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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars P. K. DICK'S GLORIOUS TRASH AND TERROR ART
THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH is certainly one of Dick's most important books. It casts a stronger, clearer and more unsettling light on a certain aspect of Dick's vision than perhaps any other of his books. I am referring to Dick's deep interest in the peculiarly post-modern experiential blend of banality and terror. This is one of the most important and least...
Published on June 18 2004 by Acataleptus

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars I really do love PKD...
...but I honestly don't think this is one of his stronger works. In all truth, a lot of the surreal, subjective- reality business here felt almost like a parody of Dick's usual territory. ("Here are some characters. Their reality keeps shifting, and they never know what is and is not true. Watch them bumble around confusedly"). It seemed kinda...routine...
Published on Oct. 1 1999 by GeoX


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars P. K. DICK'S GLORIOUS TRASH AND TERROR ART, June 18 2004
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH is certainly one of Dick's most important books. It casts a stronger, clearer and more unsettling light on a certain aspect of Dick's vision than perhaps any other of his books. I am referring to Dick's deep interest in the peculiarly post-modern experiential blend of banality and terror. This is one of the most important and least appreciated or correctly understood aspects of Dick's artistic vision and accomplishment. If you take the time to examine it, you will see that banality and terror form the poles between which the content of THE THREE STIGMATA moves and it is important to understand that this banality and terror are inseparable from the high-tech nature of this imagined future world. For Dick, the predominant effect of pervasive technological advancement has been that it intensely magnifies the banality of ordinary consciousness which, confronted then with its excruciatingly boring self, demands to be entertained, amused, ( 'Perky Pat' is only a futuristic extension of ordinary post-modern society) to the point of a sort of addiction and so the chief function of technology becomes to create a world that is a diversion from reality and then to protect that world from any possible threat. Let us note before going any further that for Dick ordinary consciousness is a sort of artificial consciousness in the sense that its main thrust is not toward a connection with the challenging mystery of reality but toward diversionary false 'realities' and this is ultimately why Dick so often blurs the line between ordinary humans and various forms of androids. They are both forms of repeatable, artificial life. The sort of open, genuine exploring of reality that was so important to Dick is alien and even taboo to ordinary consciousness. Dick saw this exploring as absolutely necessary for maintaining sanity, that is, being in touch with reality. This is a sort of law of life and the consequence of violating it is that doing so eventually leads to the manifestation of dominating monsters and terror. In a very real sense, Palmer Eldritch is nothing more than a high-tech fascist monster and the terror that he represents has its roots in the very banality of the lives of most of the people he comes to dominate. If my view of this book seems to neglect its sci-fi nature, please remember that for Dick technological advancement, however expansive, does not in itself entail any advancement in awareness or understanding in human beings, it rather only magnifies what they already are and Dick's entire body of sci-fi work is a radical rebellion against that common sci-fi fantasy. THE THREE STIGMATA is a truly visionary book of a very frightening nature.
Finally, I would like to comment on the fact that one often hears and reads statements on Dick's work claiming that it is unfortunate that he was not more conscientious about the quality of his writing, the implication presumably being that if he had been he might have produced some real literary masterpieces instead of the flawed but interesting works he did create. I believe this attitude reveals a serious lack of understanding of what it is that makes Dick's work so important, far more important than that of the majority of his contemporaries who have a more 'polished' style. It is well known that Dick wrote very rapidly, sometimes entire works gushed out of him in a very short time and it is often stated that he should have taken the time to re-write and produce a more'literary' work. I believe that Dick's gut feeling was totally against this and I also believe that his feeling was absolutely correct. Dick knew that he had a rare and deep connection with and feel for certain crucial characteristics of post-modern civilization and their implications for the future. One of these characteristics was its chronic, unique and deadly type of banality and trashiness which is so rawly present in his work. He saw it for the deeply rooted disease that it is, so deeply rooted that the common reaction to it is to try to make a virtue of it rather than face the seemingly impossible operation of trying to dig it out. He had the same deep feel for the possible fantastic terrors of the future and he sincerely struggled all his adult life to find a reality that could genuinely liberate him from, take him beyond these things. Dick's approach to writing was his way of keeping immediately in touch with his own deepest sense of things and for him to attempt to be more 'artistic' in any conventional sense of that term would only have weakened his work by turning it back toward the past and would not have improved it. Dick's work is inevitably imperfect, but it is a bold and beautiful step forward that none of his contemporaries can match.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What is Palmer Eldritch?, July 1 2004
By 
J A W (Norman, OK United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
God, Satan, Maya, the Id, Drugs, Evolution, Communism, Religion, Postmodernism, the Future, Reality, Unreality...all of the above, none of the above? What does Eldritch and his precious Chew-Z represent to you?
