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“From the stuff of space opera, Dick spins a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you’ll never be sure you’ve woken up from.”—Lev Grossman, Time

Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business—deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in “half-life,” a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter’s face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.

“More brilliant than similar experiments conducted by Pynchon or DeLillo.”—Roberto Bolaño

224 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 1969

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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 5,939 reviews
Profile Image for RandomAnthony.
394 reviews110 followers
January 3, 2011
Phillip K Dick's Ubik flirts with perfection. I inhaled this novel over three days when one of my kids was sick and Christmas break was ending. I started the book on the couch during a Mythbusters marathon. By page fifty I wanted to shut the door and leave my kids to forage in the refrigerator for Gatorade and string cheese. And on Sunday night, when I closed the book, I felt satisfied and excited with a novel in a way that doesn't happen much. Ubik is fun, smart, and exhilarating.

Ok, let me take a shot at the plot summary. Joe Chip works for a team that shields organizations and the general public from illegal super-psychological activity like, for example, the unethical use of precognition. I think. Anyway, Mr. Chip is down and out, almost too broke to pay the nickel necessary to operate his apartment door. He is charged by his employer (and his employer's wife, currently in “half-life”, a finite state in which the dead and living can interact) with leading a team to Luna in search of the criminals of whom they lost track. From there Ubik takes off into territory defying summarization. I'd need a chart to track all the turns and potentialities. The novel addresses Chip's attempt to separate multiple realities and discern exactly who he is, where he is, and when he is. Somewhere in there Dick batters around the I-Ching and Plato's form philosophy. Ubik's genius emerges in Dick's obsessive attention to detail. He's a remarkably disciplined writer for a guy who sounds completely messed up (more on his biography in a second). The novel never goes dry; Dick balances the esoteric, theoretical analysis with an urgent storyline. Joe Chip's inner monologue, his attempts to piece together the myriad of clues pointing to the establishment and resolution of his questions, is paranoid, desperate, and brilliant. Ubik, and PKD's work in general, is a significant element of the genre's template. This is the third PKD novel I've read, and although I don't want to snap them up in a rush, I'll hit more this year.

Oh, I should mention that I read the Library of America edition of this novel. The LOA edition (you know, those heavy black books with the nifty attached bookmark) includes three other novels, notes from Jonathan Lethem, and a detailed author timeline/biography. Holy hell, PDK lived a fucked-up life, between social anxiety, industrial strength drug use, and multiple stints in psychiatric care. That said, I love the fact this novel was published in 1969. Put Ubik in your summer of love pipe and smoke it, hippies.

I don't want to become a star-whore. Over the last year I've assigned four books five stars. Maybe I'm getting soft. The little note over the fifth star, however, reads “It was amazing”, and those three words fit Ubik, so I'm sticking with the fifth star. This novel is the poster child for the difference between workmanlike genre fiction (nothing wrong with that) and the kind that makes you want to jump and down with your hands in the air like you're a twelve year old at his first rock concert. I want to hang its poster over my bed and blow kisses to Ubik before I fall asleep.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
February 26, 2023
I began reading some of Philip K. Dick’s short stories and quickly became hooked. His style and imagination have left an indelible mark on science fiction since and his influence is unmistakable. His novels are genius, and Ubik may be the best one I have read yet.

Telling an inventive sci-fi tale that is entertaining on its surface, this is also a theological metaphor that keeps the reader thinking and trying to figure out what in the world PKD is getting at. His brilliance is compelling and his forays into a more absurd fiction only heighten his return to substantial narrative, but all is held together by his unmistakable voice.

Ubik explores many of his usual themes like alienation, isolation, theological mystery and a disconnection with advancing technology. PKD is one of the more cerebral of the genre’s authors and if Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke are the “Big Three” of hard science fiction I would submit that Dick, Bradbury and Le Guin are the masters of the soft science fiction side of the house.

For a PKD fan, Ubik is a must read, but it is a fine book all by itself and would be a good introduction into his world.

** 2019 addendum - it is a testament to great literature that a reader recalls the work years later and this is a book about which I frequently think.

*** 2023 reread -

One of the all time great science fiction novels.

Philip K. Dick first published this in 1969, at the height of his considerable powers. This was produced after the time of his frenetic early 60s when he was churning out great SF at a record pace and before the theological 70s, where his prose was impacted by his 1974 religious epiphany.

While this is vintage PKD, with labyrinthine and mind blowing questions about reality and perceived alterations in space and time, what makes this even greater is the elements of horror that pepper most pages leading to a fulfilling, if unsettling denouement.

Readers of Dick’s canon will note that several of his SF books, and even a few scenes in his non-SF works, include horrific themes and scenes. What’s going on here though could come right out of a ghost story and makes this even better.

This has been mentioned as being one of the greatest books in the English language since 1923. High praise for an author who spent much of his time paying the bills with Ace doubles (though Ubik was first published by Doubleday).

Ubik also made me think how this may have influenced later writers and writers as diverse as Douglas Adams, William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. The anarcho-capitalism he describes with the coin operated appliances is also a commentary on socio-economic treatises of his day, and a none too subtle satire on pay as you go economic theories.

A MUST read for PKD fans, honestly even if you like his work I don’t think you’re a serious PKD scholar until you’ve read this one. This is also a good introduction of his work to new readers and for any SF fan.

Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,860 followers
November 8, 2020
The idea of the one wonder-substance, superdrug, holy grail, dietary supplement,… to rule or enhance them all is an old one, but it needed Dicks´tendency to integrate mental illness, illusion, conspiracy, different realities and madness in the mix to make it a new one. So what to think about this?

I like this one more than „Do androids dream of electric sheep.“, because the plot is so dense, the ideas wrapped around it ingeniously and probably because Dick had so many drug experiences that writing about a topic like that was simply his thing.

The interpretations could go in all directions, biochemical, religious, pharmaceutic, transcendental, whatever one prefers and I will choose the economic one by saying that we are already running on so many wonder substances like the marvelous caffeine and that tech will someday bring us something close to a real ubik. Probably including some time travel, Psi and mind uploading to that Dick´s vision can become reality.

I added, or at this moment more precisely , will add this part to my review of „Do Androids dream of electric sheep“ too, because it´s appropriate and fitting for both novels.

The writing style is typical, one red line, no real subplots, the ending is quite kind of unsatisfying (looking at you, Man in the high castle.), it often gets confusing and it´s difficult to differentiate if it´s ingenuity or the authors' illumination. All of that are reasons why Dick is more controversial and not so universally acclaimed a grandmaster of Sci-Fi and I am more on the side of his critics. If one looks at the worldbuilding and complexity of all the other behemoths, Dick seems average, with the only hobbyhorse of dealing with consciousness, reality and the mentioned topics and some novels feel as if he just wrote them for the money (he needed) without real intrinsic motivation. I would call him, and I hardly ever do that because it is not nice, overrated. In this regard, he is more like the Nobel price, pseudo-intellectual, overhyped, higher literature stuff and less like pure, true, entertaining fiction. To write not understandable and confusing to seem deep and arcane is much easier than to write entertaining, suspenseful and yes, true, stereotypical following the rules of the genre. But that´s one of the key elements of why we love certain genres and tinkering around with conventions while writing 60 pages a day under the influence of LSD and amphetamines brings him in the corner of Kerouac and consorts and „first thought best thought.“

Dicks´ novels don´t feel coherent, there are no satisfying resolutions, just more and more mysteries and open questions and nothing gets answered and much feels unfinished. It's no bad writing, I just wouldn´t highly recommend it, because it are no fun reads and if Dick would have been a bit soberer and invested more time in developing satisfying, believable plots, that could have been great. What annoys me the most are the great moments and ideas that are followed by unanswered questions, unreliable protagonist behavior or losing the overview of what is happening.

