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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

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In the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late 21st century, tedium can be endured through the drug Can-D, which enables users to inhabit a shared illusory world. When industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from an interstellar trip, he brings with him a new drug, Chew-Z. It is far more potent than Can-D, but threatens to plunge the world into a permanent state of drugged illusion controlled by the mysterious Eldritch.

Cover illustration: Chris Moore

231 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1965

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About the author

Philip K. Dick

1,660 books19.6k followers
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, in Santa Ana, California, of heart failure following a stroke.

In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, ten of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,075 reviews
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,380 reviews12k followers
July 22, 2022

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - A Philip K. Dick novel so crazy I found myself laughing out loud on every page. Here are a dozen key ingredients PKD mixes in his hallucinogenic science fiction roller coaster:

The illegal hallucinogenic drug Can-D
Drug of choice for those colonists on Mars and other remote planets, a drug enabling its chewers to inhabit the same body and mind-stream and then travel together to an appealing illusory reality in another dimension.

The legal (sort of) hallucinogenic drug Chew-Z
Taken solo for a solo trip to an alternate reality where, among other possibilities, one can revisit and remake the past in a way that influences the future.

Leo Bulero
Cartoon version of a 1940s gruff, bald, cigar-chomping boss, a man who puts a high premium on maintaining control of market share and control of his sanity.

Barney Mayerson
Cartoon version of a 1950s boss want-a-be, a ‘precog’, that is, someone given, via technology, the gift of knowing certain aspects of the future.

Miss Rondinella Fugate
Cartoon version of a 1960s attractive, sexy corporate climber who is also a precog and knows exactly how to manipulate men like Barney Mayerson and Leo Bulero.

Dr. Smile
A psychiatrist who is an advanced computer living in a briefcase, offering advice to men like Barney Mayerson.

Emily and her Ceramic Pots
A potter who makes pots that have, believe it or not, a profound influence in this futuristic world of interplanetary travel.

Richard Hnatt
Current husband of Emily and a salesman in New York City, a most demanding and difficult job since the daytime temperature in the Big Apple runs 130 degrees.

Dr. Willy Denkmal's E Therapy clinics
That’s E Therapy as in Evolution Therapy, providing humans with accelerated mental powers. But there are some problems: the therapy distorts your features so you look like a bubble-head. Also, the therapy might backfire and instead of evolving you devolve back into a cruder, less intelligent you.

Anne Hawthorne
Appropriate name, since Anne is a conservative Christian right out of the pages of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Anne is less than thrilled with the drugs and other beings with God-like powers.

Hovel on Mars
Being sent to a place like Mars isn’t any fun. There are some advantages, though: the colonists chew their Can-D and everyone has sex with everyone else. Ah, community.

Palmer Eldritch
If Philip K. Dick was paranoid, then Palmer Eldritch might be his perfect alter ego. Mr. Palmer has several super-human powers that fuel this novel right to the last sentence.

Similar to PKD's Dr. Bloodmoney, the most hypercrazy novel I've ever read, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch would spin into a formless mess if it wasn’t for the author's strong sense of interweaving plots and underlying themes. What an absolutely zany, outrageous, bizarre, wild read!

“The time, then, had come for him to poison himself so that an economic monopoly could be kept alive, a sprawling, interplanetary empire from which he now derived nothing.”
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - American Science Fiction author Philip K. Dick (1928 - 1982)
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
October 21, 2020
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was the kind of book that Kilgore Trout, the fictional recurring character in Kurt Vonnegut's novels (based on science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon) would have been proud of – deftly original, scathingly satirical, wildly entertaining – and funny in the kind of subtle way that would have pleased Vonnegut.

It is good in many different ways, and works well on different levels. First published in 1965, this is one of Dick's earlier works that deals both directly and obliquely with religious themes.

The surface story itself, if it were made into a movie, could be cast and produced in a similar fashion as the Bruce Willis film The Fifth Element – it’s over the top, bizarre, absurd, and yet all fits together. PKD’s underlying commentaries on religion and the drug culture are both erudite and socially informed. The author also applies a generous portion of irony and outrageous circumstance to an already volatile mix, like evolution of humans into a neo-bug-like thing. Critics before me have said that it is one of his best and I must wholeheartedly agree.

Oddly reminiscent of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the parts left out of Bladerunner) this novel brings out some of PKD’s unique abilities to combine science fiction with theological explorations.

Best line in the book: "Palmer Eldritch had gone to Prox a man and returned a god".

A must read for PKD fans, SF fans, and a good introduction of his work for a new reader.

*** 2020 reread

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is on a short list of PKD’s best.

This time around I paid closer attention to the climate concerns (first published in 1965, this describes full on global warming) and the strange connections with the mind altering drugs and the hovel societies on Mars.

I also noted the similarities with this book and one of his lesser known works, Our Friends from Frolix 8. (first published in 1970) where Dick revisits some of these same themes, especially of a godlike allegory of alien first contact.

Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book937 followers
July 28, 2021
Shortly after Martin Luther’s death, the heads of the papal Church, then widely challenged by the Protestant movement, felt the need to beef up their positions on several doctrinal points. In October 1551, the Council met in Santa Maria Maggiore church in Trento, to discuss the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. In the end, and after a lengthy thirteen-sessions deliberation, the bishops concluded, borrowing from earlier theological debates and Aristotelian metaphysics, that “by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his Blood.” What you get ain’t what you see.

In the alternate future of 2016, imagined by Philip K. Dick, the simulated reality magnate Leo Bulero, kidnapped on Luna and forced into a Chew-Z hallucination, meets a young girl. At some point, she declares, using the same Aristotelian line of reasoning: “My accidents are those of this child, but my substance, as with the wine and the wafer in transubstantiation—” (LoA omnibus edition, p. 310). Just as the church cracker is none other than Jesus Christ Himself, the young girl is none other than Palmer Eldritch, shortly after he met with God (or is he none other than God himself?), off Proxima Centauri.

This is one of the earlier novels by PKD and one of the nuttiest pieces of storytelling of the 1960s. You get climate warming and outer-space settlements, chewing and fuse-inducing drugs like Can-D or Chew-Z (but “be choosy. Chew Chew-Z”!), precogs, virtual entities by the name of Perky Pat or Winnie-Ther-Pooh Acres, evolution therapies invented by post-Nazi mad scientists, religious fanatics that look like Barbie dolls, lots of theological thinking and pranks, choruses of office employees with slit eyes, mechanical arms and, most of all, stainless steel teething rings.

This novel probably sat on Kurt Vonnegut’s nightstand while writing Slaughterhouse-Five. Likewise, regarding Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, William Gibson’s Neuromancer or even Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. At any rate, with this PKD novel, more than ever, what you see still ain’t what you get.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,732 followers
December 6, 2017
“It takes a certain amount of courage, he thought, to face yourself and say with candor, I'm rotten. I've done evil and I will again. It was no accident; it emanated from the true, authentic me.”
― Philip K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch


Enter into PKD's drug-infused, gnostic future. All his entheogens are belong to us. PKD is at his high point when he infuses his dark futurism with his gnostic explorations and his drug-fueled moral investigations. In 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch', Dick entertains that funky zone between religious dogma and drug addiction, while at the same time throwing in some key ideas about evolutionary therapy, evolution, atonement, eternal life, time, God, etc.

There is a large and diverse precedence in the idea of "finding God" with the assistance/facilitation of mind altering drugs. There are similarities between the euphoria of worship and the euphoria of drugs. Just look at the Dionysian & Eleusinian Mysteries with their ambrosia, the Bwitists and their root bark, the Kiowa's and their peyote. The Rastafari's smoke a bit of the cannabis, the Vedas have their Soma, the Rus' people have their mushrooms. Hell, some people in Appalachia even get close to God with a little sip of strychnine and few rattlesnakes. Who am I to judge?


