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April 9, 2007

Filed under: fiction»litcrit

Ubik With Us

In an ongoing series of elaborate plans to force science fiction onto Belle's friends, I suggested Philip K. Dick's Ubik to the book club this month. After we all got done snickering about his last name, the suggestion was accepted. It's a short read, and I finished it this weekend. If anyone would like to participate from home, I'd like to propose the following helpful discussion questions:

  1. Who's dead, and who is alive at the end of the book? This is not a trivial question.
  2. What is Ubik? What's the significance of its name? And why does each chapter begin with a short advertising blurb, in which Ubik takes the place of any number of other commodities?
  3. How does that tie in to the other commercial aspects of Ubik's setting, such as the need to pay for opening doors, using television sets, or other mundane appliances?
  4. This book was recently chosen as one of Time's 100 best novels of all time. I'm not sure I have a question for that, I just think it's kind of weird.
  5. There are at least two binaries at work here in the book--the first being the company of psychics run by Hollis versus Runciter's anti-psychic "prudence" organization. What other binaries or opposing forces do you see, and what do they represent?
  6. Themes of surveillance, godhood (either malevolent or ambivalent), and alternate realities (including hallucinations) make repeated appearances in Dick's fiction. What do you make of these themes in Ubik?
  7. You may find it useful to read Wikipedia's entry on Philip K. Dick. Having done so, does this change your perception of the book?
Book club members may also use the comment space to castigate me for my oddities in taste, and to publicly state that I am never allowed to choose our readings again.

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