A direct comparison with other grandmasters of Sci-Fi and what they have revolutionized shows the flaws even clearer. Heinlein with amazing military science fiction, Asimovs´robots and some of the first space opera, Clarkes unbelievable language and subtility, Pohl with his worldbuilding, Gibson with Cyberpunk, not to name all the newer authors, and Stanislaw Lem. Especially he would have deserved the same and more attention and appreciation as Dick and should be named in a row with Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein because he wrote revolutionary brilliant at Clarkes´ level and was really funny in other novels and short stories, highly recommended literature, he is unique. All those authors were able to write entertaining, unique, tropeforming, philosophical, and with metaplots that come all together to a satisfying and logical ending, something Dick was incapable of, because he didn´t construct a universe, just fragments not fitting together and of extremely varying quality.

Of course, it may be a question of personal taste and preference, but I have read so much great Sci-Fi, hundreds of novels, that it feels inappropriate to name him in a line with those works and I felt really unsatisfied after having read any of his novels that are all closer to psychological mindf*** mystery whodunnit whatever crossover hybrid than to real Sci-Fi and with less real genre-typical elements in them. All the giants were true intellectuals and able to endlessly talk about any tiny detail or their works and its meaning and sense and it would interest me if Dick would have been able to give answers to complex questions about his work.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,380 reviews12k followers
June 7, 2022

“He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from outside.”
― Philip K. Dick, Ubik

Over-the-top zany madness, Philip K. Dick’s 1969 acclaimed work of science fiction opens in the year 1992, by which time humanity has colonized the Moon aka Luna and individuals having various psychic powers are commonplace, so much so some companies hire men and women (called “telepaths” or “precogs”) based on their power to predict the future and other companies hire individuals (called inertials) who have the psychic clout to block the future-telling capacities of those telepaths and precogs.

If all this sounds wild, you are absolutely right – novel as sheer craziness, a book defying any straightforward synopsis. To share a glimpse into the world of Ubik, here's a round of zaps from PKD's outlandish fictional zippy zap gun:

Glen Runciter – Crusty, lovable head of Runciter Associates, a “prudence organization” which employs inertials to counter evildoing telepaths and precogs who go about snooping into other people’s stream-of-consciousness in order to predict the future. Glen is a man of integrity, forever attempting to uphold individual freedom and dignity, the kind of guy you would always want around even if he were murdered. Yes, that’s what I said – to better understand the dynamics of the novel’s unique cycle of life and death, please read on.

Ella Runciter – Glen’s deceased wife kept in a form of cryonic suspension, a state of "half-life” enabling the dearly departed a degree of awareness sufficient to communicate with their loved ones left behind and other half-lifers. Ella is kept at the Beloved Brethren Moratorium in Zurich since the Swiss have developed a superior method to effectively extend life beyond the grave. Considering the Swiss mastery in manufacturing timepieces, their superiority in cryonic technology makes perfect sense. Ah, leave it to the Swiss!

Joe Chip - Debt-ridden Runciter Assocation technician loyal to Glen, Ella, the Association, truth and justice. An All-American Joe, you might say and you gotta love the name Chip as in potato chip or chocolate chip. As it turns out, Joe takes center stage as main character when he is propelled into the role of an Indiana Jones-style American hero and leader in a unique time travel adventure that could only be concocted from the fertile psychedelic imagination of the incomparable PKD.

Joe Chip is the prototypical All-American Joe

Inertials – Don, Al, Wendy are among Glen Runciter’s top inertials chosen for a special mission to Luna. If they only knew the challenges they will be forced to confront once catastrophe hits - time warps enough to confuse, blur, muddle and cloud the most perceptive minds. What those inertials really need is leadership and guidance from none other than down-to-earth Joe Chip.

Pat Conley – An enigmatic, cagey dark beauty with the unique psychic ability to undo events by changing the past. Having such a unique ability, Glen Runciter decides to include Pat in the critically important mission to Luna. As events transpire, Pat might even be judged a femme fatale along the lines of Phyllis from James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity in the sense that she not only deals with death and dying, she loves death and dying in all its grim, deadly detail. Just the kind of gal you want along when your group starts dying off one at a time in mysterious ways.

Beyond Pay Toilets - The author’s futuristic society includes speaking doors, speaking refrigerators and speaking coffee machines that demand money to be used – one aspect of future technology we can only hope never becomes a reality. I wonder if PKD’s personal experience with the appearance of pay toilet back in 1960s America prompted him to include these obnoxious speaking objects requiring money to operate.

Boom! - From the moment of the explosion on Luna, the group begins to experience strange shifts in reality and time, including a number of chapters in their adventure covering the United States back in 1939. One of the more humorous parts has Joe Chip flying in one of those newly invented two-person single prop airplanes from New York to Des Moines, Iowa. Wow! Now that's a dedicated hero!

Gnostic Cosmology – The further and deeper Joe and the group progress in their odyssey, the more they become aware they are living in a universe where the forces of light battles the forces of darkness. But then the question arises: Who or what is the ultimate source of light on one hand and darkness on the other? Enough PKD unexpected twists to keep any fan of science fiction or speculate fiction going right up til the last page.

UBIK – “Perk up pouting household surfaces with new miracle Ubik, the easy-to-apply, extra-shiny, nonstick plastic coating. Entirely harmless if used as directed. Saves endless scrubbing, glides right out of the kitchen!” Oh, yes, short advertisements for Ubik like this one precede every chapter. And please keep in mind that any cosmology, even a dualistic cosmology, might be held together by a unifying underlying metaphysical principle. What is meant by this quizzical statement? You will have to read Ubik for yourself to find out – proceed with caution and take only as directed.

“Wake up to a hearty, lip-smacking bowlful of nutritious, nourishing Ubik toasted flakes, the adult cereal that’s more crunchy, more tasty, more ummmish. Ubik breakfast cereal, the whole-bowl taste treat!”
― Philip K. Dick, Ubik
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
November 15, 2020
“I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am.
Philip K. Dick, Ubik


I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, then do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.”
― Philip K. Dick, Ubik


Friends, this wild review is 100% PKD approved. Ubik the review is only seconds away! Ubik the review is easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, nonflammable, and avoids directly mentioning those aspects of your existence that might make you squirm. Safe when read as directed. Avoid prolonged viewing. Beware grammatical and typographical errors.

Dick, like Pynchon, has a THING for entropy and he perfected this theme in Ubik. While not a direct part of Dick's Gnostic God trilogy (VALIS, The Divine Invasion, & The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), Ubik still manages to be one of Dick's minor God novels (if the Valis trilogy:Dick's trinity :: Ubik:Dick's Demiurge). Dick seems more than willing to bend entire universes to create a world where he can ask some really BIG questions in ways that give you two more levels of uncertainty. What? WHAT?

