Review of The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

July 30, 2009
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. DickThe Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Tom Weiner
6 CDs – 6.8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781433248221
Themes: / Science Fiction / Religion / Drugs / Mars / Aliens /

Not too long from now, when exiles from a blistering Earth huddle miserably in Martian colonies, the only things that make life bearable are the drugs. Can-D “translates” those who take it into the bodies of Barbie-like dolls. Now there’s competition: a substance called Chew-Z, marketed under the slogan “God promises eternal life. We can deliver it.” The question is: What kind of eternity? And who—or what—is the deliverer?

Reading Philip K. Dick is the literary equivalent of taking deliriants in church. Dick’s world is fully realized, his characters being windows into Dick’s own sympathies, his own passions. Dick seems to have observed the writing advice that goes: “Write what you know.” What Dick knows about is drugs, suburban druggie life, revealed religion, the conflict between an individual and the group, between women and men. If you look at the basic plot The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch scans as most similar to Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, in that a corporate war between the solar system’s two biggest multi-planetaries drives the action. But it doesn’t feel that way, it feels like a scaled-up version of Dick’s short story Wargame. Sure, the novel is supposed to be about life on Mars and big corporate business, but Dick’s Mars is mostly confined to a few intemperate draftees who couldn’t fake their way out of the draft. Upset with their new colonial life they spend all their time playing with Barbie style playhouses and taking mind altering drugs. I can almost picture Dick sitting in his living room watching his young daughters playing with their Barbie dolls. They sit on the floor, coveting their Barbie corvettes, their Barbie clothes and decorating their Barbie dream houses while Dick, sitting in an armchair above, looks down compassionately and philosophicaly as he reaches for the typewriter. Strangely, the novel also feels extremely prescient. At multiple times throughout I paused and thought about the PC game called The Sims – a game where your avatar must eat, sleep, and furnish her virtual home with virtual goods as you plan her idealized life. We seem to have gotten what Dick was driving at. For what is World Of Warcraft if not a Dickian reality minus the drugs? William Gibson would describe it as “a consensual hallucination” – Dick called it The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch.

Originally published in 1965, this is the first commercial audiobook release of The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch. Narrator Tom Weiner seems to be Blackstone Audio’s go-to guy when it comes to narrating the heavy hitters of Science Fiction. This is a good thing as Weiner brings a vast gravitas to his reading. Fans of George Guidall’s narrations will find Weiner similarly impactful. The cover art for The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch is all original for this production. This is more and more the case at Blackstone, which makes me happy, for I am covetous.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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