Gather Yourselves Together
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: July 17, 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 compact discs; 11 hours
Themes: / Loss of innocence / Communist China / philosophy /
Gather Yourselves Together is one of Philip K. Dick’s earliest novels, written when he was just twenty-four years old. It tells the story of three American workers left behind in China by their employer, biding their time as the Communists advance. As they while away the days, both the young and naïve Carl Fitter and the older and worldly Verne Tildon vie for the affections of Barbara Mahler, a woman who may not be as tough-as-nails as she acts. But Carl’s innocence and Verne’s boorishness could end up driving Barbara away from both.
Prior to writing the complex reality-bending science fiction novels and stories that Philip K. Dick is best known for, he strived to be accepted as a mainstream writer; writing a handful of novels that on the surface bear little resemblance to the works that later became the source material for such films as Bladerunner and Total Recall. Gather Yourselves Together is one of these very early novels and one of a few to still be intact and published posthumously. The story revolves around three Americans left deserted among themselves in communist China to oversee the changing of the guard as their company is turned over to the Chinese.
At first the very basic and sparse plot spanning a few day period seems to bare little resemblance to the often sprawling narratives of Philip K. Dick’s better known alter-universes, but closer examination reveals several themes that would later re-occur in many of his better known stories. Additionally for enthusiasts, many autobiographical aspects of the author’s own life seem to be worked into the story. Although only mentioned in passing, a topic that would become a lifelong obsession and reappear in later novels is first mentioned in this novel: that of the time of the fall of the Roman and birth of Christianity being constantly repeated throughout history including during what Philip K. Dick thought was his own lifetime.
Narrator Luke Daniels does a great job breathing life into a novel that at 481 pages in length and which having little of substance actually take place in the span of the novel’s few days could easily have lost a listener’s interest. The story fills out the space by spending significant time on the past of the three characters while focusing on their current relationships in the present. The overall tone of the book is fairly dismal, which each character being extremely self-absorbed in their own ways but being drawn together due to circumstance. That being said, much of the story has a theatrical feel that builds to a very satisfying conclusion. The audiobook ends with an afterword by Dwight Brown, also read by Luke Daniels. Gather Yourselves Together succeeds on many levels and is certainly not a book to be avoided simply due what would seem to be an uninteresting premise when compared some of Philip K. Dick’s wilder, better known works.
Review by Dan VK.