Friday, June 22, 2007

Reviewer's Thumb Confused by Eldritch

valis over at Carbona Not Grey Goo tracked down one of the reviews of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch from this list in a previous post. In this case it's Peter Schulyer Miller's review from the August 1965 issue of Analog. Obviously hindsight is often quite cruel to reviewers (as I suppose I have been on more than one occasion) but this critic seems especially wrong:

By Philip K. Dick - Doubleday & Co., Garden City, N.Y. - 1965 -278 pp. - $4.95
An author can't come up with a "Man In the High Castle" every time, but in this case Philip K. Dick certainly didn't try. This time he's standing in for A.E. van Vogt, or maybe for a Pohl-Van Vogt collaboration. The result is wild, zany, and lively, but not very memorable.
Today's "Barbie" dolls are obviously the inspiration for Perky Pat Layouts, around which the story wheels and whirls. With a little aid from a nicely habit-forming drug, peddled sub rosa by P.P.E. along with the minutely detailed Perky Pat layouts, the bored people of the overcrowded future live it up by imagining themselves into the surrogate worlds they have built up. As with model railroaders and their hobby, there is no limit to the detail with which the miniature sets can be constructed; a goodly chunk of the economy hangs on it, and on the planets, to which segments of the overpopulated Earth are shipped to molder after being "drafted," these installations are all the life worth living.
Then a wheeler-dealer comes back from Alpha Centauri with a more potent drug and layouts of a more perplexingly entrapping type, and the plot starts to get tangled. Is the mysterious Palmer Eldritch the villain of the piece or the hero. In fact, just what is going on from moment to moment? The only way you'll ever find out is by reading the book, and you may be confused then."

Let's not be too hard on this guy. First of all it's obvious he didn't read the book. Second of all 1965 was a turbulent year and this guy probably thought that the sun traveled around the Earth, or he was feeling the pre-cognitive effects of eating the brown acid several years later at Woodstock; regardless we can hardly blame him. He didn't know he was reviewing a canonical American novel; if he had he probably would have at least have skimmed it.

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