Please help me get started on Philip Dick.

A long time ago when I was a kid, I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and not getting it, pretty much forgot about Philip K. Dick. Recently, however, I’ve read one novel (A Scanner Darkly) and one short story (Paycheck) and really got into them, so I want to keep reading him.

What are some good jumping off points for PKD? Should I read the short stories or the novels first? Anything to avoid? And should I give DADOES another chance now that I’m all growed up?

I don’t see what your problem is, there’s ads all over Craiglist… Oh, never mind

I would definitely start with the short stories. I’ve read DADOES recently, and I still like it. When I was young, I read *Flow Tears, The Policeman Said. * I think it’s still my favorite, although I know a lot of people who don’t like it. And of course you should read The Man in the High Castle as soon as possible.

The short story collections are really good.

I also liked Ubik.

The three part Valis, something, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer are pretty, ummm, weird, so I wouldn’t start there.

The short fiction anthology “The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford” has some of my favorite stories (its in a series of volumes collected short fiction by PKD, maybe second in the series?). PKD was a very able short story writer

I liked Ubik too. The Man in the High Castle is as classic as it gets. Its not “science fictiony” though – it is one of the first novels in the genre now known as “Alternate History.”

My favorites are Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and Ubik. The Man In The High Castle is also a good read, but I’d read some of his other work first, as it is largely self-referential. I’m pretty meh on Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep; it’s not his best to start with, and it hasn’t aged well. One example of the film being vastly better than the source material.


I never understood just how important that middle initial was until this thread title.

Probably the best novel to start with is The Man Who Japed. It has only one main character and one plot line, while most of his other novels can have a half dozen of each. In addition, the theme is relatively easy to decipher.

I’d vote for either a short story collection, Valis or Martian Timeslip

Yep, the short stories are the best way in to Dick. Then some of the early books: Eye in the Sky, Time Out of Joint, The Man Who Japed. Then sample the mid-period novels: The Man in the High Castle, Counter-Clock World, Galactic Pot-Healer.

By then you will be addickted. :slight_smile:

Which is fake, of course. His real middle nake was McCracken.

Knew I should have parsed this title better. Everyone’s a comedian nowadays. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for your input. I think I’ll start those short stories. I’m actually just finishing up A Scanner Darkly after seeing the movie (which so far is remarkably true to the book for a PKD story-to-film, btw, and Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Barris).

I saw this book in the bookstore. From what I read, this would not be the place to start then?
Philip K. Dick
Four Novels of the 1960s
The Man in the High Castle • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? • Ubik

Phillip K. Dick is one of the few authors I truly enjoyed having group discussions about. Many other authors have debate worthy symbolism and subplots, but Dick’s stuff makes you ask all the deep metaphysical questions without all the grinding self serving philosopher prose. I love him, and if you really want to get into him start with the short stories and talk with someone who also read them.

After reading A Scanner Darkly, I’d have to agree with you on this. What got me hooked on PKD was how he could talk deeply about stuff without being pretentious. I really enjoyed reading Dune and Dune Messiah, but let’s face it: Frank Herbert really enjoyed his own prose, didn’t he? Like waaayyyy too much. I did manage to get through Children of Dune but only by skipping entire pages of philoso-babble to get to stuff that had anything to do with the narrative. Most of it didn’t even mean anything; Herbert was talking out his ass, and I’ve heard enough about his next three books not to bother even borrowing them from the library. Just a bunch of hallucinogenic sludge.

I’m not saying that PKD was entirely coherent himself, but I always had the impression that he was at least trying to explain something. He wasn’t talking just to hear himself talk. He wasn’t in it for the ego trip. He was just in it for the story.

Just wanted to thank for this suggestion, Arnold. It seems like the best place to start, and I’ll see if my library has this tomorrow after work. :slight_smile:

I also highly recommend the biography Divine Invasions by Lawrence Sutin.

Particular point of note, Phil had a twin sister, Jane, who died IIRC at 6 weeks old because his mother couldn’t produce enough milk but was advised not to use formula - when it was finally diagnosed that the babies were near death from malnutrition they were rushed to the hospital but Jane didn’t make it.
According to Sutin there are numerous characters in the books, typically a “dark-haired girl” that are yearning references to the sister he never knew. He was quoted as saying that he felt guilty over this for his entire life because he “got all the milk”
He was buried next to her.

Oh, and he loved cats :slight_smile: Several good photos of “Phil with cat(s)”

A new reader could do a lot worse than to start off with that set. It’s a great introduction to Dick’s “mind-bending sci-fi” stuff.

My personal favorite is the poorly-named “Valis” trilogy - Valis, the Divine Invasion (my favorite book of his), and The transmigration of Timothy Archer , in which he uses sci-fi iconography and setting to do some ridiculously deep digging into the nature of religion.