Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick

May 12, 2011 at 13:32 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Science Fiction, Thriller) (, , , , )

7/10

Philip K. Dick has written books that are stunning science fiction masterpieces, casting indelible shadows across the genre and redefining the work of those who both followed and preceded him. He has also written books where his own philosophical musings, his metaphysical conjecturing and his own self-importance obscure interesting ideas and maddeningly unexplored settings. This is something of a blend of both, taking up Kafka’s pen and peerlessly sketching the man who descends from an unassailable perch through no fault of his own, and without understanding to measure his plunge. The book is confidently and expertly written, and the narrative shift from Taverner to the eponymous Buckman is employed with excellence.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a great deal of Dick’s own personal musings scattered intrusively through the narrative, and moments where the characters gaze wistfully into the middle distance and chase rambling thoughts for pages at a time. The story does not really allow for that, and these moments stand out starkly, and give the reader the distinct feeling that he is being lectured–or at the very least, philosophised at, by a very eager and not entirely lucid evangelist. This problem by no means destroys what is, after all, a thrilling and well-crafted science fiction story, but it does damage it somewhat. In addition, while the bizarrely optimistic epilogue surely serves some purpose, and must connect with some spiritual or idealistic (or even subversively cynical) theme somewhere in the book, it feels clumsy and out of character with the rest of the story, and was almost certainly a mistake. The uncertainty and hanging echo of imminent peril hovering at the end of the final chapter left a vastly preferable conclusion. A great book, but manifestly not one of his best.

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2 Comments

  1. Joachim Boaz said,

    “metaphysical conjecturing and his own self-importance obscure interesting ideas and maddeningly unexplored settings” — strong words there! haha, I actually somewhat agree with you — however, I find that those two factors add another dimension (often positive) give to PKD’s works– some are obviously more self-indulgent than others — hence I prefer his works from the 60s and early early 70s… this work falls into the slightly to late (and thus, more self-indulgent) period. BUT, one also remember that some of his works serve a more autobiographical purpose… hmm…

  2. J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

    You’re absolutely right, and to be fair the autobiographical aspects of this and other of his books ought to occasionally let him get away with the odd rumination; yea, perhaps ought to gain him additional accolades for his daring ventures into oft-potent philosophy! In this particular book, however, I felt that his asides were a little too frequent and a little too jarring, being as they were not always connected by more than tenuous links to the actual story he was telling.

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