by Philip K. Dick
TFG August Book Discussion
I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows.
Joe Chip is a technician for Glen Runciter’s company who employs anti-talents (people with the ability to counteract psionic powers). During his rest day, G.G. Ashwood bangs on his door to and requests to test out a potential psi, Pat Conley, for her unique ability. Joe tests Pat and discovers that she has the ability to go back to the past and possibly change it which also affects the present, and has written her off as a hazard to the firm.
Glen Runciter on the other hand, is widower who has put his wife, Ella, in half-life so that he can continue running the company with her. He has also received a mission from businessman Mick Stanton and has decided to assemble 11 of his best people to Luna to finish the job; Joe Chip, Pat Conley and him included. The group flies to the moon and discovers that their mission was a trap set up by their rival Ray Hollis. Unfortunately, a bomb explodes killing Runciter and injures the others. The group, now headed by Chip flies back to Earth in an attempt to put Runciter in half-life.
After the Luna mission, strange things started to happen to Chip and his group. Consumable items deteriorate, gadgets degenerate to its older version and reality seems to be warped and regressing. Every now and then, Chip sees manifestations of Runciter but he doesn’t exactly know what to do. His pals start to feel weak and deteriorate. He wants to save his friends and contact Runciter in half-life but he doesn’t know which to do first.
- I found the first part of the book quite boring and predictable. The male lead, Joe Chip, is a guy buried in debt but is actually good at his work. He meets a young and rebellious female (Pat Conley) who he seems to like but doesn’t let it show. They go on a mission, things fail and they try to do what’s right: revive their boss and avenge his death. Well, that’s the only part I thought predictable. After that things got interesting.
- When things started to regress, I found it hard to put the book down. It was really interesting to find out why degeneration and regression was happening. It looked like the bombing they experienced in their Luna mission warped things not only on the moon but also on Earth. It was really weird but of course, who wouldn’t love to solve a good mystery. I was also asking myself a lot of “why’s” and “how’s” which kept me going on and on.
- The thing that baffled me more were Runciter’s manifestations. Did he predict his own death and he got things ready so when his team goes back from the Luna mission, they have ‘clues’ that would point out the mystery behind his death?
- There are a lot of characters introduced but the whole story actually revolves around Joe Chip and Glen Runciter. Pat Conley may be Chip’s love interest but her presence in the novel, as well as the others were merely minor.
- Jory is one of the plot twists I did not expect. He is a resident of half-life and holds the answer to some of the questions I was asking.
So what iS Ubik then? It’s actually a colloquial term for ubiquity which means presence everywhere or in many places especially simultaneously. It’s also synonymous to omnipresence. I have read that Ubik is a metaphor for God which explains why Ubik is everywhere (it was presented as different products on the headings of each chapter and also within the story itself). So, in essence I guess half-life presents purgatory? Because you’re in a state of limbo, you’re supposed to be dead but you’re still lingering like a ghost. And eternal life is when a person in half-life vanishes (because they are being reincarnated into a new life). The exact interpretation is hard to pinpoint though.
Honestly, this is the most mind-fuck book I have read. I don’t mean it in a bad way. The book was great and I’m giving it 5 stars. I was swearing and periodically saying ‘WHAAT?!’ towards the end of the book, haha. I was used to getting answers by the end but the conclusion was a major cliffhanger and left me with my mouth open in disbelief. I know I’m not getting concrete answers for this just countless theories. Anyway, I find Ubik comparable to Inception and Shutter Island. Every now and then I also think of Interstellar specifically because of the space travel. I recommend this to sci-fi lovers but please don’t ask me to tell you what happened. Read it.