PKD explores the use of two different drugs: Can-D and Chew-Z to explore two dimensions of the God-inducing euphoria. One leads to a greater sense of community, the other leads to isolation. Which is Heaven and which is Hell folks? Or do they both end up being Hell? Anyway, I'm still trying to work out exactly how I feel about it all. Like most of Dick's big (BIG) idea novels they aren't easy to deconstruct and leave me churning for a few days. He drops me off the last page feeling trapped, trying to figure out where I am and who to exactly to believe. He does a fantastic job of disorienting this reader, making me feel both time scrambled and a bit paranoid. Like Ben Harper says, when it's gone: "Some drink to remember, Some to forget"

I'd review more, but I'll have to wait until the drugs stop working and those voices in my head stop talking to me.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
August 7, 2016
Reading this book felt a bit like dreaming, after a while it became like a dream within a dream, soon after it became full on Inception!.

Without going into the synopsis in any detail, this novel features a drug induced virtual reality, initially with the aid of Ken and Barbie-like dolls in their nicely furnished dollhouse. The VR sessions are called "translations", a very popular past time in the hellish Mars colony. The drug is caled Can-D, later on a new type of drug called Chew-Z comes on the market and immediately make the Can-D drug obsolete by doing away with the dolls and other paraphernalia and allowing any fantasy world to be created by the user. Of course this being a PKD novel things are never what they seem.

Brilliant digital art by SharksDen

The first 50 or so pages are straight forward enough but soon things take a sharp left turn somewhere and the reader goes careening off reality and become more "Lost in Translation" than Bill Murray floundering around Tokyo. Dick is a master of this kind of mind coitus, his stories often makes you wonder where you are, who you are and why is there a fish floating above your head? Interestingly he always manages achieve this weird effect using straight forward prose without ever resorting to any kind of poetry or verbiage.

His characters are seldom well rounded complex individuals but generally I can never guess what a PKD character is going to do or say next. The most interesting character in this book has to be the titular Palmer Eldritch himself. The most interesting thing about him is not so much who is Palmer Eldritch, but who isn't Palmer Eldritch? The man gives the word ubiquitous not so much a new meaning as a super literal one. If that makes no sense to you then I urge you to read the book and take the trip for yourself.

Hilariously re-used Dune cover by Manor books in the 1970s (read more about this)
Profile Image for Tim.
477 reviews664 followers
December 20, 2019
"Choosy Chewers Choose Chew-Z"

This is my fourth Philip K. Dick experience... and this one was a trip.

How the hell do I review this book? How is it even possible to get across the feeling this book gives? This book frankly seems like a dark downward spiral into insanity... and yet inside that it offers both hope and despair.

I'll start this off bluntly. I don't fully get the novel. I don't think it is possible to fully get the novel. If you claim to fully get the novel, I question both your perception of reality and honesty.

This book, much like Dune, operates well on two different levels. As a science fiction novel and as a philosophical piece. Unlike Dune, I can't fully grasp the plot or fully the philosophy behind it.

From what I can tell you, the plot follows a world where global warming is certainly one of the biggest problems. In fact its getting so hot that Earth is drafting people to immigrate to Mars to help set up new colonies. The colonies are... unpleasant to say the least, and the only source of entertainment seems to be a combination of a doll named Perky Pat (which comes off very Barbie-like) and a drug called Can-D which allows the users to, for a time, enter the bodies of Perky Pat or her boyfriend.

Enter Palmer Eldritch who has returned after a long trip to the far reaches of space. What did he find and what did he return with? He's returned with Chew-Z, a new drug that does what Can-D can't. In his own words:

"I did not find God in the Prox system. But I found something better. God promises eternal life. I can do better; I can deliver it."

This is a book that I probably should not give 5 stars. From a structural point of view there are too many characters and too many sub-plots, some of which seemingly get abandoned at the half way point. Yet, despite its flaws, it all somehow comes together. Mostly because Dick doesn't really allow the reader to grasp the plot all the way.

“It takes a certain amount of courage, he thought, to face yourself and say with candor, I'm rotten. I've done evil and I will again. It was no accident; it emanated from the true, authentic me.”

This is not a story of good vs. evil. This is a story where it's hard to say what "good" truly is, and it's rather impossible to say if there is a hero or a villain. Palmer Eldritch is certainly a frighting figure (and some of the imagery involving him is grotesque to levels many horror authors can only dream of), but to me he came off as less evil and more unknowable... which I believe is Dick's point.

Are the visions achieved by Eldritch's Chew-Z illusion? Are they part time travel? Does it really matter? Reality is always to be questioned in this book... perhaps Eldritch just showed our characters that.

I've little more to say. This book is... unknowable as Eldritch itself. Instead of trying to make sense of the book, I will instead give you advice.

Don't fight the book. The plot will not make sense, but it IS a mostly coherent plot. Just take it easy and ride it out.

5/5 mind bending stars.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,929 followers
April 7, 2014
Unfortunately this suffers from what we may call the Citizen Kane syndrome. (Someone somewhere must have given this thing a proper name.) It's when a groundbreaking original work of art gets ripped off so many times by lesser mortals (not necessarily out of malignant plagiarism, mostly because the original art introduces various techniques which become part of the lexicon) that when you actually get round to seeing/reading/hearing the original thing, your reaction is "okay, is that it?". Pity the poor film lecturer explaining to a bunch of 19 year olds about Citizen Kane's crane shots, montage, deep focus and all that stuff. The kids are going to be bored, you know they are, they've seen all these tricks a zillion times and done better than Orson could do. Philip Dick is a great sufferer from Citizen Kane syndrome. I read The Three Stigmata and I said yeah - and? In my most aggravating tone of voice. Not pleasant. And I knew I shouldn't have, but I did.

PKD does in retrospect seem kind of - sorry to say this - like a one trick pony, the trick being his Total Paranoia about what actually is Reality. Yeah yeah, sometimes it's hard to tell What Reality Is, until that is you get a £400 bill from the body shop when someone stoves in your passenger side door and drives away. Do I sound bitter? Have I forgotten what I was talking about?
Profile Image for Sara.
175 reviews40 followers
October 19, 2011
As usual, Phillip K. Dick has left me with spirally eyes and a whirring brain. I'd like to give a plot summary, but I'll let someone else do that and egotistically save this space for my own musings: http://www.philipkdickfans.com/ttsopa... There are summaries I found that I like better, but this one provides a useful foil against which to formulate my own thoughts about this book, which rather has my mind tied in knots. To start with, I don't see the book's theme as revolving around drugs and hallucinations, cut and dry. Rather, I see it as questioning the relationship between a drug experience or hallucination and a bona fide religious experience. This reader saw Can-D as the "mere" drug, the one reliant on Perky Pat mini-worlds and the one where the drug experience is clearly demarcated from and never confused with the "real" world. In contrast, Palmer Eldritch's Chew-Z provides a fundamentally different experience. Takers of Chew-Z (and Dick's readers, once the substance has been taken by two main characters, Leo Bulero and Barney Mayerson) cannot separate the drug experience from reality. They do not simply wake up from their trip (or "translation" as Dick has it) and leave it behind. The drug punches a hole in the usually non-permeable layer between hallucination and reality. In the end this confusion of hallucination and reality only poses the question of whether what we call hallucination is not true reality, and sobriety (or "reality") the veil we cast over it so that we don't go bonkers by embracing the truth, the *really* real. Leo's and Barney's Chew-Z experiences are hellish, and other users describe their experiences the same way because in each case, for each person, Palmer Eldritch seems to be in control of their hallucination, in control of the world in which they find themselves. And when they think they've awoken from the trip, it is only to have friends or coworkers suddenly morph into Eldritch (they appear with Eldritch's prostheses, his three distinctive physical, and nonbiological traits - his three stigmata), demonstrating that users are still in the thrall of Chew-Z...and of Eldritch who, we grow to understand, is not the man who left earth 10 years ago, but some entity controlling his body and perpetuating itself through the use of Chew-Z. As Barney Mayerson comes to understand (or believe he understands - and I'm inclined to agree with him), the thing occupying Eldritch is outside of time and indescribably ancient. It falls so beyond human understanding that the closest way Barney, an atheist, can describe it is through reference to God. I wish I had the book here in front of me and I'd quote, but I have to paraphrase - humans call it God, because they need something to call it, but it's beyond understanding simply on the merit of being so damned old, so damned different from humans. This is also the reason Eldritch and the Chew-Z "translations" come across as hellish - they are simply so alien from humanity as to feel palpably "other", positively ahuman - and part of their alien-ness is a kind of amorality, which is not to be confused with immorality. The Eldritch-creature wishes no harm (no spiritual harm, physical harm is another matter), but perhaps doesn't know how to do good, in our common human sense of the word. The final fascinating thoughts on this topic go to Anne Hathaway, a neo-Christian colonist on Mars, who instructs Barney about ontology - you must not confuse the pot with the potter, she warns him. Do not confuse the creation with the creator, the matter with the substance, the vessel with the contents. And I suppose that's all meant to imply that even the stigmata of Palmer Eldritch are just vessels in that metaphor, containing something we really can't describe or ever know. Even when we've brushed right up against it and are only separated from it by the thinnest of membranes.
Profile Image for Forrest.
Author 43 books739 followers
March 13, 2020
I don't know Dick.