Dick's masterpiece about a creeping threat(or is it the salvation of man?) that is borderline supernatural feeds off the audience's paranoia of the "Other". This is a common theme in PKD's work, and this may be his best on this topic. We have no control over it, it's coming, to eat us, to savor us, to incorporate us into his mind. I've always felt that PKD was in ways an heir to horror-master H.P. Lovecraft, another writer who wrote about the inevitability of man's annihilation at the hands of the supernatural.
I'm tempted to drop the rating a half star, because this book does tend to get repetitive towards the end, and possibly confusing if you're not paying attention, but that seems to always be PKD's point--the swarming of Palmer Eldritch in the characters' minds. It works well as an idea, but, in execution, you kind of want the story to move along. PKD's strength wasn't in his plotting or characterization (although this book has some of his better character arcs), but in his mind-blowing creativity. Even his weakest books are a joy just because you run into concepts and ideas that you probably never could have thought of yourself. Finding out what little mundane development PKD envisions for the future is as much as a page turner as the plot itself. Evolution treatment, suitcase psychiatrists? The normality of the weird, a PKD trademark.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chewing on deep questions, April 29 2004
By 
Doug Mackey (Fairfield, IA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
One of Dick's masterpieces, first published in 1965. The setting is a future Earth where the environment has heated up intolerably. Because of overpopulation, people are "drafted" to emigrate the even more miserable environments of Mars and other planets. The colonists, to escape the dreary reality of their hovels, take a hallucinogenic drug, Can-D. Like the psychedelic voyagers of the 1960s, they also have something like theological debates about the reality of the Can-D experience. A kind of negative messiah named Palmer Eldritch introduces a new drug called Chew-Z and at first it seems an improvement, producing not a fantasy state but a "genuine new universe." But those who step into it find themselves subject to Eldritch as the evil god of a hallucinated world. The hero Barney Mayerson, after taking the drug, is turned into a phantom in a future world that regards him as only semi-real, and then finds himself turning into Eldritch himself. Thus Chew-Z, promising the fulfillment of all desires, only produces a nightmare from which one perhaps never awakens. But drugs are in a sense a red herring in this novel. Can-D and Chew-Z are, rather, pretexts for revealing the fragility of the fabric of reality woven by our perceptions and conditioning.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Further proof of genius., March 16 2004
By 
Evan Waters (Kansas City, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
This may well be Philip K. Dick's most brain-frying book, and I mean that as a complement. I put it down feeling overstuffed, as if the book were a rich cheese I'd had too much of. There is so much going on here, thematically, conceptually, and literally, that it's hard to keep track.
The plot is... too much to describe, so I'll direct you to what Amazon has already provided. It's perhaps best not to know too much about what's going on beforehand anyway.
Ultimately this is a story that works on many levels. Alongside questions about the divine, about the nature of reality, about the nature of happiness, there are some wonderfully simple human elements, such as Barney Mayerson's attempt to cope with failure, and his gradual redefinition of himself at the colony. This kind of character transformation- breaking down, then building up- seems central to much of Dick's work, and it is handled with a breathtaking emotional subtlety.
I am not sure whether I consider this the best of Dick's work, but it certainly demonstrates why he was perhaps science fiction's most literary author- one whose efforts stand as a validation of the genre's worth. Here is a sci-fi novel that is also a brilliant piece of postmodernist literature, a study of faith and the human psyche that deals with the increasing (or simply continued) complexity and uncertainty of the world around us, and the need to find something to hold on to, be it illusion or reality.
