by Philip K. Dick

Paperback, 1973



Call number



[Kbh.] Notabene 1973 220 s.


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 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 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 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 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 bness2
Typical of Dick's books there are many plot twists and the ending is a surprise. Fun read.
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 antao
"'I am Ubik. Before the universe was I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be. ‘“

In “Ubik” by Philip K. Dick

This would feel like a meaningless read indeed if it wasn't, in fact, a very FUNNY one, full of a dry humor. In Ubik the characters are taken in such a subjective maze of crumbling reality, unexpected time-travelling and personal doubts, that it becomes a materialization of the absurdity of the human condition, in the form of an exhilarating fiction. If you are not into the humor of Kafka and Borges, it makes perfectly sense that you are not sensible to Dick's one. What makes Ubik a wonderful read still today? Dick didn't nail everything too tightly to the plot. The result may seem a potpourri but his worlds live and breathe. If he were writing now this book would make him a rebel and, given what he was like, would give most editors / publishers gray-hairs. It also begs the question (of others in the genre): Can you really do that?

I think the current fascination with Dick seems tied to the fact that most of his most popular books have dystopian or control themes. The other worldliness, or just around the corner-ness, of his stories, make it seem fictional, therefore enjoyable, yet also real and possible. I had been seeing a resurgence in sales of his books a couple of decades ago. This is just a speculative thought, but I wonder: If we had really been reading him for a spooky window into the future, then that means that the "seeds of the future dystopia" already started back then. Nixon had been around in Dick's time, but Reagan and the Republican nasties was their second coming. AI was only just poking its nose into things. 2000 was around the corner. Was Dick one of our clues to the future?

If you're into SF, read the rest of this review on my blog.
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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 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 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 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 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 ToddSherman
"The best way to ask for beer is to sing out Ubik. Made from select hops, choice water, slow-aged for perfect flavor, Ubik is the nation's number-one choice in beer. Made only in Cleveland."

Philip K. Dick wrote one of my favorite novels: The Man in the High Castle. Ever since then I’ve been searching for an experience to match that, reading several of his books, and nothing comes close. A Scanner Darkly opened with that same brilliance, and ultimately was an engaging mind-fuck of a read, if not up to the stylistic greatness of Castle. And Ubik was no exception. I love Dick (heehee) for his ideas, his inventiveness, his jaundiced eye peeking at corporate and government malfeasance. However, the characters often can be garish and flat all at once, the plot devices outdated and silly, and the style devoid of any trill or poetry. I know it’s science fiction—a genre appealing to a specific audience—but that didn’t stop Sturgeon or Pelevin or Delaney from writing truly artful fiction. And I do feel a bit conflicted bashing on Dick (oh Lord) since he’s given us so many great ideas and successfully lobotomized a sub-culture of writers and readers for generations. So, from Ubik—a flawed albeit interesting novel—I’ve included two passages that exemplify his creativity and humor. And I will continue to seek out another man in that high castle worthy of Dick’s best (OK, last prurient giggle).

"Prior forms, he reflected, must carry on an invisible, residual life in every object. The past is latent, is submerged, but still there, capable of rising to the surface once the later imprinting unfortunately—and against ordinary experience—vanished. The man contains—not the boy—but earlier men, he thought. History began a long time ago."
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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 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 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 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 wlchase
I confess, this book was my introduction to Philip K. Dick, at the tender age of 12, and it blew my pre-adolescent mind! As such, it has always held a special place in my collection, so my rating may be (hah!) biased somewhat. So much of what represents Dick's body of work in in this volume; humor, fantasy, distrust of authority, and an incredible imagination!… (more)
LibraryThing member hmessing
I had forgotten what an innovative writer Philip K. Dick had been...he writes on so many levels at the same time.A bit hard to follow until you just let yourself go with it.
LibraryThing member JurviZ
This book was pointless. A bit like The Catcher in the Rye. Stuff happens, but nothing meaningful.
LibraryThing member DRFP
This was my first venture into the world of Philip K. Dick and it was something of a mixed bag. There are plenty of nice, inventive sci-fi elements, like the half-lifers and pre-cogs, but other elements, such as the uncertainty of reality, were less interesting (if only because rather poorly developed). I appreciated the pacey nature of the story (at least the first half) but I was a little disappointed with the climax to the novel. The ultimate threat, so to speak, was rather weak and, similarly, Pat too was sadly underdeveloped.

So whilst there were various things I liked in this novel it did all feel a little bit loose and ragged. Perhaps that's the nature of Dick's stories, which seem to have that sort of reputation (neat ideas, poor execution). This wasn't bad though, so I'll read some more of his other work to find out what he's really like.
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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 Zare
Joe Chip is a lead technician of an anti-psi team working for the one of the so called prudence organizations . Joe, his boss Glen Runciter and eleven hand-picked telepath-blockers embark on a mission to Luna in order to prevent ESPs (psi s and precogs among others) from succeeding in industrial espionage undertaking.[return]But soon they will realize it was all a trap set by their rival (leader of the psi organization). But instead dodging bullets and bombs they will find themselves caught in a time-warp, traveling back in time and being sucked-out of life by that very travel, one at the time. Until they realize what is happening (or do they :))[return][return]Great one. Recommended.… (more)



Original language


Original publication date

1966-12-07 (manuscript)

Physical description

220 p.; 18.2 cm


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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