Chip works for Glen Runciter's anti-psi security agency, which hires out its talents to block telepathic and paranormal crimes. But when its special team tackles a big job on the moon, something goes terribly wrong, and Runciter is seemingly killed.
Now, his mourning employees are receiving bewildering messages from their boss - on toilet walls, traffic tickets, product labels, and even U.S. coins. And the world around them is warping in ways that suggest that their own time is running out - or already has.
Philip K. Dick's searing metaphysical comedy of death and salvation is a tour de force of paranoiac 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.
©1997 Laura Coelho, Christopher Dick, and Isolde Hackett; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Popular ranking puts Ubik and most of his other books into the "Science-Fiction" category. On the surface it is true - the book describes events in then-future (was written in 1969).
The main plot revolves around a strange company Runciters Inc.) whose principal business is to protect its clients from unwanted interference from some telepathic "criminals", who by use of psychic field, may interfere with humans.
Another pillar of the novel is the "half-life" - the state into which a person could go after death of her/his physical body. The idea of contact of real people and the dead, done via interception of residual brain activity - plays an important role.
However, that's enough about the plot in my review. I'm not going to spoil it for the future readers. The whole point in the reading of the book is about surprise, about incredible interleaving of time and space in such a way, that reader is often totally lost as to where the plot happens and in what time. There are amazing descriptions of time going backward into the past.
The book is also deeply philosophical, and in this aspects, Dicks style reminds us of Lem's writings. As with Lem, Dick transmits deep philosophical thoughts about time, space and human will. However, he does so in a very sincere way - free from any pathos or elation. There is nothing like bombastic moralization - and if you do not buy his philosophy - you can just ignore it.
The last pages of the book, with an invocation of some ironically biblical tone, and the very last sentence of the book says something fundamental of humans condition - about freedom and almost Machiavellian will to exist, to survive, to prevail.
And last - but not least - the language of the novel. There are sentences and figures of speech of unprecedented beauty and wit.
If you like good sci-fi - listen to it, if you do not like - do it anyway. Dick's writership transcends any attempt to pigeonhole it.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Friends, this wild review is 100% PKD approved. Ubik the review is only seconds away! Ubik the review is easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, nonflammable, and avoids directly mentioning those aspects of your existence that might make you squirm. Safe when read as directed. Avoid prolonged viewing. Beware grammatical and typographical errors.
Dick, like Pynchon, has a THING for entropy and he perfected this theme in Ubik. While not a direct part of Dick's Gnostic God trilogy (VALIS, The Divine Invasion, & The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), Ubik still manages to be one of Dick's minor God novels (if the Valis trilogy:Dick's trinity :: Ubik:Dick's Demiurge). Dick seems more than willing to bend entire universes to create a world where he can ask some really BIG questions in ways that give you two more levels of uncertainty. What? WHAT?
My first introduction to Dick was age 19. In a SLC airport I bought a copy of Valis (cover looked cool) and figured it would be a fun book to read on a plane. Hours later the plane landed and 20+ years later, I don't think the Earth I landed on was the same as the one the plane left prior to me cracking open Valis. Every time I read another of PKD's novels it is the exact same thing. Something breaks. Time freaks out or at least flips a bit. Something in my brain gets frozen, something else in my head gets lost, and a memory gets replaced. Each Dick novel should come with its own Ubik-type of warning: this novel will alter your reality, even when read as directed
This is one of Philip K. Dick's best books and my own personal favorite. The story begins in the near future. The central character is Joe Chip, an engaging but perpetually broke fellow, employed by his older mentor Glen Runciter. Runciter Associates sell their services as "inertials" -- odd persons who have a talent for cancelling out the abilities of telepathic corporate spies who use mind-reading abilities to spy on companies. Runciter, Chip and ten other employees of Runciter Associates are lured to Luna Colony where they are the victims of a terrorist bomb blast that kills Runciter and leaves Chip and the others scrambling for survival in a reality which seems to be simultaneously slipping back in time and dissolving out from under them. Or is this what's really happening? Many brilliant concepts come into play to create a surreal and mesmerizing trip down the rabbit hole. There are dead people who exist in ???half life,??? a form of lying in state after death where the decedent remains available, in special mausoleums, for consultation with the living. Pre-cogs can see into the future and are frequently hired to engage in corporate espionage. There is omnipresent time decay which creates regressed forms of devices allowing a space-age hover car to regress to a Buick LeSabre, then to a Model T. Finally, there is UBIK itself, a miracle spray which reverses decay and may represent the only hope of salvation. Dark humor, nostalgia and intriguing concepts drawn from philosophy and a deep knowledge of history. Well narrated, this is a true masterpiece of surreal science fiction.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally published at Fantasy Literature.
Warning: Use only as directed. And with caution.
Written in 1969, Ubik is one of Philip K. Dick’s most popular science fiction novels. It’s set in a future 1992 where some humans have develop psi and anti-psi powers which they are willing to hire out to individuals or companies who want to spy (or block spying) on others. Also in this alternate 1992, if you’ve got the money, you can put your beloved recently-deceased relatives into “coldpac” where they can be stored in half-life and you can visit with them for years after their death.
As Ubik begins, Glen Runciter, the head of one of New York City’s top anti-psi organizations, discovers that all the operatives of the top psi organization (whose telepathic fields they like to keep track of) have disappeared. This means less work for Runciter’s employees and he’s concerned about how they’re going to get paid. When Runicter’s company is offered a big job on the moon, he figures they’ve found the missing telepaths and he’s eager to hire out as many of his inactive inertials as he can, including the new one who has a strange and disturbing power: she can nullify events before they happen. But when Runciter’s inertials get to the moon, disaster strikes, and when they return to Earth, they find that life is not how they left it. In fact, time seems to be going backward and something is killing them off one by one. The only thing that might help is Ubik — a mysterious product in an aerosol spray can… If only they can find it!
Ubik is a fast-paced SF thriller full of classic PKD themes such as an unreliable reality, time running backward, precognition, telepathy, paranoia, drug abuse, hallucinations, and spirituality. The story is quite funny in places and includes a bit of horror, too.
There are several plot twists in Ubik, including a big one at the end, which means that the reader is as unsure about what’s going on as the characters are until the big reveal and, still, there are some questions left unanswered. Mainly we’re left contemplating what PKD is suggesting about death, salvation, and God. Ubik is one of those books where, at the end, you have to review the plot in light of your new knowledge just so you can try to put it all together.
I listened to Blackstone Audio’s version read by Anthony Heald. Heald successfully handles a rather large cast of alive and dead humans, not to mention the talking appliances and doors. Thanks to Heald’s skills, Ubik on audio was thoroughly entertaining.
Ubik has been named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 English-Language Novels From 1923 (list compiled by Lev Grossman). I can’t say that I agree with this accolade, but I can say that I enjoyed Ubik and can recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction. For Philip K. Dick fans, Ubik is an essential read.
This book is a trip....into the strange mind of Philip K Dick and his reality spray product UBIK. If you are looking for the same old...don't look here, unless you spray it with a couple squirts of UBIK and see what is underneath.
my favorite pkd gets an excellent read by heald, who isn't afraid to stretch himself when doing the 15 or so different voices. highly recommended, when used as directed.
Maybe, if they just wanted a light silly read. The story doesn't have a lot of depth but it is interesting, but a bit weird.
The end seemed like the author didn't quite know how to end the story so he just kind of made a convient resolution.
I found the scenes about the regression well written.
It was just OK. It was a nice book for some background noise but it is not one I would put on my top 10 list.
I love this book, although I must admit the writing isn't poetry. Also the parodies of a future society, i.e. coin operated doors as slap stick are hilarious interspersed as they are in what is a terse thriller. This book really leans on the red herring as literary device, and after each chapter you get the impression that the book is going in another direction. However, the actual execution of the character's psychic environment and the threat that they face is viscerally rendered, and very memorable. Though the final twist of the book is sort of telegraphed early on, it is surrounded by enough chaff and awesome psychedelic set pieces that it leaves you with a satisfied feeling, rather than one of bored irritation. Maybe the best genre moment in any dirt dozen style thriller book, the vaguely parodic, overly generous character introductions given by the main character in his internal third person limited voice are priceless. Best as a quick read in my opinion.
Yes, but due to the content of the book, you may need to go back a couple of times to make sure you understand what you just heard.
It is hard to find another book to compare Ubik with. You could compare it to the Matrix (I know it is not a book), but there are certain subtle similarities.
Anthony Heald gives every character a unique voice
Do you know what reality you are in?
Great book, i would recommend you read or listen. Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite Authors.
At the heart, it's an amazing story. It's the sort of tale where it's difficult to tell what's real and what's not until very late.
This is the sort of half-fantasy that pulls you in, teasing about the possibility of what could happen, were the ability to see the future a real possibility.
Anthony Heald is an amazing narrator, with the ability to mimic dozens of voices, thus making each character amazingly real.
This was a book I couldn't put aside.
I would heartily recommend this audiobook, PKD, and Anthony Heald, without reservation.
Really enjoyed this book. Fabulous descriptive language, larger than life characters. Interesting plot with plenty of twist both expected and unexpected. Great book!
"A mind meld for humans"
I bought this book because The Verge were going to be discussing it on their book club podcast. I originally bought the ebook version and started to read it however I just couldn't get into it at all and so I decided to spend some more cash and buy the audible version.
Well what can I say a great listen from start to finish. I have no really understanding why it is I couldn't get into it with the Ebook version but boy I'm I glad I pursued the audio.
A twisting story that really messes with your mind and just as you think you are understanding the world of Ubik it dips and dives again and trashes that understanding.
A great book by a great author.
"Story that will last appealing for centuries."
Lets see... mind reading, psy powers, alternatives universes and timelines, afterlife, Utopian future world(that somehow appeals to me..), and Plato theory of the forms thrown in to the mix... result? One brilliant book!
that will stay relevant for long time to come.
"Dead, Oh are we"
Spray tonic re-animation
I didn't have one, the plot was good but I didn't gel with the characters
The Narrator was good, he didn't irritate which is nice
It let me feeling I would like to get to the end
I read lot of Mr Dick's book as a youngster, and really like them, this one just didn't work for me, but saying that, it doesn't mean it is not a good book
"Twisted minds and a new form of half-life."
There's no doubt that Philip K Dick must be a very strange man with a very weird mind! It took a while to get into this book and yet I confess to being thoroughly hooked straight away though I'm not entirely sure I can say why! The whole concept is different even for this genre, sci-fi being one of my faves and I've read lots and lots; life after death as an accepted and useful aspect to being human and in business. And there was a neat twist that I could see creeping up on us toward the end of the book though that isn't a negative point. The mark of a good author is the ability to pull you into an alternate universe with accepted "norms" very different from those of the universe we inhabit and have those "norms" somehow plausible... Philp K Dick can do that making you suspend disbelief.. Where does he get such original ideas from? Dream on....Maybe I should listen to the book again, soon.....
A good introduction into Phillip K Dick's writing. My first K. Dick book and I'm looking forward to trying more. Well read and thought provoking!
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