Ubik

by Philip K. Dick

Paperback, 1973

Status

Available

Call number

813.54

Publication

[Kbh.] Notabene 1973 220 s.

Description

A dead man sends haunting warnings back from the grave, and Joe Chip must solve these mysteries to determine his own real or surreal existence

User reviews

LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
Ubik is easily one of my favorite PKD novels: less lauded but more tightly composed than VALIS, it too makes pervasive but subtle use of Gnostic themes throughout. In his self-exegetical notes, Dick paired Ubik with The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as stories grounded in the mechanism of the Eucharist. (In Three Stigmata the Eucharist is averse or malign--a sort of interplanetary Black Mass.) The initial science-fictional concept in Ubik is that of the "moratorium," a medico-funerary facility that arrests brain deterioration in fresh corpses, so that the "dead" can be milked for small amounts of further interaction with their survivors; all of which opens up the question of the subjective experience of such "death," not to mention all death, and perhaps life as well.

The characters are unusually clear, lacking the amorphousness that Dick's psychological approach often inflicts on his protagonists, and this feature may well have been a function of his onetime development of this story as a prospective film treatment. In my dream universe, David Cronenberg has already directed a production of Ubik!
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LibraryThing member ehines
IMO, The culmination of Dick's middle period. Though there are problems with Dick's writing in this era--cliches, all kinds of narrative loose ends, one-dimensional female characters, rushed & lazy endings--there are also lots of great ideas, and some solid, likable characters of the Kennedy-era striver and/or nebbish type, but with a strong whiff of hipster drug culture seeping in. The novels tend to be flawed but compelling. Ubik is well above par for the era, with many of the pleasures of mid-period Dick in spades, but fewer annoyances (For instance, the ending closes the structure of the novel rather than arbitrarily casting it aside.)… (more)
LibraryThing member thatpirategirl
Take all the notably twisty sci-fi movies of the past 20 years and scramble them until it's impossible to guess where the story is actually heading, and that's Ubik. (Except this was written in 1969, so we're a little behind the times having our minds blown by comparably straightforward movies like The Matrix or Inception.) Describing the plot beyond that would be a disservice to this absurdly entertaining book.

But as a sidenote, there's one scene where a large group of new characters is introduced, and Philip K. Dick describes each one briefly but so evocatively that I actually remembered who was who throughout the rest of the book. Maybe my memory is just awful (of course it is), or maybe I read too many books where hair color is a person's defining feature and everyone is young and attractive. Either way I was impressed.
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LibraryThing member redbike
Glen Runciter runs Terra's most successful prudence organization, a category of business designed to prevent pre-cogs and telepaths from reading your thoughts and future and gaining a business edge with your secrets. But business is bad: all of Runciter's main adversaries' talents are disappearing somewhere off-world and he has no idea where. So at the beginning of the story Runciter visits his wife Ella, who lives suspended in half-life or cold-pak storage a sort of limited-time limbo between life and death.

Philip K Dick has a way of starting his novels off with both wild ideas of the future and bland characters and then after he shifts the reality a couple times the characters suddenly go from poster board cut-outs to characters you care about. At the beginning this novel, with its rich boss and bumbling ever-broke employee, Joe Chip, reminded me of George Jetson and Mr Spacely of The Jetsons. But as the ideas of the novel took hold and the concepts, the crazy possibilities sank in I became entranced and my views about this world and life and death were called into question. The future world (of 1992) that Dick creates is one part Jetsons, with its rocket travel to Zurich and the Moon, chutes that drop you from the roof of your building to your office chair and Mortuaries that keep loved ones in "half-life" or suspended cryonic animation for monthly one hour visits; and on the other hand the future is one part distopia with pre-cogs that can see the future and telepaths that can read your thoughts and the worse of all, everything in the future is coin-operated! Your coffee maker, your refrigerator, and even your front door.
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LibraryThing member Carl_Alves
There's a lot going on in this novel beyond the main storyline, some of it good, some of it not so good. Written in 1969, this novel was written in the future (1992), which is now our past. Dick got virtually none of his future predictions right in this novel, which casts it in a bit of a negative light. The main plot is that Glen Runciter runs an anti-psi agency to counter the use of agencies that are using telepathy and other paranormal means to gain an advantage in the business world. Joe Chip is his right hand man who tests anti-psy abilities for the agencies. Things change when they encounter a woman who has a talent they have never seen before, which is to change the past. Chip recognizes that she is very dangerous, which proves to be true. The other main aspect of the plot is that people don't die. They go into cold stasis where they are still sort of alive and people can communicate with them, something that figures very prominently in the novel and becomes the main plot line after being a secondary one.