My first introduction to Dick was age 19. In a SLC airport I bought a copy of Valis (cover looked cool) and figured it would be a fun book to read on a plane. Hours later the plane landed and 20+ years later, I don't think the Earth I landed on was the same as the one the plane left prior to me cracking open Valis. Every time I read another of PKD's novels it is the exact same thing. Something breaks. Time freaks out or at least flips a bit. Something in my brain gets frozen, something else in my head gets lost, and a memory gets replaced. Each Dick novel should come with its own Ubik-type of warning: this novel will alter your reality, even when read as directed.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,468 reviews3,635 followers
August 1, 2023
Ubik is grossly caricaturistic – a smart projection of contemporary absurdity into the future… In this colourful dystopia the future is rather preposterous than bleak… Gorgeous madness…
Abilities and counter abilities… Talents and anti-talents… Opposites must be balanced…
The anti-psi factor is a natural restoration of ecological balance. One insect learns to fly, so another learns to build a web to trap him.

There are psionic talents possessing paranormal abilities of all sorts and there are inertials capable to nullify those abilities…
There are the living, the dead and half-lifers… Half-lifers are those who died but their brain activity is sustained for a time being so they dwell in their own solipsistic worlds their twilight consciousness creates…
But, he thought, this is projection on my part. It isn’t the universe which is being entombed by layers of wind, cold, darkness and ice; all this is going on within me, and yet I seem to see it outside. Strange, he thought. Is the whole world inside me? Engulfed by my body? When did that happen? It must be a manifestation of dying, he said to himself. The uncertainty which I feel, the slowing down into entropy – that’s the process, and the ice which I see is the result of the success of the process.

Entropy is omnipotent and omnipresent and there is no way to escape.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews928 followers
August 5, 2022
“He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from outside.”

Related image

Many PKD fans refer to Ubik as his strangest novel. That's saying a lot! With the pervasive advertisements for Ubik intruding into reality (or what passes for reality in the character's world), I too found Ubik bizarre in a compelling and absolutely relentless way. It's somewhat nightmarish too for our protagonist as he races to understand the messages from his former boss. And survive. The question of what really constitutes reality is one of the central underpinnings of this short novel and Dick causes us to repeatedly question how we perceive and experience reality. Even if it is somehow not the real reality! This was a fun ride!

Image result for ubik

And this meme maybe says everything else that needs to be said!

Image result for ubik meme
Profile Image for Baba.
3,620 reviews991 followers
December 8, 2022
SF Masterworks #26: What a cover... Love it! Written in 1969; a team of battling psi-powered agents go to war, would have seemed an innovative ground breaking idea, but that's just the opening gambit. Holy mackerel PKD is a monster! This multi layered psi-powers suspense mystery thriller is a joy to behold. It's hard to talk about the plotting without giving away spoilers... the plotting is delicious. Another PKD gem - 8.5 out of 12, a Four Star read.

2019 read; 2010 read
Profile Image for Fernando.
685 reviews1,127 followers
July 31, 2023
"Yo soy Ubik. Antes de que el universo fuera, yo soy. Hice los soles. Yo hice los mundos. Creé las vidas y los lugares que habitan; los muevo aquí, los pongo allá. Hacen lo que les digo y luego hacen lo que les digo. Yo soy la palabra y mi nombre nunca se pronuncia, el nombre que nadie conoce. Me llamo Ubik, pero ese no es mi nombre. Soy. Siempre lo seré".

Ahora comprendo por qué Philip K. Dick es uno de los grandes dioses de la ciencia ficción. Ubik no es un libro. Es toda una película. Todo en él se lee como si fuera un perfecto guión cinematográfico. Me atrevería a decir que Ubik es como si en una coctelera mezcláramos las películas The Matrix, Minority Report e Inception, y lo más gracioso es que Minority Report ¡fue también un libro escrito por Dick!
Joe Chip es el protagonista principal de esta historia que lo tiene todo en lo que a ciencia ficción respecta, más allá de que Dick haya escrito el libro en 1969, situándolo en un futuro muy cercano: 1992.
Y digo que lo tiene todo porque el autor toca temas que llegarán mucho más tarde como la criogenización por ejemplo, a partir de un concepto que se denomina a los muertos como “semivivos”, con los cuales, a partir de la tecnología, los familiares pueden comunicarse ya que están en ataúdes de cristal e inmersos en un líquido frío y conectados por cables a una máquina, así también como el manejo de las distintas realidades virtuales o alternativas que sufren los personajes.
La genialidad de Dick consiste en contarnos una historia que al principio del libro es confusa o no entendemos bien de qué se trata hasta que a partir de ese viaje a Luna de Joe Chip y un grupo de telépatas y precognitores (una suerte de tergiversador del pasado y adivino del futuro) ocurre algo que cambiará sus destinos hasta el final del libro.
Otro aspecto genial de este libro es la manera que se suceden distintas regresiones en el tiempo, o saltos entre realidades, lo que hace que la novela le haga trampas al lector, quien desorientado, no sepa para dónde se orienta la trama.
Pero todo esto se desencadena hacia las últimas cien páginas. Es como que la primera parte sirve de contextualización de lo que va a venir, aunque sus escenas parezcan inconexas.
Nuevamente remarco que es sorprendente que esta novela haya sido escrita en la década del ’60, porque tiene todos los guiños de las mejores películas de hoy. Para los lectores que no lo conozcan, les cuento que Philip K. Dick fue versionado en el cine a partir de su famoso libro “Sueñan los androides con ovejas eléctricas”, el cual fue adaptado por Ridley Scott para la película “Blade Runner”, con Harrison Ford y Rutger Hauer que se convirtió en una película de culto a partir de los años '80.
También creo que los hermanos Watchowski posiblemente hayan tomado algunos ejemplos de este y otros libros de Dick para la trilogía de Matrix. Leer la última línea de Ubik me recordó a la escena final de The Matrix, cuando un renovado Neo emprende vuelo desde la cabina telefónica.
La esposa del autor sostiene que para aquellos que tal vez no hayan entendido el concepto del libro, Ubik es en cierta forma una “metáfora de Dios todopoderoso y omnisciente. La lata de spray es solo una forma que Ubik adopta para hacerle a la gente más fácil entenderlo y usarlo. No es la sustancia dentro de la lata lo que les ayuda, sino más bien su fe en la promesa de que les ayudará". Su “ubiquidad”, lo transforma en algo que todo lo trasciende y que está en todos lados.
El aerosol de Ubik es un recurso necesario para mantener a Joe Chip atado a la vida. O no. Quién sabe…
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,182 followers
November 24, 2017
A clever, original and often very funny sci-fi story. It is about psychic power battles, the nature of death, alternative reality and changing the past. Or not.

FUN, FUN, FUN - the clothes
It was published in 1969 and starts off in a sufficiently plausible but amusingly implausible 1992. In particular, the clothes take the flamboyance of the late '60s to extraordinary heights, for no obvious reason, other than fun. On the second page, we meet a man wearing "a tabby-fur blazer and pointed yellow shoes", which is fair enough, but only three pages later, an elderly man wears "a varicolored... suit, knit cummerbund and dip dyed cheesecloth cravat". After that, you're on the lookout for them, so here are more:

You have to wonder what might have prompted such wild flights of fancy. ;)

Another distinctive feature is that every chapter is prefaced with a short advert for Ubik, and each one demonstrates a different and amazing use for the wonder product. Each ends with a slightly worrying caveat about only being safe if used exactly as directed. Its enormous range of uses remind me of Flanders and Swann's Wompom. They sing it here, or read the lyrics here. I've also reviewed their songbook here.

Twice, characters say "so it goes", which I assumed was a nod to the famous catchphrase of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five (see my review here), but both were published in the same year, so I guess it's just a coincidence. There is also mention of a dead parrot, but that can't be a nod to Monty Python as their famous sketch also dates from... 1969! Spooky, eh? Maybe PKD really could glimpse the future?!

