Please welcome our newest reviewer, Marissa! You can also download our podcast readalong discussion of this book.
The World Jones Made
By Philip K Dick; Read by Christopher Lane.
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] 6 discs – 7 hours
Themes: / precognition / relativism / post-apocalpytic / carnival / government /
Floyd Jones has always been able to see exactly one year into his future, a gift and curse that began one year before he was even born. As a fortuneteller at a postapocalyptic carnival, Jones is a powerful force, and may be able to free society from its paralyzing Relativism. If, that is, he can avoid the radioactively unstable government hit man on his tail.
So far, every Phillip K. Dick book I read makes me fall in love with him a little harder. This one didn’t disappoint.
PKD’s protagonist in The World Jones Made is a dedicated, world-weary secret-service officer for FedGov, the world government in 2002. He thinks of himself as something like “the town dog catcher,” and he’s proud of his work, even if other people (including his wife) don’t much appreciate it.
Cussick’s job is to help enforce the new Relativistic society in which just about anything is tolerated and you can believe whatever you want, but you can’t state personal beliefs as facts or impose your views on anyone else. The world has recently emerged from a huge religious war that nobody really won, and now religious dogma as well as anti-religious dogma (or any kind of fanaticism) is illegal.
Of course, there’s a dystopian twist: anyone who is caught stating their personal opinions as facts loses their civil liberties and is sent to a labor camp.
The story starts when Cussick meets a weird, slightly feverish fortune-teller named Floyd Jones at a carnival. Cussick arrests Jones for talking about the future as fact, but it soon becomes clear that Jones isn’t just spouting opinions; he’s a true precog. The FedGov police are forced to release him (just as Jones knew they would), and Jones’ subsequent cult following soon begins to upset the “stability” FedGov had forced on the population.
This is the set-up to the main plot, but I haven’t even mentioned the sub-plots that run alongside and intertwine the Jones/Cussick story, like the strange mutants who live inside a hot, steamy biodome refuge near San Francisco. There’s also the problem of the barn-sized jellyfish-aliens that have been drifting down from space to die on Earth’s surface. No one really knows what “the Drifters” are or what they want, but people find them kinda disgusting and scary (fair enough) and have a tendency to attack them in angry mobs.
FedGov, meanwhile, is trying to protect the aliens from injury, in case whatever has sent them doesn’t appreciate mob attacks by Earthlings. One of the notices up on a bulletin board in this future world goes like this: “WARNING TO THE PUBLIC: Migrating Protozoa not to be harmed. The public is hereby advised that certain Interplanetary Migratory Protozoa, referred to as “Drifters,” have, by special act of the Supreme Council of the Federal World Government, been placed in the category of Wards of the State and are not to be damaged, harmed, mutilated, destroyed, abused, tortured or in any way subjected to cruel or unusual treatment with intent to injure or kill.”
The scenery and situations in this book are pure PKD: dark and grim and bizarre. There are mutants, precogs, wives behaving mysteriously, and smoky subterranean bars where patrons order heroin from robot servants and hermaphrodites perform live sex shows on the stage.
PKD switches viewpoints between the characters of the main story-lines: the biodome mutants, Cussick, and of course the fascinating Jones, who is a long-suffering prisoner to his own future: his ability to see one year in the future means that he must experience every conversation and event twice (to his extreme irritation).
For me, Christopher Lane’s reading was just about perfect: his calm, determined narration and pacing is well suited for PKD’s writing. The characters already had distinctive personalities and voices, but Lane managed to enhance them. He also did a great job with the female voices by adjusting his tone, accents and pacing without affecting that artificial high pitch I’ve heard some other male narrators do (cringe). I especially loved how he portrayed Jones’ bored frustration at having to live every moment twice over.
I’ll definitely look out for more of Lane’s readings, and I highly recommend this audiobook as a brilliant and weird PKD experience.
Review by Marissa van Uden