Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly: Philip K. Dick’s brilliant imagination has been the inspiration for some excellent films; up until last week I had only seen these screen interpretations, but had never actually read any of his books. I know now how much I was missing out on. The poetic title drew me to it. ‘Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said’ is the intriguingly constructed story of genetically engineered superstar Jason Taverner who lives an ideal life of beauty, fame and fortune but wakes up one day to find that he is unknown, with no official identity. In a dystopian police state this is a dangerous position to be in.
The characters are flawed and complex, the narration spends just enough time inside Jason’s thoughts to draw the reader deeply into his situation. The futuristic technological details of the dark world the novel is set in are cleverly inter-twined with familiar humanity and universal angst. Aspects are explained subtly and ambiguities illuminated as the story progresses; the reader is never patronised with over-explanation. It is political and evocative. The intelligent writing and shocking reveals made me think of Victorian gothic horror; the imagery and occasional violence evoke 1970s sci-fi films and the depth of emotion, the recurring stanzas of 16th Century poetry and its sense of loss remind me of a sad song that I used to love. Even though it was written in 1974, it feels contemporary, concerning and powerful.
Have you read any Philip K. Dick? Which of his do you recommend I go for next? Are there any similar authors I should read?