Runciter's space transporter is called Pratfall II.

Anyway, the crux of the story is the constant battle between people with psychic powers (such as precognition and telepathy) and "prudence" organisations that supply "inertials" who block such powers (often by using such powers themselves). Who are the goodies and who the baddies in such a setup: "A policeman guarding human privacy" or "trying to turn the clock back"?

Glen Runciter is the larger than life figure who heads one such prudence organisation, and Joe Chip is his right hand man. Pat is a new recruit who can change the past in such a way that people don't even know it. She and Joe may or may not have a thing for each other.

They and eleven of their best go to Luna for a rather mysterious job. After that, things turn strange: perceptions of reality shift, and time seems to slip back as well. Some objects age, some change, but not everyone's experience is the same. Are they going back in time, is the past receding, or are they in some other reality? The only shame is that from this point on, the clothes are less mad.

Joe is the principal character trying to work out what is going on, how to survive and so on. It's hard to explain further without spoilers.

Dick's 1992 is very commercialised: you have to pay for almost everything, though it's mostly coin-operated - even one's own front door! When someone couldn't find a coin and tried to dismantle his own lock, it threatened to sue him!

But on Luna, "All our medical care... is free. But the burden of proof that he is genuinely ill rests on the shoulders of the alleged patient." I hope no UK politicians think of that as a way to "save" the NHS whilst also saving money. (They'll love the "alleged".)

Dick doesn't foresee mobile internet etc (who did?), but the pape machine is rather like a printer connected to the internet.

Runciter's wife, Ella is at a moratorium, in cold-pac half-life. She died, or near enough, but is in cold storage which provides a sort of life-extension. Most of the time she's unconscious, but she can occasionally be contacted; how many times, over how many years depends on lots of factors around the death and the freezing.

The moratorium and its inhabitants are significant plot elements, but are also used to explore the fuzzy boundary between life and death. Runciter consults with Ella, but how is this different from using a medium to consult the properly dead? Those in half-live can sometimes communicate with each other, "wandering through one another's mind gives those in half-life the only -", but they can't initiate contact with those outside. "'She exists... she merely can't contact you.' Runciter said 'A metaphysical difference which means nothing to me.'"

* "Herbert felt the weight of the hand, its persuading vigor". Runciter's hand (and vigor).
* "Nothing touched his mind... He chuckled, but it had an abstract quality... his voice always boomed, but inside he did not notice anyone, did not care; it was his body which smiled, nodded and shook hands." (Runciter again.)
* A messy apartment "radiated the specter of debris and clutter".
* "On his face, a feral, hateful expression formed, giving him the expression of a psychotic squirrel."
* "His voice had a squeaky, penetrating, castrato quality to it, an unpleasant noise that one might expect to hear... from a hive of metal bees."
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,477 followers
February 17, 2018
"He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from the outside."
-Philip K Dick

"A fool and his poscreds are soon parted."
-Kevin Ansbro

Please allow me to preface my review by stating that sci-fi is not normally my thang. Aside from Asimov, when I was a teenager, I've preferred to watch it, and write it, rather than read it. In fact, were it not for Obi-Wan Cecily's recommendation, I might have erroneously imagined Philip K Dick to have been a 1970s' porn star!

Well, I'm relieved and pleased to report that this pre-cyberpunk gigglefest was an absolute joy to behold!

Written in the late 1960s, Ubik is set in the 'future' of 1992, a future we've overstepped without one sniff of dystopia.
From way back then, Dick presents us with an analogue dreamworld that we can still enjoy in a digital age.
Despite mention of videotape and typewriters, it still feels futuristic.

So how to explain this quizzical space oddity?
I would bill it as a Truman Show-Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-Barbarella-type of sci-fi, dressed in a groovy wardrobe of clothes that would make even Austin Powers seem sartorially conservative.

I confess to having had concerns at the start. The first few chapters had me wondering if I should permanently abscond from Goodreads altogether, for fear of offending friend-fans of this book.
But then joyously it breaks into a canter and I was suddenly in sync with the timbre of its prose.

The anti-hero of the piece is sullen Joe Chip, a chap who is worn down by a futureworld of talking appliances and argumentative doors (frustrating for him, but completely hilarious for us).
Joe falls under the spell of a Lara Croft-esque mind control babe, Patricia Conley.
They, and their Magnificent Eleven parapsychological team of individuals are conscripted for an audacious project.

Without giving anything away, what ensues is a Memento-style mindfrig that will have you second-guessing everything.

The author writes in an idiosyncratically surreal way: he invents words and (deliberately?) misapplies adjectives to achieve an avant-garde effect. In addition, Dick uses near-synonyms of better-suited verbs in his bid to create additional quirkiness.

There is of course a cautionary message: he has presciently foreseen a future where automation hijacks our civilisation. Think about it; one minute we're scanning our own blasted shopping at crummy self-service checkouts, and the next thing you know we'll be held to ransom under the tyranny of obdurate machines and talking refrigerators!

I am delighted to join the fan base of this capricious nonsense. It is altogether bizarre, thought-provoking, visionary and hugely funny.
Ubik is the work of a mad genius - and it has immediately gatecrashed my favourites list.
The ending is as enigmatic as its beginning and is open to any number of interpretations.
Here, for sure, the journey is get-down-boogiewoogie-fabulous. The final destination is partly left to our own imagination.

I owe a debt of thanks to Cecily, the Earth-based precog, who of course already knew that I would enjoy this read!
And as a special treat to myself, I'm off to get me some gold lamé trousers, a pair of Spandex bloomers, some pink yakfur slippers and I'm hitting the town!
Yeah baby, yeah!!
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
September 15, 2016
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Profile Image for Luís.
1,947 reviews611 followers
August 1, 2023
Machines devouring parts, which distort pockets or are lacking ..., add excess on all the supports the eyes meet. One has to break the feet of Philip K Dick damn. And he was damn well avenged. The story continually evolves past and present of an earlier future, which does not lack an old-fashioned charm. With a tender gaze, I always read what SF authors of the "utopian" years 60 and 70 imagined in the next 30 or 40 years. The conquest of space opened up "supra-terrestrial" horizons. Alas, the Moon offering only its "stones," the two "giants" of the time, preferred to continue fighting here below ... and the cars still do not fly, and we even do not eat pills (the good of that I do not complain...) Philip K Dick's "ballad" us in this nightmare. What we are experiencing is this natural or "implanted." This novel has inspired other stories but is in a delicious early juice.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book938 followers
July 21, 2022
I AM ALIVE. ALL OF YOU ARE DEAD” is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing graffiti one could read on the wall of a men’s lavatory. But in a Phildickian story, this takes an even stranger and deeper meaning. Ubik is a novel about the interlocking natures of life and death, the embedded, matryoshka-like structure of reality, the possibility of time receding backwards, and a menagerie of characters with paranormal powers: telepaths, precogs, retcons, inertials, and all the rest of it.

But as disorientating as it may be, Ubik is also an incredibly entertaining novel, with action scenes, plot twists, and big reveals at every turn; not to mention an irresistible sense of humour, with zany character descriptions, everyday objects which behave like rude customer service representatives or possess mind-bending properties. Ubik, for instance, is at the same time a vacuum cleaner, a beer brewed in Cleveland, a drip coffee brand, a new taste of salad dressing, a pain-killer, a self-winding never-ending blade, a plastic coating liquid, a consumer credit solution, a hair conditioning and deodorant spray, a sleeping pill, a French toast, a bra, a wrap, flakes, God Himself… when taken as directed.

