Dr. Futurity Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1984
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"The most brilliant sci-fi mind on any planet." --Rolling Stone --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
[headline] An unwitting doctor travels through time leading to unforeseen and fatal consequences.
When Dr. Jim Parsons wakes up from a car accident, he finds himself in a future populated almost entirely by the young. But to keep the world run by the young, death is fetishized, and those who survive to old age are put down. In such a world, Parsons with his innate desire to save lives is a criminal and outcast. But for one revolutionary group, he may be just the savior they need to heal and revive their cryogenically frozen leader. When he and the group journey to 1500s California, what they find causes them to question what they know about history and the underpinnings of their society. With the jarring immediacy of a car crash, Philip K. Dick throws both the reader and protagonist of "Dr. Futurity" into a bizarre future where healing is a crime and youth rules.
PHILIP K. DICK (1928 1982) wrote 121 short stories and 45 novels and is considered one of the most visionary authors of the twentieth century. His work is included in the Library of America and has been translated into more than twenty five languages. Eleven works have been adapted to film, including "Blade Runner" (based on "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"), "Total Recall," "Minority Report," and "A Scanner Darkly."" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Although one of the novels in which Dick was still finding his literary feet, it shows signs of the depths of his ideas and the themes which would come to dominate his work.
Dr Jim Parsons is snatched from the US of Nineteen Ninety Eight and deposited in the year Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Five. Interestingly, the US that Dick envisaged in his own near future is one in which large corporations have been nationalised and society seems to be run by the professional classes (Doctors, lawyers, etc). American politics and society is often something at which Dick takes a sideswipe, often as part of the background to the main narrative.
Parsons arrives in a post-nuclear world where the human race has become homogenised and the birth rate is strictly controlled (as is female rights).
Children are produced by a process of controlled natural selection whereby competitive `tribes' engage in various mental and physical challenges; the number of points they win determining who contributes their zygotes to `The Soul Cube', which is essentially a vast bank of reproductive material.
Death is welcomed, as when a tribe member dies, a replacement is automatically fertilised within the cube.
Being a Doctor, and somewhat politically liberal, Parsons is confused and appalled when he is arrested for saving the life of a young woman who subsequently makes a complaint against him for denying her the right to die.
Structurally, the novel follows the mythic structure in that the hero - unwillingly in this case - is taken from his world of familiarity and his happy marriage (unusually for Dick, whose heroes tend to suffer from broken or dysfunctional relationships) to an alien world of seemingly bizarre behaviour and barbaric cultural beliefs.
Dick was once quoted as having been influenced by AE Van Vogt, and if it shows anywhere, it shows in this novel which, if a little less obscure and rambling than some of Van Vogt's work, displays some of his trademarks such as `the dark city of spires', the super race, the peculiar machines, the convoluted plot and the trip to Mars. These are Van Vogt clichés which can be seen at their best in Slan (1940) and `The World of Null-A' (1948).
It's obviously hastily written, although the time-travel loops and paradoxes are well-thought out and all the ends neatly tied up, although Dick skimps on some areas where the motives of the characters are confusing. For instance, believing himself to have murdered someone by utilising time-travel equipment Parsons goes out of his way to try and ensure that he has actually done so. At that point, however, he has no motive for carrying out the murder, and has been shown earlier to be - he is a Doctor after all - someone who is dedicated to preserving life.
Not a major Dick novel, but interesting nonetheless.
Dr. Futurity has a fundamental theme of the 'Back to the Future' film series - namely, folks travelling forward/backward in time with hopes of altering the course of history. In repeated time travelling episodes they actually see themselves from their previous journeys. In Dr. Futurity the purpose of the time travel is to prevent the white supremacy era, as the author describes, which began when explorers conquered the New World. In Philip K. Dick's twenty-fifth century all the human races are blended and babies are produced through careful selection. Physically defective individuals are encouraged to get euthanised. Now how this all relates to earlier centuries of white supremacy is unclear, but Philip K. Dick certainly takes us on a fun (if rather contrived) ride.
Bottom line: readable and enjoyable. Recommended for Philip K. Dick neophytes.
Not too much of this story has aged. In fact, only the doctor with black bag would seem anachronistic to today's reader, nearly half a century after the book was written. The fact that the bag contains things like a cardiac bypass pump, which can be installed under field conditions with just an hour's work, leaves one wondering: just what kind of house call was he making? "It's OK Mrs. Hausfrau, I gave little Johnny two aspirin and a cardiac bypass. He'll be fin in the morning - just don't forget to change his batteries."
I don't see this as one of Dick's finest efforts. Parts of the story seem bolted together, and individuals' motivations in the second half get murky. Lots of SF stories get off the ground using reversal of some social assumption, but the death cult seems a bit ham-handed. "Dr. Futurity" is a fun ride, but not part of the ouvre that earned Dick his reputation as master.