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Ubik [Paperback]

Philip K. Dick
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 3 1991 Vintage
Philip K. Dick's searing metaphysical comedy of death and salvation is a tour de force of panoramic menace and unfettered slapstick, in which the departed give business advice, shop for their next incarnation, and run the continual risk of dying yet again.

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Nobody but Philip K. Dick could so successfully combine SF comedy with the unease of reality gone wrong, shifting underfoot like quicksand. Besides grisly ideas like funeral parlors where you swap gossip for the advice of the frozen dead, Ubik (1969) offers such deadpan farce as a moneyless character's attack on the robot apartment door that demands a five-cent toll:

"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."

Chip works for Glen Runciter's anti-psi security agency, which hires out its talents to block telepathic snooping and paranormal dirty tricks. When its special team tackles a big job on the Moon, something goes terribly wrong. Runciter is killed, it seems--but messages from him now appear on toilet walls, traffic tickets, or product labels. Meanwhile, fragments of reality are timeslipping into past versions: Joe Chip's beloved stereo system reverts to a hand-cranked 78 player with bamboo needles. Why does Runciter's face appear on U.S. coins? Why the repeated ads for a hard-to-find universal panacea called Ubik ("safe when taken as directed")?

The true, chilling state of affairs slowly becomes clear, though the villain isn't who Joe Chip thinks. And this is Dick country, where final truths are never quite final and--with the help of Ubik--the reality/illusion balance can still be tilted the other way. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk


'The best sci-fi mind on any planet' Rolling Stone --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality in a can April 28 2004
In Ubik, first published in 1969, we find the first distinct appearance of the transcendental element in Dick's work. In his earlier novels, he had been content to demonstrate that there is no "objective" reality irrespective of consciousness: the mind essentially constructs its own world. In Ubik, the protagonist Joe Chip, condemned to a perpetual "half-life" of suspended animation after a fatal accident, finds his world inexorably deteriorating around him. The only thing standing between Joe and complete extinction is a product called Ubik, which comes in spray cans, and, when sprayed on, instantly counteracts the forces of destruction. Among other things, Ubik appears as a razor blade, a deodorant, a bra, a breakfast cereal, a pill for stomach relief, plastic wrap, a salad dressing, a used car, and a savings and loan. As its name implies, it is ubiquitous. Though a symbol of the divine, it is not a mere magical aid but a gift that can only be summoned by the person who needs it through an exercise of will and intelligence. The ending of Ubik has a twist that calls into question the substantiality of the "real world." This is my favorite PKD novel, the one that combines the most dazzling metaphysics with the most involving story and characters. After reading it, one can only start scanning one's own environment for hopeful signs of the redeeming Ubik!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ubik Ubik Ubik!!! 5 stars!!! April 15 2004
This book is fantastic! I have to admit that Ubik was the first Philip K. Dick book I read and I was thrilled by his concepts. I loved this book from the very first page on because it is...abnormal. In the meantime I have also read a couple of other Philip K. Dick books but Ubik is the one which is above all them. The kind of ideas he throws at you are just stunning. Objects are morphing back into earlier technologies (a fancy high speed elevator transforms into an old cable operated thing), a talking doors threatens to prosecute one of the main characters, messages from a dead guy, the picture of the same dead guy turns up on money coins, and last but not least the all important question: are we dead or is everybody else dead? The book has only 200 pages and not a single word is wasted. The story is superbly and plotted in a complex way and takes countless unexpected turns. Every single time when you start to believe what this is all about, it just changes in such a drastic way that you have to put your thoughts together from scratch. Philip K. Dick is a master in his own genre and I don't think anybody else dares to enter his realms. The only sad thing which is currently happening to his brilliant stories is the way Hollywood turns them into cheap blockbusters such as Pay check. I can understand that the complexity of his stories can not be easily turned into movies but using 10% of his genius ideas and 90% action crap is not good
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4.0 out of 5 stars A weird but gripping mystery SF novel Aug. 25 2014
Ubik is one of the weirder science fiction books I've read.