I've read some of his work and enjoyed it. But this was a deep philosophical dive on top of the classic psychological-warping mind games that PKD is famous for. All the tropes are here: a bevy of unlikable characters, each flawed in their own way; a scathing side-wise attack on the supposed values of 1950's America including rank capitalism, political subjugation of colonized peoples (or in this case, the colonizers themselves), and plastic-surgery-enhanced beauty; religious zealotry; and so on. Everything you'd want in a PKD novel is here. I thought I knew Dick. There was more that I just didn't get in my past readings of some of his other works. Really, I don't know Dick.

What really "gets" me about this novel, is that it gets me - right in the heart. PKD is mainly known for challenging readers intellectually by shattering their preconceived notions of reality. There is plenty of that here. In fact, more so, even, than many of his other works. But The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch doesn't rely purely on mind-tweaking to engage the reader. This novel has heart, especially in the chest of the one unlikable person who eventually emerges as the main character, Barney Mayerson. There are moments of genuine emotional pain, a sense of deeply-felt loss, which is rare in science fiction, generally, much more so when one is caught up in the psychedelic gonzo web of a Philip K. Dick novel. Mayerson's past choices and subsequent regrets are absolutely heart-crushing. Atonement is held out as a potential cure for his bad, even cruel decisions, then just as quickly withdrawn as unattainable.

There was such a thing as salvation. But -
Not for everyone.
Profile Image for Nate D.
1,596 reviews1,028 followers
July 22, 2010
Searching for meaning in drugs, god, corporate culture, human evolution. And then searching for meaning directly from and of a god -- of sorts. Completely berserk in terms of pacing and plotting, and borders on incoherency in the second half, but totally worth it anyway. Dick's conceptual reach exceeds his grasp by a decent margin but the reach is broad and esoteric and stimulating nonetheless.

Incidentally, the covers for the old editions of his are so much better than the one I've got:

I mean, it's practically enough to make me want to start collecting old PKD editions. (Except I won't because books are for reading, not piling up on shelves).
Profile Image for Tara.
437 reviews19 followers
January 11, 2020
4.5 stars. The Kingdom of Palmer Eldritch is inside you and all around you.
Profile Image for Stuart.
722 reviews269 followers
September 23, 2015
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch: What if god were a lonely drug-pushing alien?
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
This was the 10th and final PKD book I read last year after 40 years without reading any. I always felt as a teenager that I would get more from his books as an adult, and I think I was right. This one is a real mind-bending experience, deliciously strange and tantalizing with its ideas.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) is one of the earliest PKD novels that deals overtly with drug use, hallucinations, and his thoughts on religion and the divine in our mundane lives. As usual, his near-future world is fairly dystopian, and his characters are everyday people trying to muddle through life. There are no superheroes, and his characters are filled with flaws. PKD was a champion of the downtrodden everyman, which makes sense since he himself was always struggling with poverty, mental illness, multiple divorces, and pervasive paranoia. He also had a religious experience in Feb 1974 with a mysterious girl with a fish-shaped gold pendant, from which a pink beam of light went straight into his mind. He attributed it to a communication from a completely rational alien mind that imparted a series of hallucinations and visions of early Rome and Christians. These experiences led him to write the VALIS trilogy (1978-82), which really dives deep down the rabbit hole of his religious explorations.

Three Stigmata came before this stage of his life, and the book evokes the usual Dickian paranoia, disorientation, and melancholy that infuses all his best works, and done with very simple, unadorned prose. In fact, the book defines the Three Stigmata as alienation, blurred reality, and despair, symbolized by a mechanical arm, artificial eyes, and steel teeth.

In his story, Barney Mayerson is a precog who works for Perky Pat Layouts. His job is to use precognition to predict which accessories will become popular for users of the illegal drug Can-D, which allows users to escape into the world of Perky Pat and Walt, two Barbie and Ken-like characters who live an easy and bourgeois existence. The drug is used pervasively by off-world colonists, who live grim and miserable lives trying half-heartedly to establish human settlements, since the Earth is suffering from severe global warming.

What’s interesting is that users of Can-D think of the drug as a religious experience, and argue whether the “translation”, which lasts only a short time, is an actual physical transportation to another world, or merely an illusion. It’s also strange that the actual activities of Pat and Walt are fairly prosaic and superficial, like going to the beach, shopping, having casual sex, etc. The unique aspect of Can-D is that multiple users can occupy the person of Pat (women only) and Walt (men only), so the drug does serve as a shared communal experience, whether or not the experience is “real”.

Meanwhile, Barney’s boss Leo Bulero, a gruff and arrogant man, learns that Palmer Eldritch, a man who left the solar system 10 years ago to explore the Prox System, is coming back with a mysterious lichen that will allow him to produce a new and more insidious drug named Chew-Z. Although the details are initially not clear, it turns out that Chew-Z allows the user to be transported to an entirely different universe, one which the user himself can control and shape.

Leo Bulero, threated by this new rival drug to Can-D, decides to visit Palmer Eldritch where he is recuperating from the crash of his ship in an off-world hospital. Leo has been told by Barney and another precog that he will eventually kill Eldritch, but he decides to confront Eldritch anyway. Upon meeting him, Eldritch kidnaps Leo and forces him to try Chew-Z, and Leo discovers that Eldritch can control every aspect of the experience, even to the point of seemingly allowing Barney to go back to Earth. The illusion of reality in Chew-Z is exponentially more powerful than the brief and tawdry experience of Can-D, so Leo quickly recognizes that his business empire will be crushed if Chew-Z takes over on the off-world colonies.

Back on Earth, Barney Mayerson refuses to help Leo out when he is kidnapped by Eldritch, and as a result Leo fires him. Barney has also been romantically involved with his assistant and fellow precog Rondinella, but begins to regret separating from his former wife, who now designs pottery and has a new boyfriend. As his life on Earth deteriorates, Barney decides that he needs to do penance for past wrongs and volunteers to be sent to the Mars colony by the UN (most people do everything possible to avoid this fate).