More thoughts will probably come with time. Right now I don't think the digestion process has finished.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars and 2 Planets, July 12 2003
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This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
Set in a science-fiction genre the story teller (PKD) has developed the uncanny ability here to insert a small but important wedge into the consciouness of the reader which will lead the reader to uncontrollably question their reality in a way previously only obtained through mind-altering practices of meditation or certain types of drugs. Will the reader be better off after such an encounter with PKD's craft? Only time will tell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I hoped for, Feb. 12 2003
By 
alchemist42 "alchemist42" (Athens, GA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
This book was great. It has everything that I have come to expect from PKD, and even improved on some of his flaws. Historically, he has been berated by reviewers for lacking plot or characterization. Without losing the conceptual angle that is so brilliant in all of his work, this one focused more on story. The reader sees more of the main characters, as well. We learn all of their motivations and feelings.
The author's characteristic wry humour is showcased in this book, too. For instance, he comments on American consumerism when he tells of the favourite past time of the Mars colonists who take the drug Can-D to experience a day in the life of a Barbie and Ken doll set. And he does it in a way that somehow makes sense in the story.
Of course, stealing the spotlight is the real main character of the story, which is reality itself. You never know if what you are reading is really happening. The long-term effects of the drugs are unknown to the main characters, so when they experience getting lost in time or losing their identity, the reader gets similarly lost. As soon as you figure it out, you find that you are wrong.
Some drugs are not so safe- even if used as directed.
So, buy this book. Your brain will love you for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dick's Best, Jan. 28 2003
By 
Nathan B. Hyatt "Psychonaut" (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
This is my favorite book by Dick; I couldn't put it down. Besides having more of a plot than many others of his books, this work dives deep into mind-blowing issues like causality and the spatial dimension of time. The premise is interesting enough to hook you in, but once Palmer starts really messing with people, your head will spin.
For anyone who thinks that a time travel story gives you lots to think about, this book will take those issues and rip them apart, sewing them back together inside your head without ever resorting to overt time travel. It's all hidden within the doors of perception, and it questions how perception is related to consciousness.
What makes this book great is that it contains a great villain: Palmer Eldritch. Eldritch is a powerful, motivated, morally ambiguous character that is only the "villain" because of his relation to the other characters (and the fact that he seems to be trying to take over humanity). In fact, everyone's a villain in this book, except for the poor saps who can't control their own fate.
It's also a major treatise on mind control through media and drugs. You will see how society today is being programmed by the corporate media, and how drugs (everything from alcohol and mj to speed and acid) are dulling probably half of America into a state of placid, easily controlled, and manipulated baffoons.
Overall, entertaining, thought provoking, and out of this world. Completely original, Dick was a pioneer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Real or Fantasy -- the best and worst of Dick, Dec 25 2002
By 
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch combines what I like most and least about the works of Philip K. Dick.
Dick shows why he is among the best sci-fi writers ever. He makes us question what is real about the human experience. In the three stigmata, this is done by exploring the mind via the use of recreational drugs named Can-D and Chew-Z. As I understand the goal, it is to get at the core of how human experience is a mental phenomenon.
Beyond the brain as experience creating maching, the three stigmata is packed with interesting ideas including pre-cogs (as in the movie "minority report").
Two aspects of the book limited my enjoyment. The first is the slippery divide between reality and fantasy. I'd estimate that 50% of the book is spent in action sequences of unknown reality -- is it actually happening or is it in the mind? -- you don't know. I understand that this relates to the main point of the book, but I tired of the device.
The second quirk that limited my enjoyment relates to Dick's view of the sources of human happiness. In the three stigmata, human colonists on Mars and elsewhere are unhappy because they live in objectively difficult circumstances.