Psychic powers are now common, and a major industry is that of 'prudence'—protecting a client's privacy by neutralizing prying telepaths. Glen Runciter runs one of the solar system's largest prudence firms, and while on a job on the moon, is assassinated in an explosion that also wounds his eleven best agents. The agents recover and rush Runciter back to Earth, since the soul lingers for a few hours after death and can be trapped with cryonics. Alas, they are too late, and Runciter's soul has slipped away into true death, leaving his agent Joe Chip in charge of the company.

Soon after, Chip begins receiving strange messages implying that he and the other agents were the ones killed in the explosion, and Runciter, the only survivor, is attempting to talk with their souls in the half-life. Things get more mind-bending when time starts reversing and technology reverts to earlier states. In every time period, though, a mysterious product called Ubik is advertised, and seems to be Chip's key to survival—and he needs to get his hands on some soon, because his fellow agents are slowly turning up true-dead as well.

One of PKD's former wives has stated that Ubik is a metaphor for the omnipotence and omnipresence of God (Ubik deriving from 'ubiquitous'). Dick had some pretty crazy ideas about theology and divine experiences later in his life, and it begins to show in Ubik. Regardless, the novel can be read as a science fiction mystery, and quite a page-turning mystery at that. Four stars overall.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ubik Aug. 2 2010
By Roland
I've always been deeply in love with Philip Dick's paranoid worlds. I love his books, I love his short stories, I even love things like Our Friends From Frolix 8. There is something raw and razor-sharp, almost clinical in Dick's writing, something that transcends style, ideas and story. You can always tell that a part of him - and it might very well be a dominant part - not only believes in what he writes, but lives it.

I haven't read all of Dick's books. I haven't even read half of them. Still I've read most of those whose names everyone knows, and I have read enough to think that even a genius of his magnitude would be hard pressed to write anything quite as good as Ubik twice. If I had to point at a single one of Philip Dick's works as his magnum opus, that would undoubtedly be it.

As Michael Marshall Smith aptly puts it in the forward of my edition of the book, there is a mind-boggling number of SF ideas in Ubik: time-travel; psychic abilities and their corresponding anti-abilities; the dead being kept in a state of "half-life" where they could be reached by the living; alternate realities and reality revision; futuristic space-faring society; dystopian economic system. Many authors would spin a book around any ONE of those, but for Philip Dick it's always what's underneath the flesh that matters, so he casually presents them ALL in the first ten pages of his novel.

In Ubik's world technology has advanced to the state where colonization of the Moon and other worlds is possible. Psychic phenomena are common and many people employ psychics in their business ventures or shadier dealings. And since no law could control such powers, the so called "prudence organizations" have appeared.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
love this guys work
Published 1 month ago by andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Product
Great Product, as described and in very good condition. The shipping was very well handle and very fast. thank you
Published on Aug. 25 2011 by hubert
2.0 out of 5 stars One of Dick's weaker books
Phil Dick is my favorite writer, but of the 15 books I've read by him, this is my least favorite. The plot is confused and the characters, never a strong point in PKD's books, are... Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2003 by Dr. Christian B. Smart
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard, far from the subtlety of other works
Dick once more plays with his favourite theme, i.e. whether reality is for real. But in Ubik he does so in a heavy way, far from the subtelty one can see in The Man in the High... Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2003 by Antoine J. Bachmann
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably weird, quite funny, and thought-provoking
I've been reading the works of Philip K. Dick for several years now, and have read most of his more well-known works, thought I still have a lot to go. Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2003 by Bill R. Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars Safe When Taken as Directed
Every time I read a book by Phil Dick, I'm surprised. How did he come up with this stuff? You get repetitive themes: alternate realities, psychic phenomenon, alienation, a... Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2003 by Michael A. Kopp
4.0 out of 5 stars The Matrix and the Return of the Living Dead
Millions of humans on this planet are right now eagerly waiting for the premiere of the second installment in the Wachowsky brothers' pop stew of Hong Kong fight movies, Berkeley... Read more
Published on May 5 2003 by FABRICIO M. R. Silva
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great PKD Novel
After reading "Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said" and being blown away by it, I decided to give Philip K. Dick another try. Read more
Published on April 11 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Unstuck Beyond the Grave
From about the mid-60's to mid-70's PKD was really in his element, delivering his greatest novels of bizarre mind-expanding futures. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2003 by doomsdayer520
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