Here Barney encounters other colonists using Can-D, but cannot bring himself to use it. Instead, he is there when Palmer Eldritch’s pushers come and try to get the colonists to switch to Chew-Z. In the meantime Leo Bulero has convinced him to serve as a double-agent and wants him to try Chew-Z, then develop a medical condition (epilepsy) as a result of the drug, thereby discouraging others from switching.

At this point the plot gets extremely convoluted (yes, more so!) as several characters get caught up in Chew-Z hallucinations, during which they frequently encounter the ominous Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, the mechanical arm, artificial eyes, and steel teeth. Both Barney and Leo start to travel in time and space and it’s not clear what is real and what is induced by Chew-Z.

In the middle of it all, the mysterious figure of Palmer Eldritch continues to manifest himself in the characters lives, seemingly all-powerful and yet trapped within the confines of his fate. It seems that Palmer Eldritch is no longer human, but instead may have become a god in the Prox system, or been taken over by something alien and powerful. Palmer’s motivations for spreading the use of Chew-Z in the solar system are unclear. In many ways, his existence seems a lonely one, and he actually tries through elaborate means to switch bodies with Barney to avoid his predestined death at the hands of Leo Bulero in the future.

Why would this powerful alien being, perhaps a manifestation of a much greater and more inscrutable god-like figure, need to avoid a death it can already foresee, and would prefer to have the dreary existence of Barney on Mars? PDK never answers this question, but instead throws out the sacrilegious idea that god may not be all-powerful, may indeed be lonely and lacking in purpose, but is still driven to manifest himself in the lives of humans, even if they do not want his intrusions. The way that PKD parallels drug-induced hallucinations with religious experiences is also quite bold, but would have found a ready audience in the tumultuous social upheavals and iconoclasm of the 1960s.

In the end, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is a very strange reality-bending book that spins off more ideas in 240 pages than many novelists conceive of in their entire careers. And while the reader is not spoon-fed any answers in the end, he is given plenty of food for thought, which makes this an excellent introduction to one of SF’s greatest minds.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews859 followers
August 4, 2016
My first encounter with the fiction of Philip K. Dick is his 1964 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. I was looking for something a bit challenging to read that wouldn't give me an ice cream headache. At my library, found a beautiful, barely read edition of this novel printed in 2011. PKD fans might fault my decision to make this title my introduction to the man's mind-bending tales of technological perversion, ecological disaster and the search for identity. I understand that he's written more palatable books. But I was hungry for his brand of science fiction and decided to feed the beast.

Set in the year 2016, the story begins with a precog named Barney Mayerson as he wakes up with a strange woman. Unable to remember last night (in spite of his precognitive abilities, what?), Mayerson consults a briefcase which links him to an artificial intelligence psychiatrist called Dr. Smile. He learns that the woman is named Roni Fugate, another precog, his new assistant at the firm he works for in New York, P.P. Layouts, Inc. Mayerson is consulting Dr. Smile in an attempt to beat his appointment with the United Nations, which has instituted a planetary draft exiling unlucky citizens to any of two planets or six moons that have been colonized throughout the solar system.

Life on Earth is no picnic anymore--with high temperatures in the 180s and cooling units mandated for anyone venturing out in daylight--while life on the colonies is so despairing that the only means of survival is an illegal hallucinogen called CAN-D, which in concert with set decor known as "layouts" briefly whisk the colonist to virtual reality Earth. The precog's job is to predict which decor pieces in development will become "fash." Mayerson, who seems to be a mediocre psychic, rates a Class A prick, having divorced his sculptor wife Emily after she became pregnant, violating their building code and putting his cushy apartment at risk. He takes a meeting with Emily's new husband but rejects the pots she's crafted out of his bitterness toward her.

Mayerson's boss Leo Bulero has paid top dollar to undergo E therapy treatment and become what's known as an evolved human, accepting some physical side effects (the evolved humans are referred to as "bubbleheads") for next level cognitive abilities. Bulero is anxious about a crash landing on Pluto. The crew is believed to be Palmer Eldritch, a huckster who departed for the Prox system ten years ago looking for new business ventures. Bulero believes that Palmer found a drug even more powerful than CAN-D and he intends to wipe out the drug trade P.P. Layouts monopolizes in the colonies. Using his UN connections to determine Eldritch's location on Ganymede, Bulero heads there, in spite of Mayerson's warning that he will be indicted for Palmer Eldritch's murder.

Bulero is put under the spell of Chew-Z, the hallucinogen that Eldritch intends to replace CAN-D with on the colonies. Chew-Z drops the user into a reality of their own design where Palmer Eldritch, or some entity pretending to be Palmer Eldritch, can hop in and out, tormenting the user for an eternity, while their physical body remains in repose for what passes for seconds or minutes. Bulero is released from his hell, uncertain whether he's back in reality or not. Returning to Earth, he fires Mayerson for refusing to rescue him. Feeling sorry for about himself, Mayerson volunteers for resettlement and arrives on Mars, where he encounters Palmer Eldritch on the first stop in the being's magical mystery tour to conquer mankind.

Keeping with the mind-bending nature of Philip K. Dick's work, I'm going to write the rest of this review from two different time periods simultaneously.

1964 Joe: Far out, man. I dug a lot of the stuff going on at the periphery of this novel. Flying taxi cabs and a personal computer that fits into a suitcase. Some of it was hard to picture, you know, like radical gene therapy treatment that gives people bubble heads, but I like what PKD is saying about higher consciousness in the 21st century being available only to the super-rich.

2016 Joe: Come on, man. I've seen this story a dozen times or more. PKD actually begins with his main character waking up in bed with a strange woman and no idea of how he got there. I not only found that cliched but inconsistent. Wouldn't a precog wouldn't know where he was? Unlike Minority Report, the precog and the unique nature of their abilities even wasn't a major part of the story.

1964 Joe: I felt my brain expanding a bit while reading this, which is what I'd hoped for. I hope I don't turn into a bubblehead, but I liked how PKD begins to question the structure of reality. The reader is never entirely sure what is going on once the drug fueled trips begin and I liked that!

2016 Joe: I felt the characters were bland. PKD cannot write women--which seems to be a common failing in the '50s and '60s science fiction--but it was hard for me to care what became of Barney Mayerson. For a precog, he doesn't seem to be good at his job.

1964 Joe: The book gets damn readable when the precogs predict Leo Bulero will kill Palmer Eldritch, but the executive takes off in search of Eldritch anyway. Pacing lags a bit but picks up when Mayerson is exiled to Mars.

2016 Joe: PKD doesn't offer the reader anything in the way of memorable dialogue or bold prose that prompted me to stop and make note. When I can race through a novel at 55 mph without seeing anything that makes me want to pull over and smell the roses, something's not right.

1964 Joe: PKD communicates his ideas pretty effectively with a bare minimum of head scratching, but I do think the more time the reader has to chew on some of his concepts and speculations, the better his writing gets. I walked out of Blade Runner the first time I saw it.

2016 Joe: Where are my flying taxis? Where are my colonies on Luna? Precogs? As a work of speculation, this one fails pretty dramatically. It's probably never a good idea for a science fiction author to give the reader a year the story is taking place in.

1964 Joe: I really hope that mankind gets it together when it comes to overpopulating and poisoning the planet. NASA will probably have colonies on the moon and Mars pretty soon but I'm not volunteering to move up there. PKD's empathy for the planet and his warnings should be heeded.

2016 Joe: I don't feel the need to run out and devour everything PKD has ever written, but considering this is one of his books that actually hasn't been adapted into a movie (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly), it was a good place to start.

