Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Unteleported Man vs Lies Inc

Catalogues of Philip K Dick's output (particularly publisher versions) variously list two novels dating from the 1960s: The Unteleported Man and Lies Inc. They are effectively the same work.

The tortuous publishing history, when boiled down, relates to an extra section that Dick added to The Unteleported Man to make it Lies Inc. That later section adds little to nothing to the plot. Rather, it's a characteristically Dickian exposition on perceptions of reality.

The extra 30,000 words is a bit like an acid trip (although Dick had never indulged at the time of writing*). That is specifically in keeping with the narrative, as the passage is inserted at a point just after a protagonist is attacked with a weapon that injects LSD.

Thus we find ourselves immersed for some time in a chaotic universe where a number of different worlds are experienced, from Paraworld Blue to Paraworld Silver to The Clock World. It is never clear to the protagonist which construct is the real world; in each, the cast of characters is similar, but their motivation, situation - even outward form - differ. The most enduring image is the alien Mazdast, a tentacled cephalopod that periodically eats some of its own - replenishing - eyeballs for nutrition.

The extra section is a bit of a wade for those seeking specific meaning, or those who are unused to Dick's occasional ramblings. Yet it does give some flavour for his almost flippant habit of flipping the reader into a different reality, to the point where the end result cannot be deduced, but must be chased to exhaustion. This writing suggests that that point of exhaustion may sometimes be down to the writer's stamina, rather than the reader's.

I should make note that the edition I read - Gollancz, 1984 - had some annoying errors at times. Not so much typos, but mis-wordings perhaps emenating from an over-extended brain, and uncorrected by proofreaders - if in fact they existed - who ultimately may have read through Dick with eyes firmly glazed. Missteps range from the glaringly obvious to possibly clumsy excisions ("and" clearly needing to be replaced by "the"), to the egregious use of "light-year" as a measure of time rather than distance - later still, it is used as a proper measure of space; possibly Dick's, but it's rather academic where the error originated.

The plot itself relates to a three- (or four-) way struggle between different power factions, where the antagonistic party is not clear until late in the piece. Time travel and parallel universes are ultimately red herrings, although teleportation is not.

*Perhaps surprisingly, Dick's drugs of choice, particularly during the process of writing, had been amphetamine-related. Which prompts the thought that the philosophical state of mind that permeates almost all his work - that there is something more sinister behind perceived reality - was innate, as opposed to induced.

No comments: