Considered by many the slightest of PKD's SF novels, "Dr. Futurity" (1960) brims with ideas Dick develops more fully and consistently in better works. "Dr. Futurity" was prompted by Ace editor Don Wollheim, who wanted an expansion of Dick's 1953 novelette "Time Pawn" (published for the first and only time in the Summer 1954 issue of THRILLING WONDER STORIES). Wollheim likely knew an expanded version would be a perfect Ace Double fit (which it was, twice, in 1960 with John Brunner's "Slavers of Space" and again in 1972 with Dick's own "The Unteleported Man").
Usually classified as time travel yarn, the novel improves considerably after the first five chapters, which are almost verbatim from "Time Pawn." From this point "Dr. Futurity" becomes more interesting as a crackpot revenge fantasy in which the descendants of the Native American Iroquois plot to get the Europeans before the Europeans can get them--via time travel, which the Iroquois have mastered. For this reason Dr. Jim Parsons is snatched from his present in 2012 to the year 2405 to heal tribal leader Corith, who has failed in his attempt to assassinate Sr. Francis Drake in the year 1579--so a resurrected Corinth can try again.
Although lightly developed here, the novel contains many characteristic Dickian concerns. "Dr. Futurity" is one of several PKD "youth culture" dystopias, and perhaps the most extreme until "A Scanner Darkly" (1977). The average age in the world society of 2405 is fifteen, and the political police, the shupos, are psychotic children harnessed, trained, and encouraged by the government.
"Dr. Futurity" also contains an early showcasing of PKD's lifelong obsession with male/female twins, which has its first developed expression in 1965's "Dr. Bloodmoney" (Edie Keller carries unborn twin brother Bill as a tumor in her abdomen). In "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" (1974) twins Felix and Alys Buckman are lovers. Dick extensively explores the influence of his twin Jane on his life and work in the "Exegesis." "Dr. Futurity" hints that Corith and wife Jepthe are the twin siblings of matriarch Nixina, and strongly suggests their children, Loris and Helmar, are twins. Clearly twins Grace and Nathan are the result of the coupling of Loris and Jim Parsons. "The union of the opposites" Loris says in the novel's final chapter--the archetypal yin/yang interplay that calls all existence into being--resonates throughout Dick's work.
As a time-travel tale, "Dr. Futurity" addresses several paradoxes, including whether or not traveling into the past and killing your grandfather will negate your existence. More interestingly, Dick hints that many major history-altering events are the result of time travelers' intervention.
Rich in ideas, which are too many, too diverse, and too underdeveloped to jell in this short early novel, "Dr. Futurity" still offers enjoyable escapism to the contemporary reader.