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Dick, Philip K.
THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH
book-date: 1965
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SFBC
1965

Hardcover
Tom Chibbaro

Book= near-Fine
Dustjacket= VG+

Science Fiction Book Club: January 1965 hardcover (matches the Doubleday edition - but has no price and states "book club edition" on bottom of front flap.) Cover by Tim Chibarro, 278 pages. Condition is near-Fine in a VG+ dustjacket: tight and square, the usual slight bumping at spine ends (corners remain sharp); age-tanning is very mild and uniform; no stamps marks or writing - a clean copy. Unclipped DJ has light rubbing wear to back cover, 1/4" chip gone at top and light wear at both ends of spine, and very light overall wear (see scans.) Makes decent overall impression - put this in a DJ protector and it will be very nice.

A somewhat hard to find hardcover of a novel by Philip K. Dick: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. I've read about a third of P. K. Dick's output, and like some a lot, and all of his short fiction. He is not a big seller (even less during his lifetime?) so his books tend to be hard to find, or only available in expensive new trade paperbacks. Some elements of this are taken from an earlier story: "The Days of Perky Pat" (in Amazing December 1963.) This is more typical of Dick's middle and later work, where reality gets a little (or a lot) frayed around the edges. I read this a long time ago, so I'm relying on a mix of jacket copy and book reviews for a decent plot summary or setup.

Perky Pat layouts were the biggest thing going in the extra-Terran colonies. Entire artificial worlds for a miniature golden-tressed doll and her muscular, artificial boyfriend - beginning with landscapes, and complete to every detail right down to topless bathing suits. And the reason for the fantastic success of P. P. Layouts? Can-D... the illegally distributed hallucinatory drug that enabled the colonists - bored literally to the edge of death with their never-changing lives - to be, for short times, the two handsome make-believe lovers in their flawless doll's world. P. P. Layouts monopolized distribution of Can-D... until Palmer Eldritch's space ship, missing beyond the solar system for ten years, returned - bringing with it a power that could turn the colonist's dream world into a nightmare.

[from a long review in Galaxy (August 1965)]:
"...basic situation is that Earth is warming rapidly; the temperature in New York City is 180 degress Fahrenheit... the only things anyone really cares about are coping with or ignoring the heat and the coming extinction of all life. The UN is concerned with doing something about it, the business community is dedicated to profiting from it, and the vast consuming public is alternately chivvied or lulled by these contending forces. The UN draft laws keep operating to pick up people and push them out into the various colonies like the ones on Mars, wherethey all live desultory lives on the UN dole. The big stabilizing factor in this comic inferno is two-fold: Perky Pat layouts and Can-D. Perky Pat layouts are miniature sets, in incredible detail, of the apartments, cars, analyst's offices, resorts and countrysides inhabited by two little dolls named Perky Pat and her lover, Walt. All the colonists have them, and spend many skins - oh, I forgot; the economy is based on truffle skins, the only uncounterfeitable substance - on adding new pieces to them. The layouts provide nearly perfect escape, for while they in themselves are only static sets, the become pocket universes when used in conjunction with Can-D, a hallucinogen. Under the influence of the drug, all the women playing with a given layout become Pat, and all the men become Walt. The Pat and the Walt. The confusions and orgies thus possible while sitting motionless in a friendly gathering are quite something. Out of the fact that Can-D creates shared hallucinations has arisen a proto-religion, whose central tenet is that the Perky Pat world has some sort of validity. The colonists, who are far too busy with their layouts to do anything about their "real" environment, and who are in any case fed, clothed, and sheltered by the UN, are grappling with the notion that they are all in fact only avatars of Pat and Walt."

"...the effect of Can-D wears off quickly, and in any case requires the layout... To top it off, the UN permits the colonists to have layouts - though they are illegal on Earth - but prohibits Can-D, which must be obtained from pushers. So the use of this spiritual resource leads to accumulating guilt but no redemption. Leo Bulero, the entrepreneur who both manufactures the layouts and heads the Can-D organization, knows full well how vulnerable his position is. He is galvanized into panic when rival entrepreneur Palmer Eldritch, who departed for Proxima Centauri many years ago and was thought lost, suddenly returns and markets Choo-Z, a new hallucinogen. Choo-Z requires no layout and has UN sanction. Furthermore, its effect is apparently permanent, though it is a little hard to be sure of this... Part of the hallucinogenetic effect is a complete disorganization of the time sense; another is totally "real" detail. Yet another is the appearance of Palmer Eldritch in everyone's hallucinations, as the hero, and in effect, God of the hallucinated universe. Since Eldritch has long ago been given stainless steel teeth, an artificial arm and artificial eyes - the 3 stigmata - it is impossible to mistake him...
This is an approximate description of the story. If it is confusing, it is nowhere near as confused as the reader who tries to stay anchored to reality as such a thing is understood in the usual piece of fiction. Nor can it begin to convey the detail or any of the side-tracks Dick drops into the story as casually as Heinlein handing you a complete picture of a civilization while telling you a story about 2 men out after the same thing... Dick has really done it this time... he not only hits the reader with a new and disconcerting idea at regular intervals, he has created a plot which loop-the-loops back through itself so successfully that there is no real telling where it comes out... Is it a good book? I couldn't tell you in a month of Sundays. Should you buy it? Hell, yes!" [-Algis Budrys.]














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