1964 Joe: I don't feel the need to run out and devour everything PKD has ever written, but am intrigued by what the author will come up with next.
Profile Image for Warwick.
845 reviews14.6k followers
September 26, 2018
In 1963, while walking to his shed to do some writing, Philip K Dick experienced a ‘devastating vision of a cruelly masked human face in the sky’. Two years later, he published this book, so you, too, can experience a psychotic breakdown – from a relatively safe distance.

I really enjoyed Palmer Eldritch purely on the level of weirdness – it's one of the weirdest novels I've read for some time. Although there is a lot that doesn't add up in the plot, and some irritating flaws in the characterisation, there was always a running sense of What the fuck is that?, which is something I look for in any kind of art.

First of all, the general context is ludicrously, unnecessarily odd. It concerns a company that mass-produces miniature furniture and accoutrements which can be bought by colonists on Mars to be used in the miniature town layouts the colonists all have in their hovels – and the reason these Mars colonists all have miniature town layouts in their hovels is because they all take a mind-altering drug called Can-D which allows them to hallucinate their way into the dolls that inhabit this miniature town, as a break from the monotony of life in a hovel on Mars.

Now, you can just about introduce all this stuff in running prose, but you never get away from the sense that it's a reeaally convoluted set-up for a novel. Any ordinary book would be about the life of someone on Mars, or travelling there in a spaceship or whatever – but no, let's make this about a load of executives in a company that produces miniature fucking ceramic pots. Why would you do this!?

Not that I didn't like it, exactly, just that it was…heroically strange, and meant you were always face-to-face with the extreme improbability of what you were reading about. But then what actually happens against this background is even weirder and less probable. It's built on a profound instability around the concept of what's ‘real’: dream sequences, hallucinations, whole chapters that may not really have ‘happened’, the childlike nightmare sense of waking up from a dream into another dream, and wondering how deep it goes.

It was pubished in 1965 and feels very of its time: there is something clearly psychedelic about this linking of subjective hallucination with deep paranoia. It's amazing to find that Dick had not yet tried acid when he wrote this (and reading it, you feel that he's the sort of person who probably shouldn't). He had experienced his own kind of instability of reality, though, in the form of the vision that prompted this novel. The masked face was the start of what would become the genuinely horrifying figure of Palmer Eldritch in this book – a man with a robotic arm, metal teeth, and cybernetic eyes, who might perhaps not be a man at all but rather an alien, or a galactic virus, or – and now we get to the point – God.

At first I found the religious theorising in Palmer Eldritch a bit of a distraction, but it evolves so much that you can't help getting caught up in it. Drug-induced hallucinations are equated with religious experiences, not in order to devalue religion, and not really in order to elevate drug use – more just to demonstrate, I think, that altered states of mind are a natural part of the human experience, of how the human brain functions. And that however they come, they can be meaningful and they can also be dangerous.

As someone reading a load of Dick for the first time, this book also has the rare advantage of never having been filmed, so I came to it with zero prior understanding. I leave it with even less understanding, but the journey was great fun.
Profile Image for Carmine.
593 reviews59 followers
February 22, 2020
Invasione interna

"Dio ha promesso la vita eterna; io posso metterla in commercio."

Lettura dalle molteplici interpretazioni, a tratti straripante per il devastante contenuto.
La cinica visione dell'autore mette alla berlina le nostre contraddizioni e insoddisfazioni: l'umanità tratteggiata è totalmente allo sbando, in perenne ricerca di sicurezza.
Il disperato bisogno d'evadere -vedi gli inquietanti modellini di Perkie Pat e Walt - si concretizza in un tremendo distacco dalla realtà, mentre i punti di riferimento diventano qualcosa di aleatorio e sfuggente.
Dio non c'è, forse non è mai esistito e ci siamo illusi per tutto questo tempo.
L'assenza totale del divino porta l'umanità a sostituire l'indispensabile figura in qualcos'altro: che sia Leo Bulero, Palmer Eldtrich, oppure noi stessi che ci confortiamo in una dimensione tutta nostra, non ha importanza; il punto è che necessitiamo di certezze e chiunque coglie tale malessere può fare bello e cattivo tempo a spese nostre.
Profile Image for Tijana.
767 reviews206 followers
December 4, 2018
Filip K. Dik je pisac koji uvek i bez izuzetka nudi brzu i ludu vožnju kroz različite nivoe realnosti. Sa logikom se generalno možemo pozdraviti negde oko prve trećine date knjige (a nekad i ranije, jeste, "Tecite suze moje, reče policajac", u vas gledam) ali uvek je istovremeno zabavno i izazovno i nadahnjuje na razmišljanje o ljudskoj prirodi, prirodi vere i prirodi stvarnosti. Iako je pripovedanje u cap-cap maniru, likovi uglavnom na ivici između skice i karikature a stil, hm, koji stil?* Neshvatljivo je kako mu to polazi za rukom.
I to sve važi i za Tri stigmate (koje su inače sasvim u duhu onog nabrajanja iz Crvenkape i verovatno njime inspirisane: ruka, oči i zubi).

*Kod nas je Dik obično dodatno zamućen prevodima, npr. ovaj koji sam čitala je dobar utoliko što prevodilac Fančović zaista prevodi u duhu govornog jezika i čitalac se razneži na svako "jooj", ali s druge strane ima brljotina i momenata kao kad se droga Can-D prevodi sa "Moćni D", pa zar nije blizu pameti da bi nešto poput "Bombo-N" bolje obavilo posao -.-
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
875 reviews2,273 followers
April 19, 2021

Chew-Z Versus Can-D

For about 70% of this novel, it is as fluently and playfully written as Kurt Vonnegut's fiction from the same period (the mid-sixties).

However, as it moves to some kind of conclusion in the last 30%, it becomes more enigmatic.

The plot takes place variously on Earth and on Mars, and in the imagination of its characters. For the last 30% of the novel, it's often difficult to understand where it is taking place.

This is largely because the characters are taking hallucinogenic drugs, either on Earth or Mars, or in transit between the two planets.

One drug is called Can-D, which is produced and distributed by a subsidiary of P. P. Layouts (chaired by Leo Bulero), while the other is called Chew-Z (and is distributed by a rival of Leo Bulero, Palmer Eldritch).

While the drugs are not strictly legal, they are marketed with the complicity of the UN Narcotics Control Bureau (which is obtained by an enormous yearly tribute paid to the UN for immunity).

Xanthoria parietina (a leafy lichen)

Can-D is derived from Titanian lichen grown on heavily guarded plantations on Venus. Leo describes it as "like religion; Can-D is the religion of the colonists...It provides a reason for living."

Chew-Z is derived from a similar (non-Sol) lichen that is grown on a planet outside the Earth's solar system in the solar system of a star called Prox. The Proxers use it themselves, "in religious orgies. As our Indians made use of mescal and peyotl." The marketing slogan is "Be choosy. Chew Chew-Z."

Palmer Eldritch has spent ten years developing and producing his substitute, but is seriously injured on his return from Prox when his intersystem ship crashes on Jupiter. He's now recovering in a hospital on Ganymede, although there are homeopape rumours that he has died.

Source: https://innerpeacerecords.bandcamp.co...

Varieties of Religious and Hallucinogenic Experience

Leo is threatened by the new drug. "Palmer Eldritch is horning into my business and if he does I'll probably be ruined..." Chew-Z is like Pepsi to his Coke. What value is the monopoly with respect to his secret recipe, if somebody can imitate (or improve on) its effect by discovering an alternative lichen-base? "Can-D is obsolete, because what does it do? It provides a few moments of escape, nothing but fantasy."