But Phil Dick doesn’t stop there. Just like his multi-layered, often unreliable subworlds, the meaning of his alleged pulp sci-fi novel is (to he who has ears) packed with metaphysical mentions/allusions, such as the teachings of the Bardo Thodol, Plato’s theory of ideal forms, the narrative of the New Testament, Dante’s frozen 9th circle of Hell, Descartes’ “malin génie”, Spinoza’s pantheism, or Leibniz’s multiverse metaphysics.

The upshot of all this is a spellbinding blend of fast-paced mystery, soft spec-fic, and esoteric madness. Its influence on late-20th-century American literature (David Foster Wallace is a prominent example) and cinema (The Matrix, The Truman Show, Inception among others) is considerable.

Read with my old-time reading m8, Michelle; check out her review here (use as directed).
Profile Image for Guille.
785 reviews1,754 followers
August 22, 2021
Ubik, como sugieren los anuncios publicitarios que aparecen en el inicio de cada uno de los diecisiete capítulos, puede ser cualquier cosa, lo que quieran, no hay límites a la imaginación. Elaborada con la mejor selección de las ambigüedades posibles alcanza el grado perfecto de confusión que agrada hasta el paladar más exquisito. Descubra usted mismo el placer que proporciona la obtención de una nueva teoría sobre Ubik que haga las delicias de amigos, amantes, vecinos y compañeros de trabajo. Inofensiva, pero evite el uso prolongado.
No siendo lector habitual de CI-FI, hay un puñadito de novelas que me parecieron más que interesantes. Son novelas en las que se usa el género para mostrar mundos posibles, mundos que se encuentran en la órbita de nuestro potencial, bien disparados hacia la utopía o, lo que siempre es más apetecible, hacia la distopía. Incluso alguna ha habido que, sin presentar un futuro, llamémosle, realista, era lo suficientemente sugerente como para enfrentar aspectos del ser humano a realidades extrañas que resaltaban sus características y consecuencias.

Aquí no he encontrado nada de esto, aparte de la curiosidad por un final que a todo le diera la vuelta y lo fundamentase, apenas nada me ha interesado en una novela narrada con una prosa que me ha parecido vulgar (tampoco ayudaron las decenas de erratas que encontré en mi edición, por lo que no descarto problemas de traducción), con unos personajes que apenas llegan a adquirir cuerpo tridimensional alguno, que empieza como un comic de Marvel en el que algunos seres humanos han desarrollado de forma inexplicable unos poderes extrasensoriales -telepatía, precognición, posibilidad de modificar el presente accediendo, no se sabe cómo, al pasado…- mientras otros desarrollaban el contrapoder correspondiente, para proseguir en un absurdo cuya explicación pudiera ser simplemente una enorme alucinación de muñecas rusas provocada por las drogas ingeridas por el protagonista y en la que, por tanto, cualquier hecho puede ser aceptado sin más explicación.

Quizás haya quién encuentre un trasfondo metafísico a todo este embrollo, algo he leído por ahí sin que nada me hiciera cambiar de opinión. Tampoco se puede decir que las novedades futuristas que contiene la novela sean especialmente originales: una posible vida futura del cerebro sin cuerpo que lo mantenga, diálogos con las máquinas que proporcionan los bienes y servicios, incluso con las puertas del apartamento a las que hay que pagar para que se abran (tiene unos cuantos toques de humor bastante sabrosos, eso no lo niego, de ahí esa segunda estrellita), una vida casi ilimitada gracias a implantes de todo tipo y a que la enfermedad parece haber sido desterrada, y, por último y lo que parece ser el centro del asunto, el cuestionamiento de la certeza sobre todo aquello que percibimos, sobre la realidad que creemos vivir. Quizás fuera original en 1969, año de su publicación, cuando los viajes de LSD hacían furor.
“Yo estoy vivo y vosotros estáis muertos.”
Una frase importante en la novela y que seguro que muchos de ustedes han pensado en algún momento de esparcimiento autoprovocado; al menos yo sí, y en tal estado de iluminación llegué a la conclusión de que en este mundo solipsista que había creado solo leía por vanidad… aunque en esta ocasión me haya decepcionado un pelín a mí mismo.

(*) El médico que viene tratando desde hace años al comentarista ruega a los fans de la novela que le sigan la corriente… estamos probando una nueva medicación.
Profile Image for Warwick.
844 reviews14.6k followers
October 4, 2018
What I want more than anything right now is for some fashion designer or talented artist to do a series of illustrations of the clothing in this book. When it comes to ludicrous future fashions, Ubik is the Ur-text. Among the outfits described herein are the following racy numbers:

• green felt knickers, gray golf socks, badger-hide open-midriff blouse and imitation patent-leather pumps [Al Hammond]

• a Continental outfit: tweed toga, loafers, crimson sash and a purple airplane-propellor beanie [Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang]

• his customary natty birch-bark pantaloons, hemp-rope belt, peekaboo see-through top and train-engineer's tall hat [GG Ashwood]

• his usual mohair poncho, apricot-colored felt hat, argyle ski socks and carpet slippers [GG Ashwood]

• ersatz vicuna trousers and a gray sweatshirt on which had been printed a now faded full-face portrait of Bertrand Lord Russell [Tippy Jackson]

• a polyester dirndl, his long hair in a snood, cowboy chaps with simulated silver stars. And sandals. [Don Denny]

• a sporty maroon wrapper, twinkle-toes turned-up shoes and a felt cap with a tassel [Joe Chip]

• his electric-yellow cummerbund, petal skirt, knee-hugging hose and military-style visored cap [standard office worker]

I mean…I can't even picture half of those in my head. Hence the desperate need for a good illustrator.

Somewhere underneath all this sartorial psychedelia is a nervy, pacy, metaphysical horror story which I thought was hugely enjoyable. Set in yet another future vision of America, where the dead can be kept responsive for months in a ‘half-life’, and where there is a delicate balance between those with telekinesis and those with ‘antipsionic’ abilities, it sets up a Truman-Show-style nest of paranoia where – as often with Dick – you've never completely sure which layer is the real one, even after you've closed the book. If this doesn't turn out to be one of my favourites of his, I'll eat my apricot-colured felt hat.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books585 followers
June 4, 2022
“Taken as directed, Ubik provides uninterrupted sleep without morning after grogginess. You awaken fresh, ready to tackle all those little annoying problems facing you. Do not exceed the recommended dosage.”

Passing in 1982, Phillip K. Dick was a fascinating author. College dropout, heavy drug user, suicidal tendencies, and known for tumultuous relationships with women and his struggles with mental illness, he certainly wasn’t the gentleman scientist that Asimov, Clarke, or Heinlein were held up to be. But he brought something new to science fiction. A postmodern, counter-culture exploration focused on paranoia, alternate or altered states of realities, and the nature of perception. It’s a twist on science fiction we are familiar with today, but in 60’s and 70’s Dick’s approach was raw, novel, and probably disturbing to many. However, looking back, there is no doubt about his impact. His works have been adapted widely into films and television, and influences are seen often in fiction and even music.

