The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike, by Philip K. Dick

May 29, 2011 at 15:57 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , , )

5/10

Bizarrely for such a cryptically-titled book, The Man is an absurdly normal and myopic look at small-town life, and the farces and contradictions that drive humanity. Most of Philip K. Dick’s books are subversively and secretly about exactly this subject: the absurity of humanity. The most important thing to be gleaned by reading this particular story is a glimpse inside his chief purpose in writing, and an understanding that above all, Dick was not successful because he was brilliantly creative or more imaginative than other writers, but because he deeply cared about people, and the sort of things they get up to.

There is mystery in The Man, and there are a handful of pages where his pen disturbs the waters of prehistoric anthropology, sinister ghost towns and the question of the meaning of humanity; there are a few moments where the reader is reminded just who is writing the story, and things become chilling and exciting. Mostly, however, this book is only a moderate success as an interesting story, and more useful as a flowery essay on the strangeness of the human condition. It is not badly written (nobody could accuse Dick of that, even in his dreariest works!) but neither is it thrilling, or even at a more basic level, challenging. It is a bleak portrait that seems to be waiting to have some element of supernature draped over its stolid frame to complete its purpose; interesting for what it is, but certainly not entertaining or thought-provoking.

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