I liked the tone and voice of the novel. It moves at a fast pace, and there is always either action or intrigue taking place. On the other hand, the novel was often confusing, especially about mid-way through. As I mentioned, his predictions of the future weren't very accurate. In his future, machines can talk and have personalities. It also requires coins to operate them, even simple things like opening a door. He has the foresight to come up with these machines, but then they use nickels and dimes to operate them, so he completely ignored the concept of inflation. There is also never a resolution to the plot line where Runciter's people are ambushed. That was more or less ignored about half way through. As I mentioned, there is some good and some bad, but by and large this was an entertaining novel.

Carl Alves - author of Reconquest: Mother Earth
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LibraryThing member burningtodd
Weird. All of PKD's fiction is a little weird, but this one is way out there. It has elements of his other work in it and seems to be a blending of many of his previous ideas. In the future some people have evolved to have psychic powers and others have evolved to counter them. Also when you die you enter into what is called half life where you can be kept frozen and your friends and family can come and talk to you until you get reincarnated. In this book a bomb goes off and someone is killed, we just aren't sure (until the end, which is only a little ambiguous) who it was. We are led to believe one thing, but then told something else entirely. This novel has a lot of potential, what with murders and psychics and talking to dead people and all, but it just seems to fall a little bit short.… (more)
LibraryThing member grunin
This is working the same idea of perception vs. reality as many of Dick's other books, with some new twists to keep it from being predictable.

It's another mystery story, and like Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said the mystery is once again "why isn't reality behaving itself?" The story doesn't flow so well -- there are a lot of things that happen for no particular reason, and there's one running gag that's just tedious -- but the philosophical underpinning is better thought out, so I didn't feel let down after it was over.… (more)
LibraryThing member Neftzger
This was one of the best Philip K. Dick novels I've read so far. The story is extremely well written and has enough mystery to keep the reader turning pages trying to figure out what's really going on. There are some very original ideas that include things such as putting people into a "half life" right after they die so that their loved ones can still communicate with them. One of my favorite things about this book was the advertisement for Ubik at the beginning of each chapter - every time it appears to be a different product but has a similar safety warning at the end. Highly recommend sci fi reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member john.cooper
In a fantastically advanced 1992, cryogenically suspended dead people live a "half-life" that lets them continue to interact with the living for a few decades at least; one of them, a wife cut down at a young age, provides business advice to her now elderly husband, the chief of a firm that protects businesses from telepathic spy organizations. Where the story goes from there is really best left to discover, but because this is a Philip K. Dick novel, reality becomes labile. Point of view shifts, and perceptions are unreliable. People are killed, and as the survivors try to avoid their own deaths, their environment morphs gradually from 1992 to 1939. Mysterious messages on matchbook covers and bathroom walls come from a man thought dead, advertising a commercial product called Ubik.

I'll never think of PKD as a great prose stylist—his amphetamine-fueled ideas came too fast to be presented with clarity or grace—but he handles both humor and horror very well here. The tone is engaging and the plot is snappy. None of the characters are fleshed out enough to become emotionally engaged with, but it doesn't matter; this is a paranoid farce, not a novel of feeling. Your head is supposed to spin, and it will, pleasantly for the most part.

Dick wrote a screenplay for Ubit that I haven't read. But it would make a great miniseries.
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LibraryThing member clfisha
Anti-physics consultancy is a lucrative but dangerous business (physic spies play dirty). Runciter runs the business with his dead wife (suspended in half life) but when his team are ambushed things start getting really weird, technologies regressing and everything else deteriorating fast, including the food. The weird product Ubik is the only thing which might save them

Dick seems to be an ideas man, characters and tight plotting aren’t the point. In fact main character’s stupidity to get the plot started set my teeth on edge. Do you think this could be an ambush guys? Do you? Sigh. It also doesn't help that Ubik is a bit light on the idea front and full of humour that I don't find funny. It's not a horrible read by any means, the regression of technologies and the eras they evoke is a lot of fun. The mystery of who is the bad guy and they how to get out of it is enjoyable even if the ending is bit too signposted for a modern reader.

I picked Ubik at random after a bad experience trying to read [Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?] when I was a teenager so maybe there is no hope for me but I think he deserves one more try.

Not recommending this one, has to be a better Dick out there
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LibraryThing member alsatia
Ubik: tastes great, less filling. Use only as directed.