Dick wrote Ubik in 1969 and set his story twenty-three years in the future – 1992. In Dick’s future, humanity has established a colony on the moon and has also found a way to temporary sustain people’s consciousness (‘half-life’) and allow communication with the ‘mostly dead.’ In addition, everything is coin-operated – appliances, elevators, and even doors. It reminded me of the outlandish pneumatic tubes in the movie ‘Brazil’ and serves a similar purpose in theme. Finally, psychic and counter-psychic capabilities (‘inertials’) exist in a small number of people. Corporations control these telepaths and ‘inertials’ allowing for corporate espionage and an arm’s-race-like control of the abilities.

All of this world-building allow Dick to create a world where reality is shifting. He telegraphs the major plot twist but offers up some red herrings to keep the reader guessing. On the surface it’s a statement on government and corporate control over our lives, but more deeply it questions our perception of consciousness and reality.

In all honesty, I’m more of a fan of Phillip K. Dick’s movie and TV adaptions verses his novels. They are intriguing and enjoyably puzzling, but they don’t move me the way some of my favorite science fiction works do. I find most of the characters unlikable and the endings depressing. However, I do appreciate his creativity and pioneering themes, questioning perception and reality.

An imaginative journey of a near future where telepathy is monetized, death is postponed, and reality is seldom what it seems. Four Ubik-infused stars, which are guaranteed to cause readers to philosophize when used as directed!
Profile Image for Tara.
437 reviews19 followers
July 18, 2018
“He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from outside.”

Ubik is a fun, fascinating, and often surprisingly philosophical look at the nature of reality and the role of our perception thereof. PKD also delves masterfully, cleverly, and even quite exuberantly, into some of his other favorite food for thought, which in this case includes entropy, alienation, and the question of (in)sanity, to name but a few. All the while, the story playfully and persistently messes with your mind in a most enjoyable way. You stray down strange, twisted corridors and arrive in ever stranger locales. Or is it merely that your own perception has changed, grown subtly yet indelibly distorted, somehow become increasingly warped and askew? One is never completely certain, and therein lies much of the fun. And even though the book contains a great deal of darkness and doubt, there is also quite a bit of offbeat, absurdist humor to complement (and at times even enhance) its frequently eerie, uncanny tone.

I won’t discuss any plot details here. I went into it knowing absolutely nothing about the storyline, and found it highly satisfying to figure it out for myself as I wandered slowly yet ever more curiously through this elaborately constructed labyrinthine house of mirrors. I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that experience for themselves, and sometimes that carefully hidden spoiler is just begging to be clicked, isn’t it? So instead, I’ll leave you with this rather apt PKD quote I stumbled across on the Internet. It touches on one of the questions explored so buoyantly yet deftly in this wonderfully bizarre little book:
“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication ... and there is the real illness.”

If you ever experience the sneaking suspicion that there are multiple realities in play, if you’re unable to shake that pesky feeling of existential dread and anxiety, or aren’t totally certain whether or not reality is all in your head (and where exactly is your head, come to think of it?), you simply must give Ubik a try! Read this book for more on how that handy spray can save the day!

Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
April 16, 2019
“Herr Schoenheit von Vogelsang; sorry to break into your meditation, but a customer wishes you to assist in revving up his relative.”

Haha! I don’t know if PKD intended the above dialogue to be humorous but it is so bizarre and PKD-esque it made me chuckle. There is often a weird stiltedness to his dialogue that I find oddly charming.

I last read Ubik in 2012 (seven years ago as of today) I remember thinking “this is it, this is my favorite PKD”. Before this current reread I can barely remember anything about the plot, only a vague image that of a spray can of Ubik, but what is it? Ubik is set in the (then) future of 1992 where psi abilities are a given fact and are often used for industrial espionage, invasion of privacy and other psychic intrusions. The situation is like computer virus and anti-virus, so there are businesses that exist purely to counter these psychic intrusions. Somewhat related to psi abilities is the “half-life” business run by “moratoriums” where, for a fee, you can store your dearly departed and they facilitate a communication channel between you and your (mostly) dead loved ones. The protagonist, Joe Chip, works for Runciter Associates, a “prudence organization” that offers anti-psi intrusion services. On an assignment to the lunar colony Joe, his boss Glen Runciter, and his team are attacked by a bomb which killed Runciter. Worse still since the bombing reality begins to bend out of shape, items begin to regress back into their dated versions until Joe finds himself in 1939.

Excellent Time magazine book reviewer and author Lev Grossman described Ubik as “a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you'll never be sure you've woken up from”. This surprised me a little, I don’t find that Ubik has a horror tone and it is not at all unsettling, but wacky and very entertaining, the tone is often quite humorous; especially the Ubik ad at the beginning of each chapter, always as a different product from the preceding chapter.

Time and time again PKD pulled the rug from under this reader, just when I thought I knew what is going on, PKD pulled another fast one and I landed on my butt. For me, his depiction of an unreliable and unstable reality is what PKD does better than anybody else. The eventual reveal of what Ubik blew my mind, but even then PKD has one more rug to pull.

If you have not read PKD before I highly recommend Ubik as the gateway into his wonderfully weird fiction. I kind of envy you.

“Perhaps your definition of your self-system lacks authentic boundaries. You’ve erected a precarious structure of personality on unconscious factors over which you have no control. That’s why you feel threatened by me.”

“He therefore vigorously strode to the apt door, turned the knob and pulled on the release bolt. The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”

“Ray Hollis, whose psionically talented personnel are the object of inertial nullification and hence the target of the prudence”

“The past is latent, is submerged, but still there, capable of rising to the surface once the later imprinting unfortunately--and against ordinary experience--vanished. The man contains--not the boy--but earlier men, he thought. History began a long time ago.”
Profile Image for Stuart.
722 reviews269 followers
January 20, 2016
It took me 40 years to get around to it, but I finally dived into PKD's reality-bending novels over the last two years, and this one is excellent. UBIK is much stranger and more darkly humorous than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. It starts out with a very far-fetched future world set in 1992, and the plot revolves around telepaths, inertials, prudence organizations, snarky coin-operated household appliances, "cold-pac" half-life moratoriums, crazily excessive clothing styles, mysterious life-enhancing spray cans, life force-sucking half-life entities, and scariest of all, 1939 Des Moines, Iowa~

Well, there isn't much point describing the plot, since it just gets weirder and more disorienting as the story progresses, but surprisingly PDK is in full control of the story and tone despite the strange twists and confusion the protagonists suffer through. And although there are many humorous elements, overall the story is dark, philosophical, and just plain disorienting.

I found the book impossible to put down and engrossing, and I really like the fact that SF books back in the 1950s/60s were SHORT and TO THE POINT. Forget about 1000-page door-stoppers like Neal Stephenson and George R.R. Martin's books, this book says what it has to say in just over 200 pages. I guess we can thank the word processor for the ridiculous bloat that so many modern SF/fantasy books suffer from. And don't get me started on series. So it's just really nice to read a book this short and sweet, but so full of ideas about life, death, the afterlife, paranoia, reality, and entropy, without providing any pat answers, all in a convenient, easy-to-use aerosol spray can.
July 20, 2019
Brilliant and deeply unsettling. Worlds unravelling into something else.
TBC... full review pending.
From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt's money-gulping door.
"I'll sue you," the door said as the first screw fell out. Joe Chip said, "I've never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.” (c)
I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, then do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be. (c)
Profile Image for Brett C.
805 reviews181 followers
May 2, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. At first the reading was bumpy, hard to follow, and confusing. But as I got into his style this easily became one of my favorite PKD novels.

