Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Philip K. Dick
Doubleday, 1969 (my copy is from Vintage Books, 1991)
Size: Short (my copy has 216 pages)
Theme: Alternate reality
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Glen Runciter and Joe Chip
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Ubik is a psychological thriller that takes place in an alternate reality where there are many people with powers, such as precognition, telepathy, etc. There are also people able to negate those with powers, who are called inertials. As one could expect, there are multiple business opportunities associated with both sides, and there are companies which employ either those with powers or those able to oppose them. In addition, technology enables communication with deceased who are cryogenically preserved, in what is called half-life.

The plot focuses on a security company, led by Glen Runciter and by his wife (who is in half-life), and a contract they just received. As one could expect, things do not go as expected and the team is soon struggling to understand what has just happened to them and why uncanny events start taking place around them, as they are faced with shifting reality and sudden death.

The plot is very interesting in its use of the half-life concept, and the powers and anti-powers concept was also innovative when the book was written. The action is fast paced and there is mystery surrounding what exactly is going on until the very end. It should also be said that the book ends in a cliffhanger. The characters are intriguing, although only a couple of them are even mildly explored. The less positive side of the story is that, being so short, it hardly has time to explore these concepts adequately. There could be so much more done with this basic plotline. Thus, it would have been great if the story was told in 3 times the size of this book. Still, I greatly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to any sci-fi fan.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

The last survivors of the team find out they are all actually dead and in the real world people are trying to get them into half-life. At the very end, the story takes a huge turn, indicating that what you thought was reality is actually half-life. Also, the book finally reveals exactly what Ubik is, although I felt this explanation should have been more extensive.

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