Chew-Z, on the other hand, delivers an experience that is supposedly better than religion. Palmer Eldritch claims -

"God promises eternal life. I can do better; I can deliver it...You're not just out of your body; you're out of your mind, too...When we return to our former bodies...you'll find that no time has passed...It will only be after a few tries that they realise the two different aspects: the lack of a time lapse and the other, perhaps the more vital. That it isn't fantasy, that they enter a genuine new universe...

"...each person goes to a different subjective world..."

"Be anything you want - you took the drug; you're entitled to be translated into whatever pleases you. It's not real, of course...it's an hallucination. What makes it seem real is that certain prophetic aspects get into the experience, exactly as with dreams."

It's a simulated world, a simulacrum. The subject can experience this world as a different person:

"That's why I say it means genuine reincarnation, triumph over death."

The subject can also create the content of the other world; it's a subjective world or universe, including not only good, but evil:

"They're a product of my mind, not of the lichen."

"It takes a certain amount of courage, he thought, to face yourself and say with candour, I'm rotten. I've done evil and I will again. It was no accident; it emanated from the true, authentic me."

Still, "Without Mr. Eldritch's animating presence, nothing can sustain this world...It's all the same, it's all him, the creator. That's who and what he is, he realised. The owner of these worlds."

"Most of what Eldritch did - or does, if you prefer to regard it that way - consists of manufacturing surface changes: he makes things appear the way he wants, but that doesn't mean they are. Follow me?"

"The fantasy worlds that Chew-Z induces, he thought, are in Palmer Eldritch's head...And the trouble is, he thought, that once you get into one of them, you can't quite scramble back out; it stays with you, even when you think you're free. It's a one-way gate...The rest of us [mere phantasms] just inhabit them and when he wants to he can inhabit them, too...Even be any of us, in fact, if he desires. Eternal, outside of time and spliced together segments of all other dimensions...he can even enter a world in which he's dead."

This leads to the conclusion that "Palmer Eldritch had gone to Prox a man and returned a god."

"What met Eldritch and entered him, what we're confronting, is a being superior to ourselves and as you say we can't judge it or make sense out of what it does or wants; it's mysterious and beyond us...Something which stands with empty, open hands is not God. It's a creature fashioned by something higher than itself, as we were; God wasn't fashioned and He isn't puzzled."

Leo disputes Eldritch's claims for Chew-Z. He also believes that, in contrast, "with Can-D you undergo a valid interpersonal experience," in that your peers share the experience. It's a "communal world".

Leo departs for Ganymede to ensure, by any means necessary, that Eldritch ceases to be a threat. Barney Mayerson's precog powers convince him that at some time in the future Palmer Eldritch will die at the hands of Leo, and Leo will be charged with the first degree murder of Palmer Eldritch. Barney vows to help Leo achieve his goal.

The difference between Can-D and Chew-Z is that the areas you go when you hallucinate on Chew-Z can be controlled, e.g., by Palmer Eldritch (although there's a suggestion that they might be controlled by the humanoid inhabitants on Prox, the Proxers [a rumour which the novel later describes as "trash"]).

Paradoxically, we encounter Palmer Eldritch, in the apparent present of a Chew-Z hallucination, to where he might have been projected from some time in the future before his death. His presence in an hallucination in the future can be experienced as real in the apparent present. So when we meet Palmer in the present, it's unclear whether it is the perception of the actual, or whether he is already dead, and is just a projection from some time in the future. Likewise, it's not clear whether a person who appears in an hallucination is just a simulacrum or a "disfigured dream". In the present of an hallucinatory simulacrum, Leo queries whether "Palmer Eldritch wants to kill me."

"The ability of phantasms to manipulate material objects makes it clear that they are present and not merely projections."

We also learn that "They're very religious in the colonies...It's primarily the use of that drug, Can-D. It's brought about a lot of conversions to the established churches...although many of the colonists find in the drug itself a religious experience that's adequate for them..."

It doesn't matter that "the Earth it takes you to isn't the real one."

What matters is that, like dreams, "It's experienced as real."

Ancient Blights and Old Time Plagues

Leo Bulero believes that religions are fantasies. Palmer Eldritch plays his messianic role with the benefit of three fake stigmata: he has steel teeth, an artificial right arm, and horizontally slotted artificial eyes. They represent "the evil, negative trinity of alienation, blurred reality, and despair that Eldritch brought back with him from Proxima. Or rather from the space in between."

Leo convinces us that religion, like hallucinatory drugs, is "an old-time plague, [an ancient blight] that's partly spoiled and destroyed our holiness."

Profile Image for StefanP.
148 reviews80 followers
February 16, 2019

Mislim, na kraju krajeva; morate uzeti u obzir da smo napravljeni samo od prašine. Mora se priznati da se iz toga ne može izvući baš mnogo i to ne bi trebalo da zaboravimo. Ali kad se sve uzme u obzir, mislim, to je nekako loš početak, ne ide nam baš loše. Pa ja lično vjerujem da čak i u ovoj gadnoj situaciji u kojoj se nalazimo, možemo da se provučemo. Jesam li jasan?

Roman Tri stigmate Palmera Eldriča predstavlja jedno uvrnuto ostvarenje koje pruža nove, izmjenjene dimenzije realnosti, prekognitivnu sposobnost kao i mogućnost da se rekonstruiše prošlost. Knjiga se obimom lepeze bavi teološkim pitanjima, granice dopiranja svijesti, da li čovjek ima slobodnu volju i šta je ona za njega, traganje za sopstvenim identitetom kao i reverzibilnom autentičnom stvarnošću. Dik uz jednostvanu priču uspijeva da stiže na sve strane, ne ostavljajući čitaoca da se zamara, čak imate osjećaj dok čitate da vi zapravo pišete knjigu, da vi dopirete do njenih likova. To samo govori o municioznosti njegovog pisanja.

TsPE se odnosi na konkurenciju halucinogenih "droga" između korporacije kojom upravlja Leo Bulero i njegovog najvećeg antipoda Palmera Eldriča. Radi održivosti i podnošljivosti sve bijednijeg života na marsu ljudi koriste "Moćni D." Međutim daleko bolji placebo "Žvaku Z" posjeduje Palmer Eldrič.