The story is unique and is a combination of science fiction and mystery. The writing and attention to detail showcase that PKD truly is a gifted storyteller. I would highly recommend it because of the direct and to-the-point plot. Thanks!
Profile Image for Abe.
264 reviews74 followers
March 30, 2017
While I was reading this book, a bomb exploded in my apartment, tearing my paperback copy of Ubik to pieces. The book had been badly burned and found itself in tatters. After placing it into a protective cooler packed with solid state carbon dioxide, I rushed to take it to a local book-shop (located next to the morgue) to see if there was any hope of putting the pages back together, or at least what was left of them, to be able to commune with it — my cherished, fragile half-book — every once in a while, even though it was half-dead.

However, after arriving at the book-shop, I was surprised to notice Philip K. Dick's face on my credit card. At first I was thinking his face was going to appear on the coins in my pocket, but then I remembered that in 2017 coins no longer exist in the United States.

But then suddenly coins did exist. I felt them jingle right there in my pocket. It was impossible, I thought. I mean, who the hell uses coins anymore? That is when I started to think something had gone dreadfully wrong.

I tried buying things with the coins to see if anything else had changed in my reality, but every store declined to accept them, and no ATM would receive them, given that they are no longer valid forms of currency. Sure, in 2017 we may not have spaceships or functional cryogenic freezing or time control powers or other cognitive abilities, but at least we don't run around carrying something as antiquated and useless as coins like they did in 1992. Could you imagine if you needed a nickel every time you needed to open your fridge door? You'd starve to death! I can't blame Joe for not having coins around. Useless devices.

I had spent so much time ranting about how I suddenly had coins I couldn't use that I failed to notice how stale my cigarettes were. Wait a minute, now what the hell am I doing with cigarettes? I thought. I've never smoked a day in my life. How would I even know what a stale cigarette is?

It's no matter, I thought. I decided to go back to Omaha, my birthplace, to watch the burial of my book. Then the girl who flashed me to get a job at the company (I really doubted she could see into the future, but as soon as she had removed her shirt of in front of me there was no doubt she could read my mind) told me she was the one who had burned my book. I became really upset with her, until she withered away and died. Then I felt bad. I mean, sure, she was jealous that I had slept with that other girl who didn't have to flash me to get the job, but that doesn't mean she was a bad person.

I started feeling really sick and clambered up to my hotel room. Then my best buddy appeared and introduced me to spray paint. "Spray paint will solve all your problems when you're dead," he said. "Look!" He sprayed me with spray paint, and I recovered instantly. My friend added: "Oh, by the way, you're dead. That's why you can use spray paint. You can also use spray paint as deodorant or breakfast cereal, or any of the other advertised purposes found in your cherished bombed book. Spray paint is magical stuff. My dead wife invented it."

Then I made the devil spray paint himself and I gained power over him.

Moral of the story: SPRAY PAINT IS GOD

Right now Philip K. Dick is crossing the River Styx with coins over his eyes, and those coins now have my face on them.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,497 followers
October 4, 2016
"Our own homegrown Borges" is how Ursula Le Guin describes Philip K. Dick, because they both use writing to question the nature of reality. Both writers assume that everything is up for debate: the story, the page it's written on, the author writing it.

Dick is my favorite of the pack of mid-century science fiction writers. (The "Big Three" of Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke, plus Bradbury, Le Guin and him.) He's best known as a short story writer; of his 44 novels, The Man in the High Castle is his most famous but it's pretty flawed, so when Lev Grossman wants him represented on Time Magazine's top 100 novels of an arbitrary period, Ubik is up.

But who are the characters? What is the setting? Does anyone exist? What time is it? In 2016 I'm reading a book written in 1969, set in 1992, decaying to 1939. Here's a chart.

Here's what happens: Every chapter is basically a twist ending to the chapter before it - this book is like a series of trapdoors - and in the final twist,

Ubik - pronounced like "ubiquitous" - is slippery. Nostalgia is death, literally, and Ubik (in its MacGuffin form, as an aerosol spray) is the new, which might save you - at least temporarily. But why the cynical ads for Ubik products at the top of each chapter? That implies that it's rotten itself. It doesn't seem to work very well, anyway.

This is anticlimactic if you try too hard to explain it. The answer isn't the answer; the question is the answer. (Whee!) It's fun to wrestle all this out, but there's no explanation that totally satisfies. Like Kafka, Dick isn't trying to write something that makes sense. He's trying to point out that nothing makes sense. Reality is subjective and you will never be sure that the one you experience is "real."

So far so Borgesian, but there's a difference: Borges knows he's playing. For Dick the questions are more serious. His major influence is noir, and his books are dark, and when he questions reality he's seriously questioning reality. He doesn't really have a guess. He was beset by hallucinations throughout his life. He believed for a while that he was the reincarnated prophet Elijah. He may have been schizophrenic. He was certainly a heavy drug user. There's anguish at the bottom of his writing. Borges thinks it's neat to wonder what's real. Dick thinks it's terrifying.
Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,950 reviews436 followers
September 9, 2019
This review can be found on Amaranthine Reads.

I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, then do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.

Three stars, but also four stars, and two stars, and five stars and only one.

I've not read much sci-fi and I just can't review something like this: I feel ill-equipt and under qualified. It was immense and ridiculous, well-written but with sometime shaky dialogue. A wonderful plot that was fascinating and ruddy complicated and mind-boggling. Not exactly brilliant characters, but not flat and uninteresting, either.

Argh I just don't know. Once I've delved further in to sci-fi, and Dick in particular, I'll return to this.

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Profile Image for Ray.
Author 17 books315 followers
April 14, 2020
Do you wake up tired? Feeling existential angst for the postmodern hypercapitalist age that is these modern times? Has utter paranoia seemed into ever iota of reality, that is, is reality not really feelin real?

Ever just in one of those moods...?

Try Ubik today! Sure to cure what ails ya'!

About eighty decades ahead of its time, only Ubik can help to process the overwhelmingness of the contemporary age. Chock full of post-death theology, psionics, proto-cyberpunk, and retro-retro-retro future nostalgia. Beats the competition, and very reasonably priced.

Use only as directed.

Warning: May cause mindfuck of the extreme variety.
Profile Image for P.E..
779 reviews558 followers
December 13, 2019
Psis and anti-psis, your door suing you, salvatory advertisement, Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang in a Continental outfit: tweed toga, loafers, crimson sash and a purple airplane-propeller beanie.

Guess what : you're in for a farcical nightmare.



Matching Soundtrack :
Igorrr - Sorbet aux ongles
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis


Un cauchemar cocasse !



Interférence :
Igorrr - Sorbet aux ongles
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis
September 6, 2022
Reality in Ubik is tenuous and exists in multiple frustrating and dream-like forms. A goal is always out of reach and the characters keep sinking farther back, seemingly trapped. PKD deserves a lot of credit for giving everybody a sneak peak at microtransactions.

Edit: Upgrade to 5 stars. I needed a few things to ferment. Extra star for the writing that evoked such distinct, powerful feelings. I loved the delicious confusion, anxiety, and frustration pulling me along to find out wtf is happening.
Profile Image for StefanP.
148 reviews79 followers
February 5, 2020

Vidim šumarak svijetli,
Zelenom bojom se diči,
Svi ćemo netom tamo,
Ljetu u pohode ići.

Hoćete da povratite miris svome tijelu? Previše prašine imate po kući? Želite li da vam hrana bude ukusna? Imate problem sa bubrezima i plućima? Nemojte da se brinete. Sada je tu za vas Ubik. Koristite ga isključivo uz uputstvo. U suprotnom, može da dođe do neželjenih dejstava.