The idea that hard times makes for unhappy humans may seem logical, but all the data contradict this notion. In fact, humans appear to be extremely good at adjusting to any world in which we live. A seminal study of happiness found that people who win a lottery end up being about as happy as those who become crippled in car accidents. See the greed chapter in Mean Genes for a longer description.
All in all, the three stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is an excellent book, well worth the read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The most scary book ever written?, Aug. 31 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
Once Philip K Dick was walking across a field, when he looked up, and saw "a terrible visage" superimposed on the sky. It was a huge, metal-eyed, metal-jawed face.
This strange hallucination became the basis of one of PKD's greatest works. He began with that terrible face he "saw" in the sky, and invents an entire universe to go around it.
PKD was extremely frightened of the figure of Palmer Eldritch, whom he regarded as the ultimate figure of evil - a god who will take your objective reality away, and trap you in delusory states of mind. Actually, PKD was so frightened by this story, he couldn't stand to check the "galley proofs" when his publisher sent them to him. That could explain some of the weaknesses in the book!
What is the book about? I admit, I am not too sure. But something profound is going on in the wings. Philip K Dick makes a statement about Reality. What is it? It is that which is not private. All of us would dreadfully fear suddenly discovering that we have been living in a dreamworld since we were born. Everything that we take for granted turns out to be 100% subjective - no commonality behind the veil of illusion.
In Palmer Eldritch, the characters believe that taking Chew-Z can cause them to penetrate into some higher level of reality. But if such a reality cannot include other people, then what is the point? One can have eternity in a solitary, delusional state - but if one never awakes, such an immortality would be something worse than hell. At least hell is crowded.
Notice, too, the contrast between Can-D and Chew-Z as mirroring the contrast between Marijuana and Heroin. Marijuana is a party drug, used in concert with other people, and provides a jolly good time.
But then, along comes the pusher of "hard drugs", which are much more powerful - but also have to be taken alone, in a solitary place. One goes to a world of solipsistic solitude when one takes heroin - and of course, if one becomes an addict, one becomes more and more apt simply to STAY there...It is an eternal life, of sorts - nothing is ever experienced again...just pure solitude forever...
Many people I know, including me, have reported strange experiences after reading this book. It is a book that became part of the hippie movement - it was one of John Lennon's favourite books, and became regarded as one of the great LSD novels.
The spooky part of this novel are the hallucinations toward the end, where the characters begin losing their identity, and all start turning into Palmer Eldritch. That is just too scary.
Anyway, take this book with care - as Ubik says, use only as directed...
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5.0 out of 5 stars So much stuff going on in such a short book, June 26 2002
By 
This review is from: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Paperback)
This is the first Philip K. Dick book that I have read, but I will certainly read many more. My brain hurts after reading this book in a few sittings. There is just so much stuff going on.
The story starts off simply enough, simple might not actually be the right word, with Barney Mayerson waking up in bed with his new assistant Rondinella Fugate. What does Roni assist Barney with? She is his fellow Pre-Fash consoltany who try to predict what will become good sellers in the future. They work for P.P. Layouts a business that makes a doll named Perky Pat. Before you think that Perky Pat is just another doll. That is far from the truth, Perky Pat and her miniature layouts actually work as a setting for folks in colonies such as Mars or Io to escape their harsh realities. The women enter the body of Perky Pat, the men enter the body of Walt. So this business is pretty lucrative. How do they enter the bodies of the dolls? By taking a drug called Can-D. Illegal on earth, but not illegal on the colonies. The problem for Barney is that he has been drafted to live on one of the colonies. This is just the beginning of his problems.
Along comes Palmer Eldritch a man who ten years in the past had left earth to visit an alien society. He brings back a lichen that he calls Chew-Z. It is supposed to be much more powerful than Can-D, but in the universe that Chew-Z brings the user Palmer is a god.
A wonderful book that should appeal to many. One aspect that really fascinated me about the book was something that Dick just wrote in passing. He mentioned a bit about in Perky Pat's world incest, murder, and other crimes could be committed without threat of retribution. This seems very relevent in this day and age with virtual reality games. When is a murder not a murder?
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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick (Paperback - Dec 3 1991)
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