Zanimljivo je da je Eldrič stvaralac novog svijeta. Eldričovo dijelovanje ostvaruje se kroz konzumaciju "Žvake Z" uz pomoću koje osoba ulazi u novu stvarnost, onu stvarnost koja tek treba da se ostvari i koja je nezavisna od tzv. "primarne stvarnosti." Ta iluzija nove stvarnosti omogućava da se prošlost promijeni i izniveliše sa sadašnjom stvarnošću (primarnom). Mada kod Dika se može primjetiti da između iluzije i stvarnosti nema nikakvog posrednika, da se iluzija i stvarnost stapaju u jedno. To je njegovo polje u kome se igra sa transcedentalnošću. Poslije uzimanja halucinogene "Žvake Z" tijelo kao da ostaje u stanju hibernacije dok um pliva po iluziji stvarnosti. Dok se sve ostalo čini kao utvara ili projekcija. FKD nam tu vjerovatno govori u bestijelesnosti i telepatiji. Putovanje duše u beskrajnom kosmosu. Ovo sve govori u prilog kada Eldrič pita 'Mejersona' da ga pretvori u kamen ne bi li on bio pored jezera milonima godina i osluškivao zvukove vode.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,172 reviews70 followers
June 19, 2023
Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) is better known today than he was in life and perhaps best-known for his story that the movie "Blade Runner" was based on. For me, his book "The Man in the High Castle"(1962) is one of my favorite SF books, a book I first read when I was in 6th grade. I found Dick's depiction of an America under the control of German and Japanese conquerors to be disturbing...the idea of a defeated America was hard to accept for a kid who enjoyed watching John Wayne films!
"The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" was published in 1964 and I first read it in the 90s. And even though I was an adult, I also found it disturbing. The story is about a man of mystery- Palmer Eldritch--who returns from a trip to the Proxima system bearing a gift for mankind. It's the drug "Chew-Z" capable of transporting people to illusory worlds. In the world of 2016 (when the Earth has heated up and Antarctica is a beach resort), the drug appeals especially to the lonely colonists of Mars. But this gift has a price.... I have to say I did not find the book so disturbing upon a second reading-- in this the "real" year of 2016. The reason is that I find the reality of our political situation to be even more disturbing. Hopefully, however, Trump will not be another Eldritch Palmer!
Profile Image for Eirini Proikaki.
339 reviews113 followers
July 7, 2017
Είναι το τρίτο βιβλίο του Ντικ που διαβάζω και νομίζω οτι θα γίνω φαν.Ψάχνοντας πληροφορίες στο διαδίκτυο είδα οτι ήταν ιδιαίτερος άνθρωπος με βαθιές κοινωνικές και θρησκευτικές ανησυχίες και πολυτάραχη προσωπική ζωή.Μια δίδυμη αδερφή που πέθανε πολύ νωρίς στους πρώτους μήνες της ζωής τους,γονείς που χώρισαν οταν ήταν πέντε χρονών,πέντε γάμοι,τρία παιδιά,φτώχεια σε σημείο να τρώει σκυλοτροφή για να ζήσει,ναρκωτικά,ερωτικές απογοητεύσεις ,κατάθλιψη,απόπειρες αυτοκτονίας και έντονο φλερτ με την τρέλα προς το τέλος της ζωής του.
Έγραψε "Tα τρία στίγματα του Πάλμερ Έλντριτς" μετά απο μια μεταφυσική εμπειρία που είχε όταν "είδε" στον ουρανό ένα μοχθηρό πρόσωπο με σχιστά μάτια και θεώρησε οτι είδε το πρόσωπο του κακού που κυβερνάει τον κόσμο.
Το βιβλίο μου άρεσε πολύ και μου θύμισε λίγο Inception,"a dream within a dream".Σε έναν κόσμο οπου πολλοί χρησιμοποιούν τα ναρκωτικά για να ξεφύγουν απο τη μιζερια μέσα στην οποία ζουν,ποτέ δεν καταλαβαίνεις πού σταματάει η παραίσθηση και που ξεκινάει η πραγματικότητα.Είναι όμως παραίσθηση;Και ποιά είναι η πραγματικότητα τελικά;Ποιος είναι ο Πάλμερ Έλντριτς και τι σκοπούς έχει;
Profile Image for R..
905 reviews113 followers
July 1, 2009
An incredibly prescient satire on multimedia* addiction - losing oneself in artificial environments to escape (or at least muffle) an undesirable reality.

The picture PKD paints of the sad Martian colonists taking drugs and playing with dolls (becoming one with the dolls) reminds me of the...stereotypical...image the world has of the American nerd stuffing himself with junkfood and playing Sims, losing track of the time, of the day while living a better - or at least dynamic - life on a more vibrant earth.

...ultimately a mind-blowing foray into Gnostic theology; also, the bit about the telepathic Martian jackal was hilarious.

*Keep in mind that in PKD's time, multimedia was...the telephone, the television and the radio. Though, sure...there were pirate radio broadcasts and TV broadcasts, and the telephone lines were open to hackers seeking free long distance calls - no doubt PKD's milieu incorporated a phreaker or two among the freaks - but, still, credit where credit is due. And credit is due.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
709 reviews113 followers
September 28, 2022
So, PKD's characters are the equivalent of stick figures. His world building is little more than hasty line sketches. His prose is barely adequate. So why the hell did I rate this book four stars?

PDK put it pretty well himself. In his Exegesis he had this to say about his writing:
“I don’t write beautifully - I just write reports about our condition. I am an analyzer. These reports must take trashy SF forms for the delusional world has no use for gnosis, so camouflage is necessary.”

PDK’s ideas in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch are HUGE. He plays with the nature of reality and illusion. He questions the basic concepts of Identity. He explores the ancient mysteries of Gnosticism within a thoroughly modern context. And along the way he manages to replicate the authentic feel of a nightmare and maintain it for the entire length of his novel - an impressive feat. With all he gives you to think about, you won't have time to complain about flat characters or inelegant prose.
Profile Image for Maria Dobos.
108 reviews44 followers
February 21, 2017
Uneori, cărțile lui Philip K. Dick îmi par a fi scoase dintr-un vis: întreaga lume își pierde substanța, trecutul, prezentul și zeci de variante ale viitorului se contopesc, cauzalitatea este doar o amintire, iar mintea nu poate să distingă adevărul de halucinație...
Profile Image for Diana.
349 reviews87 followers
April 18, 2019
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch [1964] – ★★★★1/2

This is my fourth Philip K. Dick novel (previously, I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [1968], A Scanner Darkly [1977] and Ubik [1969]). This story is set in future and follows Barney Mayerson, an employee of P.P (Perky Pat) Layouts, a firm which specialises in providing layouts which can be used for drug experience when customers (those in space colonies) take illegal hallucinatory drug Can-D, which can recreate a perfect life when one takes it. Mayerson finds out that Palmer Eldritch, a man who went to another star system some years previous, has returned to the Solar System and is bringing with him an even more potent drug than Can-D, and it is called Chew-Z. However, soon suspicions mount that the experience with Chew-Z may not be what everybody thinks it is. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is messier and more chaotic that some of the author’s later, better known novels, but it is still an entertaining read with all the expected typically Philip K. Dick philosophical considerations and thought-provoking situations. Even if the world he presents this time is tackier and crazier than usual, the author still manages to suspend our disbelief as we plunge deep into this addictive and well-constructed futuristic world where our usual understanding of reality is turned upside down.

As is the case with some other Philip K. Dick novels, from the very first page, we are thrust straight into the heart of the fast-paced narrative in this futuristic world, and it may take a couple of pages to catch one’s breath and realise what is really going on. The future described is not altogether rosy: Earth’s temperature is rising and some people are deported to live on other planets where life is hard and meaningless. Futuristic technology is also abound, such as a homeopape, a news-giving device or digital newspaper, and there is a process of evolving humans to the next stage in evolution. This is also the world of interstellar travel, and precogs, people who can anticipate certain future events as possible options. These are employed by certain organisations who want to have an advantage over their competitors.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch deals with philosophical questions, but they are presented in an entertaining fashion as part of the story and one, therefore, hardly notices that the message overall is serious. This book by Philip K. Dick slides into this experience of paranoia fast, asking if there is a bigger entity out there which may be controlling people’s lives. Some Philip K. Dick books are about such paranoia, but pigeonholing his books in that way is unhelpful. Stephen King once wrote that “perfect paranoia is perfect awareness.” The leading characters in this story have that awareness, constantly questioning their reality, trying to differentiate between what is real and what is their hallucinatory experience when they take drugs. This task is not as easy as it may appear, and this issue is actually more topical now when we see advances in quantum mechanics which actually state that time is essentially an illusion and what we believe as real may not actually be what is out there (see also the mystery of the double-slit experiment). The author plays with space-time continuum, paradoxes, as well as with our expectations in general. Other typically Philip K. Dick’s themes are also present, including organisation vs. individual battle, anti-materialism, and free will vs. determinism debate.

Drugs and drug hallucinations are, of course, the main preoccupation of the author in this novel, and he makes a point that drugs have a powerful grip on the user, who resorts to them to escape the horrors and traumas of his or her daily life. Through the narrative, the author seems to be asking a question – if hallucinations are indistinguishable from reality, does the difference really matter for the one who experiences it? One philosophical theory says that we can only be sure of our own experience because we can only verify our own existence and we should simply take other people’s word that they also exist and experience life.

