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Reviews of Martian Time-Slip (1964)

Review by ropie (2007-09-18)
'Martian Time-Slip' is a very good PKD novel. For me, it had the terse strangeness of 'Ubik', without most of the sloppy and confusing dialogue, and the dry, twisted humour of 'A Scanner Darkly', without the rambling messages about the pros and cons of drugs and drug-users. It had a fairly well developed sense of place in the desolate landscapes of Mars and though I felt some of the characters could just have stepped straight out of any American novel, some were more Martian, like Manfred the schizophrenic boy and the lonely housewives placating their boredom with phenobarbitol and supposedly glamorous affairs.

The central part of the book, the actual time-slip, is extremely well handled. Although the entire novel is full of small slips back and forward in time as the viewpoint switches between characters, the four-times repeated scene of water boss Arnie Kott's meeting at home with his girlfriend, Doreen, his repair man, Jack, and schizophrenic Manfred, is particularly horrifying and strange. Always on the sidelines are the so-called Bleekman, the native race of Mars who live on the periphary of the new human colonizations, some of whom have been 'domesticated' and act as servants. I found their presence added a very interesting mystical touch to the book and their role is understated but central.

This is a gloomy novel, though this is somewhat offset by the black humour. It deals with the stigma of mental illness, suicide, greed and inhumanity within large businesses and political organizations, the oppression of indigenous peoples, rationing and the black-market, revenge. Despite this it has a certain sense of redemption at the denoument and I actually thought the ending was quite uplifting, though it did have the rushed feel of tying up loose ends. Saying that, the entire book has a slightly rushed feel. It is fairly concise at around 230 pages but parts of it seem a bit scrappy. It's a problem I found with the other books of Dick's that I've read - they are not at all consistent within themselves in terms of story-telling or dialogue. For me this does marr the enjoyment and particularly the way I recall a book after I've read it.

Also, Dick makes some major and unusual asssertions that you just have to accept as you read (the term schizophrenic encompasses anybody who has a mental illness; autistic/schizophrenic people can travel through time; extremely complex, interactive teaching robots can run on a 'tape-spool' system of data!!). For some people, me included, this can be annoying. For some maybe it is a part of the confidence and charisma with which Dick conveyed his SF vision.

I'm starting to think that it's best to take each Dick book as part of his entire ouevre because the individual novels themselves are each one fairly flawed. Considering this I remain keen to read further work by Dick, even more so after Martian Time-Slip.

(This review refers to the 1964 version titled “Martian Time-Slip”)




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