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!
"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!