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Transcript of Ubik
Written by Philip K. Dick
Philip Kindred Dick was born in Chicago in 1928. His writings include short stories and essays. He dealt mostly in the science fiction genre. Dick also wrote the movie Blade-Runner. Philip Dick suffered from strange hallucinations and experienced mental health issues. However, he was successful as a writer and often had to write under pen names in order for all of his works to be published at the same time. His literature often dealt with reality; what is real and what isn't. Although his books contained themes of mental illness and reality, he could not escape the most feared reality of them all: death. Dick died after having suffered a stroke at the age of 53, the year 1982.
Ubik was published in 1969, however the story is set in 1992.
Dick wrote an unsettling accurate tale, and though mixed with unrealistic and paranormal aspects, very closely predicted modern technology and society.
Throughout the book, references to technologies and cultural changes are surprisingly close to those of our own generation.
Ubik is set in the "North American Confederation" in the 1990s.
In Ubik, all appliances are to be paid for before use. I.E you must pay the door 5 cents to open, showers cost 25 cents...
Fashion was very different. Most characters wear a mix-matched assortment of random clothing. Ex. "a sporty maroon wrapper, twinkle-toes turned-up shoes and a felt cap with a tassel".
The main difference in the book is that there are humans with special abilities. They are called PSIs. These PSIs are capable of reading minds, seeing the future, and other astounding acts.
Sometimes, people with these gifts commit crimes, therefore there is a need for Anti-PSI organizations. These companies hire Anti-PSIs, people who have the ability to cancel-out or interfere with the PSI activity.
One other important difference in their society is death. When people die, they don't completely vanish from existence. You can pay for your deceased loved one to go into cold-pac. This is a coffin-like device that keeps the body preserved. While the body is kept in this cold-pac, the soul is wandering around in a half-real state.
While in half-life, usually kept at a moratorium, the person's soul can be contacted by being called, and communication is achieved through a phoning device.
Although half-life is a way of holding on to loved ones, it does not last forever. The dead person's soul eventually loses the ability to make contact with the alive world, and makes its transfer into a new body.
The owner of Runciter Associates, Glen Runciter, must act quickly in order to inhibit the progress and talents of the PSIs. His prudence organization was designed to prevent telepaths and psychics from invading others' privacy. Unfortunately, The PSIs are getting stronger, and smarter. After consulting his dead wife, Runciter decides to increase advertisement for his company. Promptly, a successful business man hires Runciter Assoc. to send a group of Anti-PSIs to his lunar settlement on the moon. Runciter chooses Joe Chip, Wendy Wright, Pat Conley, and several other Anti-PSIs. On Arrival, it is believed that Ray Hollis (the Head of the PSI Organization) had lured Runciter and his best Anti-PSis to the moon in order to sabotage them. There is an explosion, and Runciter is killed. The remaining employees rush him back to Earth in the hopes of getting him into cold-pac soon enough. After getting Runciter safely to a moratorium, strange things occur. Normal everyday objects begin deteriorating right before their eyes. Cigarettes crumble at one touch, food spoils, and even some of the people begin to shrivel out of existence. Joe Chip realizes that all currency now contains Runciter's face on them, and the remaining Anti-PSIs begin to receive uncanny messages from Runciter himself. Eventually, the deterioration rate grows, leaving Joe Chip receding back in time with every move he makes. By the time he reached the 1920s era, Joe Chip was beginning to shrivel. Throughout his entire post-moon landing experience, Chip found Ubik. A spray that when used caused objects to go back to their normal state. Ubik continues to rescue Chip, and on his search for reality, he meets Ella Runciter, Glen's dead wife. This reveals to him that perhaps he is the one who is in half-life and Runciter is the one alive and on the outside. After meeting an insidious, selfish boy Jory, Chip must find Ubik and fight for his life. At the end, Runciter finds an object that keeps you wondering who is alive and who is dead.
Joe chip-protagonist. Very irresponsible with money. He is single and in debt. He works as a technician for Runciter Assoc. and is very loyal to Glen Runciter
Glen Runciter- owner of a successful Prudence Organzation. Very old and wise, visits his dead wife in the moratorium
Pat Conley- a type of Anti-PSI. She possesses a very special talent, one that can alter the future. She is kept under close watch, and may be considered dangerous. She is around 17 years old.
Jory- Jory is a young boy about the age of 14 in half-life. He often interferes with Runciter's connection to his wife. Later in the story he become much more than just a nuisance to communication.
Reality: The overlying theme in this book is a question of reality. What is real? Throughout the story, the characters and the reader continually ask the question: is this actually happening or are they/we dead? This challenges you to think about how you classify reality. What makes reality real?
The currency in the story, is always key. Either you need it to walk through a door or it clues you into what is going on around you. The coins are a symbol of life. They represent life because everything, appliance, or action you take requires them. But, when you run out of coins, you no longer have any of those resources, just as when life is gone, you are dead.
Deterioration: The sudden yet rapid crumbling and recession of everything around Chip, represents mental state. Often only happening when one grows old or has an accident, the human mind can alter reality, making real seem fake and fake seem real. The human mind eventually crumbles for one reason or another just as the objects seem to become more frail.
Ubik is a metaphor for God. Ubik is taken from the word 'ubiquitous" which means: everywhere. Ubik is the only thing that can save Chip, just as God is often believed to be the only thing that can save us. Ubik shows up unexpectedly but always at just the right moment. Although mysterious in its ways, UBik can be used for anything, and is the almighty savior to Chip. The phrase "Safe when used as directed" may refer to the danger of religion and how God can be harmful if not handled properly.
Chip vs. Reality
Joe battles reality, and the struggle of life that is unstable and questionable.
Runciter vs. Hollis
Runciter is constantly trying to put Hollis out of business.
Chip vs. Jory
Jory is trying to sabotage Joe and maybe even take his life. There is an intense game of cat and mouse played by the two.
Ubik vs. Death
Ubik is constantly appearing to assist in the battle of death. Ubik often comes to rescue Joe at always the perfect moment.
"I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I moved them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am, I shall always be."
Ubik Ad Chapter 17 (Dick).
I loved it!
Ubik was interesting, magical, and was a very "mind-blown" experience. I would recommend to someone who loves to think or ponder philosophically on life.. Or someone who just likes Scifi.