After having read several excellent novels by the consistently brilliant Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip turned out to be the first disappointment of his large oeuvre that failed to leave any indelible impression on me. Oddly enough, I have grown to enjoy PKD's uneven rambling prose because it is often counter-balanced by bizarre and always fascinating concepts along with deeply profound religious and philosophical ideas. Ironically, this novel is actually contains a narrative structure and style that is far less jarring than his other works but ends up being the least noteworthy due to the familiar subject matter that comes across as a weak rehash as opposed to giving new form to these ideas, which he is able to achieve with some of his best novels including A Scanner Darkly, Ubik and A Scanner Darkly. Mental illness, reality, gnosticism, salvation, drug abuse, time and death are all important concerns for PKD, which constantly crop up in his novels but with Martian Time-Slip, many of these ideas are drastically undermined by the thin story and dull characters.
Taking place during the early colonization period of Mars, a repair man named Jack Bohlen crosses paths with a powerful Union representative and his mistress who all find their lives influenced by a strange autistic child named Manfred who seems to hold the answers to the future. To make troubles worse, Jack suffers from schizophrenia and Manfred has the ability to time travel and bring others with him. Colonial life is difficult with water being scarce and people desperately suffering from loneliness with housing establishments being scattered amongst the harsh arid environment. Seriously now, this premise is brilliant with so much potential for greatness but the story never fully materializes towards a satisfying conclusion. There are also some other sub-plots involving secondary characters but they too are rendered inconsequential. On a more positive note, Dick does provide some interesting social commentary regarding the evils of capitalism, colonization and the flawed education system. Furthermore, the overt sexism and racial bigotry are a tad excessive and laughably passé although I suppose one must take into account that the novel was written during the 1960's. Despite my unabashed love for this author, I can only recommend this novel to hardcore PKD fans.
Read from June 07 to 17, 2011