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The short, turbulent life of the SF writer
on 8 September 2014
The biographical section of this book is interesting and includes some snippets of information I could not recall reading elsewhere. However, I have some concerns about accuracy. There is some ambiguity regarding dates (1952 and 1953 appear interchangeable at one point). He also misnames the Scott Meredith Agency on at least one occasion. And he can also lack clarity at times. At one point he discusses Dick’s love life during his last few years and appears somewhat confused as to the names and circumstances of those involved. A more rigorous editor would no doubt have picked up on these points. But then the book wanders into more contentious realms. In the final sections Peake postulates various explanations for the anomalies in Dick’s life. As something of a sceptic I found some of his musings regarding Dick’s possible precognitive abilities extremely tenuous. Dick was a notorious self-mythologiser and much of his own anecdotal evidence is unreliable to say the least. Peake appears keen to stretch what I suspect is nothing more than coincidence, faulty memory, and self-deception into something mysterious and otherworldly. In particular, the theories regarding the properties of time and how they might explain Dick’s supposed abilities are fascinating but highly speculative. Peake also discusses the possibility that Dick was an alien abductee; another possibility that is diverting but fanciful (I say this as a firm believer in a widely populated, but impossibly large, universe). The sections dealing with possible neurological and psychological explanations are less contentious and perhaps provide a more elegant interpretation of what Dick experienced. Peake, however, favours his more exotic analyses. Personally I would have preferred a more balanced approach to the study of this apocryphal aspect of Dick’s life but at least Peake’s more colourful theories are never dull. In conclusion, this is a book that is by turns fascinating and frustrating, but is definitely worth a read for all Dick aficionados.