Curious about Philip K. Dick but not sure where to start? Dick produced arguably eight masterpieces: The Man in The High Castle (1962), Martian Time-Slip (1964), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), Ubik (1969), Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974), A Scanner Darkly (1977), and Valis (1981).
Perhaps most accessible to new readers, especially those unfamiliar with science fiction, The Man in The High Castle relates a complex, alternate-history tale of an occupied America after the Axis Powers win World War II. Dick cleverly incorporates the I Ching into the plot of this rich story.
In The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Martian Time-Slip, Dick explores the multitier, corporate-controlled lives of drug-addled, autistic Martian colonists.
Electric Sheep, the original tale of Rick Deckard’s quest, differs significantly from the cult film Blade Runner, but this classic tale still offers similar themes.
Perhaps Dick’s finest exploration of the nature of reality, Ubik, an anti-consumerist mystery involving a multinational corporation, centers around the search for the elusive substance at the core of all things.
For dark near-future thrillers, check out Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and A Scanner Darkly. Both novels contain rampant drug use coupled with a paranoid distrust of law enforcement. Distraught over the drug-related deaths of so many friends, Dick’s Scanner issues a strong parable about the risks of drug use.
Dick’s most critically acclaimed book, Valis, fictionalizes his professed encounters with a manifestation of God. Neophytes should not start with this non-linear postmodern novel, among the most difficult of his oeuvre.
All eight novels are currently available individually or in one of three handsome Library of America hardcover omnibuses. — Rick Klaw