick considered having the movie end with the film itself appearing to undergo a series of reversions: to black-and-white, then to the awkward jerkiness of very early movies, then to a crookedly jammed frame which proceeds to blacken, bubble and melt away. leaving only the white glare of the projection bulb, which in turn deteriorates to leave the theater in darkness, and might almost leave the moviegoer wondering what sort of dilapidated, antique jalopy he'll find his car-keys fitting when he goes outside.

{... ...}

{Tim Powers in the 'Foreward' to UBIK: The Screenplay}

BGSU papers

TDC 108

"I got this letter, direct from Moscow," he told us, "signed by some fairly important scientists, who invited me to visit Russia so they could talk to me."

"What on Earth for?" I asked.

"Well, it seems they had read UBIK, and had already formulated theories that the afterlife was remarkably close to what I had theorized in that novel," he explained. "They wanted me to come over so they could find out what I knew -- and probaby experiment on me to find out how I knew," he chuckled.

"You didn't go," I stated, prompting.

"I actually considered going for a while {...}

And so, instead, one day a few months later, this black limousine, with the shaded glass windows and so on. And three men in trench coats got out and came to the door. I was watching this from the window, and I was thinking, oh shit. They've finally caught up with me. I had, at that time, no idea about who 'They' were; I was just convinced that someone had caught up with me for whatever sins I might have committed. Or they thought I had committed.

At any rate, it turns out they were from the Russian Embassy. The scientists in Moscow had received my letter, in which I had fabricated some excuse for not visiting, and they had requested that the Embassy send a delegation to interview me in my own home. They were very nice and polite, and once they explained who they were and what they wanted, I let them in and we talked about UBIK for an hour or so. I didn't tell them nothin'. Just played stupid. Then they left, and I've never heard from them since.

TSR 216

Within a system which must generate an enormous amount of veiling, it would be vain-glorious to expostulate on what actuality is, when my premise declares that were we to penetrate to it for any reason this strange veil-like dream would reinstate itself retroactively, in terms of our perceptions and in terms of our memories. The mutual dreaming would resume as before, because, I think, we are like the characters in my novel UBIK; we are in a state of half-life. We are neither dead nor alive, but preserved in cold storage, waiting to be thawed out. Expressed in the perhaps startingly familiar terms of the procession of the seasons, this is winter of which I speak; it is winter for our race, and it is winter in UBIK for those in half-life. Ice and snow cover them; ice and snow cover our world in layers of accretions, which we call dokos or Maya. What melts away the rind or layer of frozen ice over the world each year is of course the reappearance of the sun. What melts the ice and snow covering the characters in UBIK, and which halts the cooling-off of their lives, the entropy which they feel, is the voice of Mr. Runciter, their former employer, calling to them. The voice of Mr. Runciter is none other than the same voice which each bulb and seed and root in the ground, our ground, in our winter-time, hears. It hears: "Wake up! Sleepers awake!" Now I have told you who Runciter is, and I have told you our condition and what UBIK is really about. What I have said, too, is that time is actually as Dr. Kozyrev in the Soviet Union supposes it to be, and in UBIK time has been nullified and no longer moves forward in the lineal fashion which we experience. As this has happened, due to the deaths of the characters, we the readers and they the person´┐Ż see the world as it is without the veil of Maya, without the obscuring mists of lineal time. It is that very energy, Time, postulated by Dr. Kozyrev as binding together all phenomena and maintaining all life, which by its activity hides the ontological reality beneath its flow.

The orthogonal time axis may have been represented in my novel UBIK without my understanding what I was depicting; i.e. the form regression of objects along an entirely different line from that out of which they, in lineal time, were built. This reversion is that of the Platonic Ideas or archetypes; a rocket-ship reverts to a Boeing 747, then back to a World War I "Jenny" biplane. While I may indeed have expressed a dramatic view of orthogonal time, it is less certain that this is orthogonal time undergoing an unnatural reversion; i.e. moving backwards. What the characters in UBIK see may be orthogonal time moving along its normal axis; if we ourselves somehow see the universe reversed the the "reversions" of form which objects in UBIK undergo may be momentum towards perfection. This would imply that our world as extensive in time (rather than extensive in space) is like an onion, an almost infinite number of successive layers. If lineal time seems to add layers, then perhaps orthogonal time peels these off, exposing layers of progressively greater Being. One is reminded here of Plotinus's view of the universe as consisting of concentric rings of emanation, each one possessing more Being -- or reality -- than the next.

TSR 224

UBIK was primarily a dream, or series of dreams. In my opinion it contains strong themes of pre-Socratic philosophical views of the world, unfamiliar to me when I wrote it (to name just one, the views of Empedocles)

TSR 243

     In my novel UBIK I present a motion along a retrograde entropic axis, in terms of Platonic forms rather than any decay or reversion we normally conceive. Perhaps the normal forward motion along this axis, away from entropy, accruing rather than divesting, is identical with the axis line that I characterize as lateral, which is to say, in orthogonal rather than linear time. If this is so, the novel UBIK inadvertantly contains what could be called a scientific rather than a philosophical idea. But here I am only guessing. Still, the fiction writer may have written more than he consciously knew.

