The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
By Philip K. Dick
G. K. Hall & Co., Large Print, (2002)
Genre: Science Fiction
Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - September 13, 2002
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is an odd little book that has a much more complicated plot than most science fiction books of its ilk. Written by Philip K. Dick, this book melds drugs and religion into a psychedelic mishmash that will have you glued to your seat until you have consumed the entire book.
Life on Earth is ending, or at least everyone thinks it is. The temperature has risen so high, that to go outside at midday is a death sentence. To secure the survival of the human race, various outposts have been set up on Mars and various moons throughout the solar system. Life on these colonies is dreary, and to maintain their sanity, the colonist have taken to using an illegal drug called Can-D, which is sold by P. P. Layouts, a mega-conglomerate that welds dictatorial powers. The drug, Can-D, allows users to translate themselves into th bodies of various dolls, such as Perky Pat.
To translate themselves into the dolls, users first set up a layout containing the dolls they want to use, and any items they want to use during their 'trip'. These items can range from cars to clothing. Numerous people can enter the same surreal doll world at the same time, enabling them to engage in behavior that they might not otherwise engage in. In order to determine what items will be popular in the Perky Pat layouts, P.P. Layouts uses the services of pre-cogs, who can see into the future. One such pre-cog is Barney Mayerson, the anti-hero of this book.
Barney's life is falling apart, and in a fit of dispar, he volunteers to set out as a pioneer to one of Earth's many colonies. He is assigned to Mars, which is at the crux of a major dilemma. Palmer Eldritch, who has set out for Prox system has returned, after being away for over ten years. However, before he is able to reach Earth, he crash landing on Pluto, almost dying in the process. He has brought back with him the material with which to make Chew-Z, a drug similar to Can-D with too major exceptions, the first being that Eldritch has convinced the neurotics board that Chew-Z is harmless and therefore legal. Secondly, you don't need to use a layout in order to translate yourself to another world. The only problem with this new drug, as Barney quickly discovers, is that Eldritch controls this alternative world - and there are some very nasty things going on there. To make Barney's life more difficult, his former employer at P.P. Layout wants to use Barney to discredit Chew-Z in order to maintain the companies monopoly supplying Can-D to the huddled masses on Mars. While at the same time. Eldritch is trying to use Barney to help make Chew-Z the drug of choice - for everyone.
This surreal novel will have you wondering what is going on - is Eldritch, Eldritch? Or is he an alien? Has he metamorphosis into a deity, or a monster? Moreover, are Can-D users really traveling to an alternative reality or are they merely joining in on a massive group hallucination? All these questions aside, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch offers readers an intriguing glimpse into one possible future for man - a future in which truffle skins are used as money...
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