One of the weaknesses of this book is that it is more confusing as to its overall and main theme and messier in narrative than Philip K. Dick’s later books. The right word would probably be “crazier”- this book is “crazier” than the three others I have read and, to me, it seems to fuse themes from A Scanner Darkly (drug world) with themes from Ubik (controlled alternate reality). Like with my previous read – Ubik, I thought the main character or theme – Palmer Eldritch and his Three Stigmata were unclear and caricaturishly presented. The subject of the title remains almost obscure and certainly under-thought. Some events in the novel are also happening too quickly, while quieter, introspective moments are to be found near the end of the book.

Fast-paced and relentlessly entertaining, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch may be a crazy ride, but it is also as intelligent and deep as only Philip K. Dick could master. The readers will need to be prepared to take a quite large leap of faith, but, when they do, they will be rewarded since the world they would step into is vivid, magnetic and ceaselessly inventive, with nice surprises along the way.
Profile Image for Matthew.
102 reviews3 followers
October 3, 2007
I'm a fan of Philip K. Dick, but I read his stuff years ago. I eagerly sought this book out because I heard from a couple of people that this one was one of his best. Maybe I merely disagree, maybe my affection for PKD has waned, maybe I need more now than he can give.

Dick is famous for his drug use and for taking speed before cranking out an entire novel in fifteen hours flat. This book, to me, feels like his most drug-influenced book. Not because of his crazy ideas, those are to be expected. It's because you get the feeling that he throws things into the story as they occur to him and made no effort to smooth things over in a subsequent draft. He switches gears on a whim and those whims come at the rate of about fifteen to twenty per scene.

If you're a big fan of PKD, go ahead and check this out. If not, you'll probably want to avoid it.
Profile Image for Angie Dutton.
101 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2021
Phillip K Dick is the gift that just keeps on giving.

I was pretty disappointed with the VALIS books I've read so far, not because they are bad but because people say they are soooo crazy and insane... but to me they weren't, they were just political literature with a spiritual bent. I'd still not read any truly "crazy and insane" Phillip K Dick books... I'd not felt warped yet... but after Palmer Eldritch I finally felt warped, the last quarter or so of this book is unputdownable. It's like Being John Malkovitch meets Independence Day. Highly recommend this one to really see how complex and odd Dick can be.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
February 11, 2015
Celebrity Death Match Special: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch versus The Tale of Two Bad Mice

"You see them often?" asked Hunca. Her tone was casual, but Tom immediately caught the edge in her voice.

"Who do you mean?" he said, pretending not to understand. It was a strategy that had worked before.

Hunca moved a step closer to the layout. "The Chinese," she breathed, unable to contain her excitement any longer as she gazed at the doll's-house. Her ample breasts rose and fell under the thin synthasilk sweater. "I know you meet them all the time. You must have some."

Tom calculated rapidly: none of the other colonists would be back for at least an hour. That should be enough. He reached into his pouch and pulled out the sticks of MAO-Z.

"Jesus Christ!" Hunca's eyes shone as she grabbed one of the sticks for herself. "You bastard! Six whole units!" She avidly unwapped the foil and popped the stick into her mouth. Tom did the same. For a few seconds, they both said nothing, chewing as quickly as they could. Then the change operated, and they were inside the layout.

Tom looked at Hunca; even in her rodent body, she was still very attractive. He put a clawed hand on her haunch, but she pushed him away.

"Food first," she said, her eyes fixed on the table. "It looks good, doesn't it?" Tom had to agree. The sight of the glazed ham made his mouth water, and the lobsters were if anything even more appetizing. Why not? They had plenty of time. He seized a knife and started to carve the ham.

The knife buckled in his hand; the meat was rock hard. Hunca stared at him, appalled. Tom tried the lobsters, but he already knew what he would find. They had also petrified. Evidently, Palmer Eldritch's power now extended even into the layouts.

"Oh no!" sobbed Hunca as mouse-tears trickled down her cheeks, moving with exaggerated slowness in the Martian gravity. "What are we going to do?"
Profile Image for Effie (she-her).
575 reviews81 followers
August 26, 2018
Βρισκόμαστε κάπου στο κοντινό μέλλον. Η Γη έχει αποικίσει την Αφροδίτη, τον Άρη, τη Σελήνη και κάποια άλλα φεγγάρια. Οι περισσότεροι πλανήτες είναι άγονοι και η μόνη διασκέδαση των αποίκων είναι το παράνομο ναρκωτικό Καν-ντι το οποίο τους προμηθεύει η εταιρεία Μελέτες Κατασκευών Πεταχτούλα Πατ. Η εταιρεία αυτή εξειδικεύεται στο να φτιάχνει μινιατούρες για τα σκηνικά τα οποία πρωταγωνιστούν στις φαντασιώσεις των αποίκων κατά τη χρήση του Καν-ντι. Ο Μπάρνι Μάγερσον είναι πρόγνωσης προμόδας σε αυτή την εταιρεία και δουλειά του είναι να προβλέπει ποιες απ' τις μινιατούρες θα γίνουν περιζήτητες από τους αποίκους. Όλα πάνε σχετικά καλά μέχρι που ένας πασίγνωστος επιχειρηματίας, ο Πάλμερ Έλντριτς, επιστρέφει από τον Προξίμα του Κενταύρου. Τότε η πραγματικότητα αρχίζει να μπλέκεται με τις παραισθήσεις μέχρι που είναι αδύνατο να ξεχωρίσει κανείς ποια είναι ποια.

Ξέρω τι σκέφτεστε. Πόσα ναρκωτικά είχε πάρει ο Dick όταν έγραφε τα βιβλίο. Η απάντηση είναι πιθανότατα πολλά μιας και είναι γνωστό ότι πειραματιζόταν με παραισθησιογόνα. Και που να διαβάσετε το βιβλίο! Μέσα απ' αυτό το σουρεαλιστικό σύμπαν όμως ο Dick θέτει καίρια ερωτήματα για το πώς αντιλαμβανόμαστε την πραγματικότητα, το θεό, την ύπαρξη μας και διάφορα άλλα ζητήματα. Είναι ένα βιβλίο που χρειάζεται την αμέριστη προσοχή του αναγνώστη. Δε θα το πρότεινα σε καμία περίπτωση για κάποιον αρχάριο στην επιστημονική φαντασία ή ως γνωριμία με τον Philip Dick. Αν όμως θέλετε να διαβάσετε κάτι που θα σας δώσει τροφή για σκέψη, τότε το προτείνω ανεπιφύλακτα!
Profile Image for George Kaslov.
100 reviews138 followers
January 25, 2022
Oh goodie another PKD novel, Lets go through the checklist.

Dystopia: Catastrophic global warming and the UN sending people against their will to off-world colonies. Check.
Capitalist Satire: One of the greatest life goals is to live in an apartment building with the lowest address number possible. Check.
Drugs: Look at the book description in the back. Check.
Religious iconography: Look at the title at the front. Check.
Reality: It's PKD, so... Maybe.
Protagonist with petty concerns while facing cosmic uncertainty: The guy mostly worries about not getting wiped out by competition. Check.
Emotional Hook: Missing in Action

And that last bit is why it is a 3 for me. Everything that makes a PKD novel a PKD novel is here.
It is an interesting trip, but I just could not make myself care about the characters. Sometimes I think that if this was the first Philip K. Dick novel i read that i would have given it 4 stars instead.
Profile Image for Carlex.
535 reviews100 followers
February 27, 2020
Three and a half stars.

Philip K. Dick unchained. Such a trip!
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