21C #4 1995 p78ff

What may be most ironic about Dick is that, over time, he came to believe in these possibilities as viable models of reality. As he wrote later, "All I know today that I didn't know when I wrote UBIK is that UBIK isn't fiction."

{Article by George Melrod}

SL:38 246


{...} My most recent novel will be out May 9th, published by Doubleday, called, UBIK. It is a very strange one. And a full and successful collection of my stories, ranging from those written in 1951 up to the present, is being brought out by Ace in a week or so; I'm very proud of it (It's called THE PRESERVING MACHINE, and the editor has so carefully combed my 150 odd stories so as to make it appear that I'm a good short story writer, which I am not).

{PKD>Peter Fitting}

SL:38     285

Dear Sandra,


    Thank you for the review. I'm sorry the characterization in UBIK is so minimal, but I had this problem: I had to move rapidly from the opening status quo (the psi company against the anti-psi company) and into the retreating 'thirties world. Bear in mind that all the material at the beginning of the novel is for all intents and purposes dumped once the bomb goes off. Readers may well ask, "What ever became of S. Melipone Dole?" {sic} and they would be right to do so.


Take care,

{<PKD>Sandra Meisal, Sep 8, 1970}


...for Ubik, I got ten thousand dollars for the paperback of which I got five thousand and Doubleday got the other five.


(Interviewer:) Of all the novels you've written, I guess my own particular favorites are The Man in the High Castle, of course, and Ubik.

(Dick:) You-bick?

(Interviewer:) You-bick.

(Dick:) You-bick. The French call it Ooh-bick. Deek's Ooh-bick. It's called Ubick, Mia Signore in Italian. I guess that means Ubick, My Dear Sir or something like that. Well, it does--I looked it up.


You don't just write whatever comes into your head while you're sitting there in front of the typewriter. When I wrote UBIK, I got about twelve pages done and couldn't think of anything else, so I just wrote whatever came into my mind. I wrote it from my unconscious: I let the right hemisphere of my brain do all the thinking, and I was as surprised as anybody as to what came out. In France, of course, it's considered a great novel because it doesn't make any sense; in France, it's a roman de pataphysique. Ever since Alfred Jarry hit town, they've loved stuff that doesn't make any sense. Maybe it does make sense when you translate it into French. Maybe I'm a great writer in France because I've got good translators.

(Interviewer:) You are better known, I think, in France than you are here.

(Dick:) Germany, France--England, too.


(Interviewer:) You wrote a screenplay of one of your own works, didn't you?

(Dick:) Yeah, I wrote a good screenplay. I wrote a really good one of UBIK. Boy, there's Gresham's law. I don't know how it applies to science fiction writing in general, but it sure applies to screenplays: the bad screenplays force the good ones out. Given a choice, they'll make a movie out of bad screenplay and throw the good screenplay back at the author.

(Interviewer:) If I remember the Rolling Stone piece, that screenplay you did of UBIK is currently bouncing around in Europe, still trying to get financed.

(Dick:) It's still optioned. They're still trying to get financing for it, but it's not the director's fault. Jean-Pierre Gorin spent all the money he had, but he couldn't get the millions of dollars that he thought it would cost. Then he got sick with liver trouble, and he had to give up being a director and go teach down in San Diego. I wrote a really great screenplay, and that's the one thing I am bitter about. If I had written a novel with some of that stuff in it, I wouldn't have had any trouble selling it. But I can't sell that screenplay.

{for continuation see: The Mainstream That Through The Ghetto Flows}

IPOV 63:

In UBIK the forward moving force of time (or timeforce expressed as an ergic field) has ceased. All changes result from that. Forms regress. The substrate is revealed. Cooling (entropy) is allowed to set in unimpeded. Equilibrium is affected by the vanishing of the forward-moving time force-field. The bare bones, so to speak, of the world, our world, are revealed. We see the Logos addressing the many living entities.. Assisting and advising them. We are now aware of the Atman everywhere. The press of time on everything, having been abolished, reveals many elements underlying our pehenomena

If time stops, this is what takes place, these changes.

Not frozen-ness but revelation.

There are still the retrograde forces remaining, at work. And also underlying positive forces other than time. The disappearance of the force-field we call time reveals both good and bad things; which is to say, coaching entities (Runciter who is the Logos), the Atman, Ella; it isn't a static world, but it begins to cool. What is missing is a form of heat; the Aten. The Logos (Runciter) can tell you what to do, but you lack the energy -- heat, force -- to do it. (i.e.time)

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