By the time I was in seventh grade, I had read pretty much everything by Phillip K. Dick that I could get my hands on, which might explain something about my outlook on the world. At any rate, the idea of Dick writing a book specifically aimed at the “young adult” market just makes me happy somehow.
From the opening paragraphs of â€œNick and the Glimmungâ€ (a sequel of sorts to Dickâ€™s 1969 novel â€œGalactic Pot Healerâ€), you can tell weâ€™re in a vaguely sinister future dystopia:
Nick knew exactly why his family intended to leave Earth and go to another planet, a colony world, and settle there. It had to do with him and his cat, Horace. Owning animals of any kind had, since the year 1992, become illegal. Horace, in fact, was illegal, whether anyone owned him or not.
For two months now, Nick had owned Horace, but he had managed to keep Horace inside the apartment, out of sight. One morning, however, Horace climbed through an open window; he scampered and played out in the back yard which all the apartment-owners in the building shared. Someone, a neighbor perhaps, noticed Horace and called the anti-pet man.
â€œI told you what would happen if Horace ever got out,â€ Nickâ€™s dad saidâ€¦
A few pages later, Dick touches on another of his favorite themes: the idea of an authority figure – in this case, a schoolteacher – who propagates their power through the magic of television:
â€œGood morning, Class,â€ Miss Juth said – or rather her image on the big television screen at the front of the classroom said. Miss Juth, like all teachers, had too many classes to teach. She could not appear in person in any of them. Instead, she spoke to all her students, in all her classes, by means of a TV screen. In Nickâ€™s class there were sixty-five pupils, and Mis Juth (as she had told them) taught nine other classes, too. So in all, Miss Juth had about six hundred pupils. Nevertheless, she seemed to recognize each pupil. At least, Nick had that impression. When she spoke to him from the big TV screen she seemed to look directly at him, to see him as well as hear him. He usually felt as if Miss Juth were actually in the classroom.
And hereâ€™s an introductory lesson in ontology, made palatable for the kiddies, when the protagonist discovers a book that seems to have the ability to predict the future:
Yes, there it was. Right in the book. A short but accurate account of Mr. Frankisâ€™ death. Had this passage been here yesterday? Nick wondered. Suppose he had looked this up, on the car trip to the house? Suppose Mr. Frankis had looked for his own name in the index? Would he have found this – and known what was going to happen to him? â€¦
What is there in the book about me? Nick wondered. The text which we read before, on the way here, after Glimmung accidentally gave the book to me? Or by now has it changed?