In all seriousness, this is a fast, good read. It gets a rare 5 star rating from me. Clearly reality-benders like The Matrix and Inception are direct descendants of works like this one by PK Dick. If you like those, read this work by the master. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
A wonderful brain-cramping twisted thrill ride of a book. What a mind Philip K. Dick has. Part of the joy of a novel like this, which is supposedly set in 1992, is seeing how he got the future right, where he got it almost right, and where his imagination got lost (although in delightful ways). It's easy to see why he inspired so many writers. Bravo.… (more)
LibraryThing member Greatrakes
An extraordinarily prescient book, written over 40 years ago, yet describing a world of instant communication and online commercevery like the present. The story flips you through time and life/death so many times, you don't know whether you are in the past, or present, alive, half alive or dead.

This book is crying out to be a film, if only for the costumes:

"Over by the window G. G. Ashwood, wearing his customary natty birch-bark pantaloons, hemp-rope belt, peekaboo see-through top and train-engineer's tall hat, shrugged indifferently."

The story: a group of paranormals working for Runciter Associates are are on a job on the moon when they are killed, or injured, time starts to move backward for them, but not smoothly, objects regress, and the past is different (Walt Disney appearing on coinage for example). The groups of possibly half-dead people are being picked off (or possibly revived) one by one, and possibly being talked to by Glen Runciter, whilst they are in a half-dead state, or possibly not, I lost track.
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LibraryThing member RandyStafford
My reactions to reading this novel in 2005.

This novel lived up to its reputation as one of Dick’s classics.

Its theme of personal realities and the imposition of one’s own reality on others echoes Dick’s Eye in the Sky and his A Maze of Death. The intimation of personal death in the bathroom graffiti of “Lean over the bowl/And then take a dive./All of you are dead. I am alive.” echoes the death of Jason Taverner’s celebrity identity in Dick’s My Tears, the Policeman Said. The horrifying presence of entropy seen in Dick’s Martian Time-Slip is echoed here when Joe Chip senses death and entropy closing in on him.

The malevolent presence of Jory infiltrating the minds of those in cryonic suspension was a bit like the gnostic god of A Maze of Death. The omnipresent Ubik messages are a classic example of divine messages (though, of course, Runciter is not god, but he is, in some sense, more real given that he is mobile and moves about in the “real world” and not the delusional world of those in the moratorium) found in trash and advertising, the divine penetrating the mundane world.

The style of this novel got me to thinking about the virtues and faults of Dick’s often rapid and ramshackle speed of composition. (I have no idea how quickly this novel was conceived and written.) I found the jarring nomenclature odd and interesting. Specifically, there is the clever “ubik” for “ubiquitous”, but we also get the decidedly staid Latin of “moratorium”. On the one hand, I sense Dick was writing in a hurry and (perhaps like the use of “demesne” in his The Penultimate Truth) simply used a rather improbable and long Latin word when a real future would have invented a slang word or corruption (like "ubik"). On the other hand, it's a great use of the word's literal meaning -- "to delay".

However, I can't decide if the ending, when Runciter sees Joe Chip money, rather than the reverse throughout most of the book where the alive Runciter attempts to communicate to "dead" Chip via things like his picture on money, is meant to make a thematic point I don't understand or just a vestige of A. E. van Vogt's influence on Dick -- to wit, the need to pile one more plot twist on the end of the novel even if it makes or even corrodes any serious philosophical or thematic point Dick was trying to make. (It should be noted that Runciter, while generally a rather sympathetic god figure, seems not above conducting business scams to drum up clients for his anti-psi service which may make him sort of a corrupt gnostic god if we buy the Runciter world = divinity, moratorium=our flawed world analogy. Of course there was also the mandatory dark haired girl here with Pat. There was plenty of humor to be had in the plight of the financially incompotent Joe Chip in a world where vending machines have to be constantly fed, where you have to pay to even use the door out in your own apartment.
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LibraryThing member SebastianHagelstein
Ubik is a book where you don't really know what's happening until the end. It's skillfully written enough that you know as much as the characters throughout the story. It comes together fast at the end and makes for a satisfying story and conclusion.
LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
"Ubik" plays out less like your average technology-focused sci-fi story than a weird, paranoid, slightly nauseating drug trip, a bad-times mind-blower that feels like a necessary flip side to some of the late sixties's sunnier pop cultural products. Philip K. plays with a lot of ambitious and interesting ideas here, effortlessly changing the rules that more realistic have to take for granted. In this particular future, the well-to-do have postponed death by a sort of extended "half-life" and an entire industry based around "psionically talented" individuals that can read minds and see the future have challenged the boundaries of what it means to be a self-contained personality. The book, it must be said, moves slowly and bets the house on its twist ending, and Dick, who isn't really a naturally gifted prose stylist, doesn't quite have the chops to carry it off. "Ubik" is probably more interesting and inventive than it is readable. Still, I can see why Lev Grossman, author of "The Magicians," has declared himself a fan, and I wonder how much M. Night Shaylamalan and various inferior sci-fi products dealing with the wonders and dangers of "virtual reality" borrowed from this one. As the saying goes, nothing seems as old as the past's future, and, thankfully, not everything Dick theorized about here came to pass. The out-and-out bizarre clothing worn by the novel's characters could only have emerged from 1969, and it's a bit odd to hear about people buying amphetamines and psychedelics from vending machines when you can't even get a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine these days. Even so, Philip K.Dick, as always, seems decades and decades ahead of his contemporaries and remains well worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member clong
What can you say about Ubik? It's kind of like a cross between The Demolished Man and The Twilight Zone, a novel where appearances are always deceiving, where nobody really knows even the few things they think they know. The characters are confidently drawn. Joe Chip is a likable protagonist, in some ways a very effective man and in others totally inept. Glen Runciter is also likable, a man trying to take control of an uncontrollable situation. The enigmatic Pat is a sometimes nemesis, sometimes ally. The real star of the book is the frequently absurd world created by Dick, a future world where doors won't let you out of a room unless you pay them. A world where you can still talk to dead people.

