Thursday, April 5, 2007

Cover of the Day



Here's a Panther Edition of We Can Build You. I'm not sure I've seen another PKD title from this publisher. That sure looks like Phil over Hitler's shoulder. In fact it may be drawn from this picture:



If any of you have this edition (or any of the editions posted here) at home please email me with the artist's name, publisher, edition, etc.

We Can Build You is like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? without all the action. It's meditative, almost pastorale, but again the lines are blurred between man and machine (and sanity and insanity). In the novel they build a Abraham Lincoln simulacrum (I don't know where the Hitler came from) and the book raises questions about differences between man and machine. But the action centers around capitalism; a small, family-run mood organ business begins experimenting with life-like simulacrums in order to stave off bankruptcy. Ultimately simul-Lincoln reprises his role as the great emancipator by arguing for equal protection under the law, in part because his programming so accurately reflects Lincoln's personality that he is plagued by bouts of debilitating depression. His unhappiness, more specifically the irrationality of it, is too human to doubt.

The protagonist, salesman Louis Rosen, lives a far more sedate life than bounty hunter Deckard. This book has long been a favorite of mine but many critics dismiss it. Patricia S. Warrick writes in her essay on Dick, "The Labyrinthine Process of the Artificial":

We Can Build You cannot be ignored in a study of Dick's androids because it proposes two new pathways in the labyrinthine possibilities of machine intelligence: but it cannot be applauded because it creeps along in a dramatic near-paralysis uncommon to Dick's fiction.

I kind of like the novel for the very reason she dismisses it. Oh well.

The image of Dick as part human/part machine, on this cover and others, prefigured reality.



Perhaps he did record the future for us and we're just watching his tape.
And the whereabouts of android Dick's head remain unknown


Update -- Pat comments:

"WCBY contains a few of my favorite PKD moments (so far).

One of them, and I'm not really sure why, is when Rosen is driving aimlessly around, and stops by the side of the road just to watch a rocket fly past.

There's something about the way he handled such episodes that puts a new sheen on the world for me; you look at this character reflecting on the wonders around him, and you realize that you, too, are surrounded by things worthy of amazement. I like that feeling."

Nicely Said Pat!

Simone writes:

"I guess the fact that the cover of the edition I read featured a sensationalist line about "our Man Factory" which could build any robot from a spec didn't hurt my enjoyment either. Another instance of the cover designer having completely wrong ideas about the book. "

Ah yes, this one:



Give us the name and specifications -- and our man factory can do the rest!

Steve, who owns the 1986 Panther edition, tells me the cover artist is Chris Foss -- Good work Dick-heads!

4 comments:

Simone said...

I love this cover. It screams "the person who did this cover art never read the book!" Looks like they were given the synopsis "Firm sets out to build robotic simulacra of historical figures" and let the ol' imagination run wild.

We Can Build You is actually probably my favorite PKD novel of the 20 or so I've read. It's definitely in the top 3. I like the offbeat humor (Lincoln chuckling at Winnie-the-Pooh will stick with me forever) and how adeptly it showcases all of his weaknesses as a writer while still managing to be engaging as hell. I guess it's one of the books that really seems to reveal a lot about Dick, the person - so much potential, with such weird, unusual idiosyncrasies and choices.

I'm also a big Disneyland nerd and I love the idea that this was written around the same time Disney was making a first attempt at a robotic Lincoln of their own.

I guess the fact that the cover of the edition I read featured a sensationalist line about "our Man Factory" which could build any robot from a spec didn't hurt my enjoyment either. Another instance of the cover designer having completely wrong ideas about the book.

Pat said...

I liked this one too. It contains a few of my favorite PKD moments (so far).

One of them, and I'm not really sure why, is when Rosen is driving aimlessly around, and stops by the side of the road just to watch a rocket fly past.

There's something about the way he handled such episodes that puts a new sheen on the world for me; you look at this character reflecting on the wonders around him, and you realize that you, too, are surrounded by things worthy of amazement. I like that feeling.

Plus, "The" Stanton is hilarious. :)

By the way, I was really happy to find this blog on Boingboing. I'm an aspiring Dickhead myself; I'm reading through all the whole Vintage reprints in order. I'm only halfway through, and he's already my favorite author. Looking forward to following the blog!

Henri said...

There are 16 Panther editions of PKD books between World of Chance (1959) and We Can Build You (1986)
You can see them all by going clicking on the "Search Covers" menu on my website. pkdickbooks.com

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