Monday, 13 May 2013

Solar Lottery

Philip K. Dick Solar Lottery (1955)

Yet again my reading habits seem to have coincidentally set me up with a title thematically following on from the previous one by some obscure means. Solar Lottery was Philip K. Dick's first published science-fiction novel, although not the first written. 1953's Cosmic Puppets reads oddly like a Simak homage, using the rural setting and tropes that had become signature characteristics of the senior writer's fiction. My guess would be that Dick, having already bashed out a couple of reasonably accomplished mainstream novels - albeit mainstream novels which would only be published after his death - was hoping to get to grips with book length science-fiction, having already mastered the genre in short form and with it being an easier route to his getting both published and paid. Clearly he was still finding his feet, and if The Cosmic Puppets suggests Simak, then Solar Lottery owes a lot to A.E. van Vogt, particularly The World of Null-A which Dick tellingly describes as influential in at least one interview. The pace, the sense of characters in constant motion through an environment which doesn't quite make sense is definitely drawn from van Vogt, and the moment at which protagonist Ted Bentley opens his eyes to discover himself inhabiting the body of Keith Pellig provides a neat line of continuity from the one author to the other. Unfortunately though, the humour that tends to make a Philip K. Dick novel is thin on the ground, and the plot based around games theory feels like an exercise that didn't quite work - whilst these characters live in a world of chance, we don't really get much of a feel for the consequences of such a system in operation.

Solar Lottery is characteristically competent but oddly flat; interesting as an historical document, but otherwise limited.

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