There are plenty of very funny throw away moments as we move through this world, not the least of which is how people dress. When we meet Stanton Mick, he is wearing "fuchsia pedal-pushers, pink yakfur slippers, a snakeskin sleeveless blouse, and a ribbon in his waist-length dyed white hair." Later von Vogelsang greets them wearing "tweed toga, loafers, crimson sash and a purple airplane-propeller beanie."

Despite these moments of humor, this is not a comedy. Chip and his colleagues spend most of the book racing against the clock to fight a deterioration of reality that threatens to suck the very life out of them and leave nothing but a desiccated shell of bones and skin. And it is not until the very end that the various layers of illusion on penetrated to the point that we can understand what is really happening.

This is my favorite Dick book to date.
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LibraryThing member euang
Testing Reality: As usual, Dick tests the boundaries between reality, and . . . something else. One reason I was really interested in this book is a research paper I was working on. The data came from my psychological interviews, using the ZMET method. In this type of consumer behavior study, we find that what people say and what they actually do are often very different. People even make up elaborate descriptions and explanations to justify their imaginary behaviors. Ubik really fits this context well, because here Dick references a consumer product called Ubik, that is everywhere. Everyone wants Ubik, but no one seems actually to obtain it.… (more)
LibraryThing member CliffBurns
One of PKD's best, along with A SCANNER DARKLY, THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP and, maybe, FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID.
LibraryThing member adamallen
Ubik is a quick and entertaining read from Philip K. Dick (PKD), a luminary in the science fiction world. Having not read any of Dick's works, my only exposure to him was the movies Blade Runner and Minority Report - both based on other PKD novels. I enjoyed the book very much. Having read it, I now note that I've been on a bit of a sci-fi kick lately and have not yet been disappointed. I'm not sure I'd consider myself a sci-fi buff but evidently my geek factor has been flaring up. No worries, I'm entertained.

Prior to reading Ubik, I noted in someone's review (not sure where) that PKD's novels all revolve around deciphering what is real and what is not. I can certainly see that theme in Ubik and suspect it to be true of many of his other novels. Before I dive into some spoilers, let me just say that I'd recommend this book to anyone remotely interested. I will definitely read more PKD in the future, beginning with A Scanner Darkly before I watch the movie in a few months.

**SPOILER ALERT (Highlight)**

Ubik is set in the future of 1992 (it was written in 1969) where there are precogs, telepaths, inertials, and other "gifted" people who battle it out amongst the normal people. Mr. Runciter's team of inertials has been brought in to clean up a business infested by precogs and telepaths. Unfortunately, we learn that it is a set-up which leads to an explosion. Some confusion ensues as to who died in the explosion. We are led to believe that Mr. Runciter is dead but in fact, all of the others are. They have been stored in cold storage where they can communicate with the outside world. This bit of who is dead and who is not is PKD's first play on "what is reality?"

Up next, you begin to wonder what the hell is happening to our main character Joe Chip and his other co-workers at Runciter Associates. They are weakening and dying off one at a time. By the time we're reduced to just Joe, we learn that he's in the cold storage with Mr. Runciter's wife (whom you learn about early in the story) and his colleagues are being picked off one at a time by another person in the cold storage, Jory, who needs their life energy to sustain him. Mrs. Runciter tracks down Joe in his odd purgatory world to help him. She provides him with Ubik, the spray can equivalent of a defibrillator. When he gets weak, he just sprays himself with some Ubik and all is well. With this knowledge, Joe is able to defeat Jory.