Da bi se Filip K. Dik razumio potrebno je između ostalog znati šta je to stvarnost. Rijetko ko može dati neku tačnu i iole uprošćenu definiciju stvarnosti. Platon je tvrdio da je Bog stvorio arhetip stola, da stolar stvara simulakrum tog stola, a umjetnik stvara simulakrum simulakruma tog stola. Znači Bog je stvorio originalnu stvarnost, mi stvaramo kopiju njegove stvarnosti, a umjetnik kopiju kopije te naše stvarnosti. FKD se u ovoj knjizi uz pomoć bioinženjeringa i teološko-filozofskog aspekta bavio "našom" nepatvorenom, autentičnom stvarnošću. Takvu stvarnost treba rascijepiti od pseudostvarnosti, jer kod Dika su one često identične jedna drugoj. On smatra da postoji više stvarnosti, više budućnosti, a prošlost se već predskazuje u budućnosti. Jer ono što je bilo to će biti. Pomoću prekognitivaca on sagledava dešavanja u budućnosti i istovremeno je kreira, a s druge strane preko antiprekognitivaca otkriva ranije etape vremena shodne konfiguraciji materije.

Kod Dika se sve već dogodilo. Budućnost kod njega odavno pripada prošlosti, dakle budućnost se već odigrala. U toj igri treba preduhitriti nove budućnosti. On uzima prirodne sposobnosti čovjeka, to jest urođene, ali možda još ne dovoljno otkrivene i ne iskorišćene. Kao što su telepatija, telekineza - prekognitivne i antiprekognitivne sposobnosti. Na osnovu njih stvara 'novu stvarnost to jest novu budućnost' i njoj pripisuje predstojeće događaje.

U Dikovim romanima likovi dobijaju osjećaj da su u nekom međuprostoru. Oni ne znaju da li su živi, a nisu sigurni ni da su mrtvi. To ide u prilog iz ovog romana gdje FKD piše: ,,Ja jesam živ," odsječe Ransiter hrapavo. ,,A mi ostali smo mrtvi?" Poslije duge pauze Ransiter reče: ,,Da." ,,Ali u TV reklami na video-traci..." Kod njega se često ne podudaraju vremenski tokovi, pa recimo, vrati likove unazad kroz vrijeme i predviđa budućnost, iako su ti likovi daleko godina ispred tih, već odigranih događaja, odnosno ispred te već odigrane budućnosti. Tako dovodi u pitanje izmjenjenu percepciju toka prošlosti, sadašnjosti i budućnosti.

Dik zapravo govori o tome da je materijalni svijet koji nas okružuje, zapravo lažna stvarnost, a da u duhovnom svijetu leži arhetipska, autentična stvarnost. Materijalni svijet stvara izmenjene aspekte stvarnosti, i u takvoj stvarnosti jedinka se gubi, zalazi u nešto prljavo i izvitopereno. Ako recimo šetate dole niz ulicu i razmišljate o nebu, a odjednom vam pred očima zabljesne jako fluorescentno svijetlo, vi ćete od iznenađenja da da pogledate šta vas je to u sekundi zasljepilo i vidjećete da je to bila reklama iz neke prodavnice. Ta reklama ima podešeni mehanizam ili senzor da baš zabljesne kada jedinka prođe pored nje. Ona vas možda povuče i vi uđete u tu prodavnicu. Tada vi bivate izgubljeni jer je sve pred vama. Uskoro počinjete da gubite osjećaj realnog vremena, napolju ne znate da li je dan ili noć, da li je neka vremenska nepogoda. Napolju mogu meteori da padaju vi ih nećete primjetiti jer ste u drugoj stvarnosti koja vam je u trenutnom vremenu usađena u glavi. Usredsređeni ste na mnoštvo robe oko vas. I tako razmišljanje o nebu nije ni na pomolu misli, a ko zna da li ćete opet imati takvu lijepu misao, kojom ste se možda sladili. Zapitajte se samo zašto po kladionicama, samoposlugama i drugim robnim i uslužnim objektima nema prozora. Možda da bi ste ušli u simulakrum, u stvarnost koju oni kreiraju, samo za vas, stvaraju sve da vam bude udobno, lijepo i toplo, a vi u tome bivate sve, samo ne čovjek.

Ono što je poznato u Dikovima romanima jeste da su kelneri anrdoidi, vozači automobila su takođe androidi, i često mi to ne doživljavamo kao neku vrstu anomalije. Već je to skrojeno tako što priliči da gledamo ljudska bića, dakle, pa čak i kao biološka, pored ovih tehničkih stvari. U ovom romanu neki od likova imaju ugrađene elektrode u mozgu i kroz te elektrode stimulišu REM fazu sna, i naravno vještački izlaze iz tog sna. Ono što može da bude takođe zanimljivo jeste da on kroz taj san može da živi, da stvara događaje, da ih vještački kreira, i naravno po potrebi gaseći tu elektrodu gasi i san. Ukoliko bi elektrode bile programirane tako da su povezane od jedne do druge, to znači da bi ljudi u snu mogli međusobno da razgovaraju, da imaju 'normalan' život, a da možda nisu ni svjesni toga. Da budu manipulisani unutar 'života u snu' od strane programera, dizajnera tih elektroda. Međutim postavlja se pitanje o metabolizmu unutar ćelija, o samom propadanju organa. Da li se može zamrzavanjem tijela postići taj efekat? Čega se ovaj roman zapravo između ostalog i dotiče.

Filip K. Dik u ovom romanu uvodi termin 'Poluživot' gdje se zapravo ljudi stavljaju u kontejnjere tzv. hladna pakovanja (dakle ne sanduk) i na taj način kroz određene protofazne sisteme ti ljudi u Poluživotu mogu da razgovaraju sa živima, i dobijaju određene informacije iz spopljnog svijeta. Zapravo njihove moždane aktivnosti su prisutne, a tijelo nije. Ova da tako kažemo ideja se nalazi na samom početku romana. I ona pobuđuje i zahtijeva mnoga pitanja i odgovore. Iz različitih uglova sve to može da se gleda. I bitno je da ti uglovi sadrže etiku, i razumijevanje za cijelo čovječanstvo, a ne za pojedince. Kakvi su prostori posmrtnog ili života koji ide u smrt, saznaćete u ovom romanu.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,197 reviews116 followers
May 24, 2021
"He felt all at once like an ineffectual moth, fluttering at the windowpane of reality, dimly seeing it from outside."

Ubik was one of my first Dick stories. It immediately became a favorite and has remained so after reading dozens more. It features many of Dick's favorite recurring themes, especially a darkly humorous blurring of lines between reality and illusion and a concomitant degree of paranoia. In Ubik this takes shape as a metaphysical blurring of the lines between life and death and the evident conflict between order/good vs chaos/evil. The plot is among the most intense, suspenseful and dense of Dick's repertoire, and the ending seemingly casts doubt on one's understanding of nearly everything. Zap!

"The proper time hasn’t come; something has hurried this up - some conniving thing has accelerated it, out of malice and curiosity; a polymorphic, perverse agency which likes to watch. An infantile, retarded entity which enjoys what’s happening. It has crushed me like a bent-legged insect, he said to himself. A simple bug which does nothing but hug the earth. Which can never fly or escape. Can only descend step by step into what is deranged and foul. Into the world of the tomb which a perverse entity surrounded by its own filth inhabits."
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