In the final chapter of the book, PKD gives his final reality twist. Glen Runciter is at the cold storage facility asking to see his wife. Her casket is brought in and Mr. Runciter tips the moratorium owner. The moratorium owner looks at the money and states, "what this?" Looking at the coins, Runciter realizes that Joe Chip's profile is on the money. This is one of the same signs that Joe Chip received before realizing that he was the one who died in the explosion. At the close of the book, we are led to believe that Runciter might have also died (hence seeing Joe on the coins) and the reality shifts yet again.

*****END OF SPOILERS*****

While I recognize that the book sounds pretty out there, it's well written and very captivating. You'll be drawn in and hooked in no time. Enjoy it.
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LibraryThing member JurviZ
This book was pointless. A bit like The Catcher in the Rye. Stuff happens, but nothing meaningful.
LibraryThing member etimme
I liked the pacing of this story a whole lot more than The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. The story could have been set in the near future, and I especially enjoyed the idea of our lives being lived under the burden of a near infinite number of micro-transactions since it mirrors so closely the evolution of services on the Internet.

Of course, being PKD, he has to ruin a perfectly good story by ending the last chapter of the book with "oh yeah, and all of this might not have really happened." This seems to be a recurring theme with the author, and discourages me from reading his work more actively.
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LibraryThing member apatt
Mind blowing, thought provoking wonderful read.
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The novel Ubik is dazzling and complex as Philip K. Dick takes you on a journey through levels of both time and consciousness. As I read a feeling of losing track both of what was happening and how it was happening overcame me - perhaps I should reread the book, but I'm not sure that would help. In my own analytical way I assume that the story must hang together, but perhaps part of Dick's approach includes discontinuities in the narrative that preclude the sort of straightforward analysis that I am attempting. This approach leads to some discomfort, but also adds to the appeal of the story.
Epigraphical humor helps lighten the tension that builds in the narrative providing a form of comic relief. This is a novel that truly demonstrates its themes through its structure as well as its characters and plot. Its hero, Joe Chip, is an everyman who is caught up between other characters and within this world of discontinuities. Even as he goes on a journey backward through time; as objects morph into different forms changing their identities the novel raises questions about the nature of identity of the world and the place of one's self in that world.
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LibraryThing member mckenz18
Ubik presents the problem of reality couched in one of the most entertaining science fiction plots I have ever read: Glen Runciter runs a company that specializes in providing other companies or private individuals one or more “inertials”: individuals who display a skill for canceling out the talents of particular futuristic (but in the novel commonplace) people, such as precogs and telepaths. Ray Hollis is Runciter’s chief competition, as he employs the majority of the people possessing such talents. A company such as Runciter’s plays a large role in protecting the privacy and in some cases the safety of customers. Pat is Runciter’s newest inertial. She displays one of the most interesting anti-talents discovered so far, and potentially could be extremely beneficial to the company, but she may be dangerous. Along with Joe Chip (who really is the novel’s central character), Runciter takes a team of inertials to Luna when an enormous business opportunity opens itself up there. However, it would seem that Runciter and his employees are merely being lured to their demise when an explosion occurs soon after their getting there and discovering their purpose in coming to be false. I only say so much about the plot because after this point it is hard to say anything for sure. The problem that picks up at this point is: Who is alive and who is dead? This is a tricky question to answer, as individuals who are placed in “cold-pac” quickly enough after dying can enter into “half-life” for a limited amount of time. In half-life a person can communicate with those within reality, although they are in fact no longer in that reality, so it is not difficult to see the blurred line that emerges. Dead or alive, only Ubik (salvation in a spray can) can restore order, and time and space are rapidly disintegrating. This is one of my favorite Philip K. Dick books I have read to date. Important questions raised in clever ways, and a story that entertains from page one to the end.… (more)

Subjects

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1966-12-07

Physical description

220 p.; 18.2 cm

ISBN

8774900528 / 9788774900528

Local notes

Omslag: Peter Sugar
Omslaget viser en hånd med en spraydåse og ordet UBIK skrevet med farvede skyer
Indskannet omslag - N650U - 150 dpi
Oversat fra amerikansk "Ubik" af Jannick Storm
Notabene science fiction, bind 4

Other editions

Ubik by Philip K. Dick (Paperback)

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