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3.8 out of 5 stars50
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 21 January 2003
"Flow my tears..." is a book that exhibits Dick's (heretofore PKD) usual thematic obsessions in an expert literary way, having been written during the last decade of his life, in between theological treatises and attempts to explain his personal epiphany. It actually reads like he is showing off that he can write good old SF to his publisher who's asked him to clean up his act before an audience that's not interested in religious revelations. The fourth part of the book, telling what happened to the heroes and institutions involved in the far future, is reminiscent of a B movie ending, and probably reflects the author's overindulgence in the commercial nature of this work.
The book is very reminiscent of Ubik, centered on a man's struggle to make sense of his reality that has suddenly changed (to a very unpleasant one), and it could have been written in one - extended - sitting, PKD driving his points home from page 1. It can certainly be read in one sitting, and its frantic pace will compel most people to do so.
As per usual, the environment only serves as a context for PKD to bring his social commentary home. This shouldn't detract, however, from the fact that the particular world, a heavily policed fascist state where universities and their students (presumably standing for free thought) are offenders by default, is one of his most successful predictions, as we can already see it happening. PKD seems to be aware of it as well, for he describes its functions and mechanisms in unusual detail.
That said, the novel is an exploration of human behaviours and emotions, how they interact and which bring which about. Grief and love being prime examples, and indulged in by a series of unlikely characters, the novel also touches on selfishness and selflesness, sexual promiscuity, cruelty and kindness and the deeper meaning of personal success, without neglecting, of course, the usage of copious amounts of hallucinogenic substances.
The novel features a wide and varied range of perplexing characters and accompanying behaviours, deeply explored and perfectly aligned with their environment. It is one of PKD's most sympathetic works towards his heroes, and clearly paves the way for his later book, "A scanner darkly", his peak of empathic prose, and possilby his best.
"Flow, my tears..." is a powerful treatise on how human behaviour shapes to fit its environment. So strong, in fact, that the author doesn't even bother, for the most part, with the 'details' of the world, hence the rating of 4 stars. This novel is for the serious bookreader (not limited to 'SF fan') who will see past the premises and into the substance of the meanderings of a truly brilliant mind.
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Phillip K. Dick is known for his idiosyncratic sci-fi novels and short stories, and "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" touches upon many of his recurring themes - artificially enhanced humans, the malleability of personal identity, the fluidity of reality, and the suppressive state control. The plot centers on Jason Taverner, a genetically modified celebrity pop singer. After being assaulted by his ex-lover by a parasitic lifeform he wakes up one morning only to discover that no one recognizes him and there is no record of him in any of the vast databases of the powerful police state that he lives in. He quickly learns how perilous life without being officially recognized can be in this dystopian future America that has gone through a second civil war. The National Guard ("nats") and the US police force ("pols") are practically at every corner of every major city and they strictly control movements of people and goods. The US is a dictatorship with a "Director" at the top, college students are forced into underground and had become a form of resistance to this oppressive regime. Taverner has been put into an uncomfortable position of having to find his way through this nightmarish maze, and for the first time in his life he realizes what life must be for the ordinary citizens. The story verges on political satire, but Dick takes the narrative very seriously, and if there has been any intention on his part of making this even mildly a humorous novel it has entirely been lost on me.

The title of this book is a reference to "Flow my tears," a piece by the 16th century composer John Dowland. However, it escapes me what this reference was meant to convey. Knowing the way that Philip K. Dick strings his themes it would not surprise me if this was just and exercise in obscurantism, or if he just liked the way it mashed with the rest of the title.

Philip K. Dick was not known for an elegant or literary style, and this book is no exception. The writing is definitely smoother than in some of his earlier works, but Dick writes in straightforward, matter-of-fact, sentences that leave very little to the imagination. The ambiguities arise mostly due to the narrative's choppiness, loose stringing of themes and events, and an occasional complete non-sequitour. However, it is precisely this rawness of writing coupled with an inimitable imagination and social criticism that has garnered Philip K. Dick a huge following and a status as one of the most important science fiction writers of all time. This book is very representative of his writing, and whether you are new to it or are a long-time fan you will find "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" to be a very unusual and fascinating work.
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on 20 December 2009
Philip K Dick was an unusual science fiction writer in that, while he tended to write in (usually dystopian) alternative universes, the "space opera" aspect - the act of universe creation (which so obsessed Tolkien, for example) isn't what interests him. If Star Wars was the ultimate piece of fantasy escapism, with a ludicrous morality play veneer thrown in for an emotional punch at the end, then Dick's works tend to exist at the other end of the spectrum: the world is described incidentally, the ingenious devices and drugs means of locomoting and teasing out the existential questions they pose the characters. There is always little bit of scientific hocus pocus thrown in, but never for the sake of it: it is always a means to crystallising Dick's theme.

So Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? isn't, really, a futuristic gumshoe PI noir about killing replicants (though it functions pretty well on that level) but an examination of what really makes us human: what *is* empathy, and what consequences would there be for the way we relate to each other if we could achieve it artificially? And here, in Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, Dick ruminates on identity: what am *I*, if not a collection of relationships, impulses and memories in other people's minds? - and reality - what, when it comes to it, is the world itself, if not a collection of relations, impulses and memories in *my* brain?

What if we really could alter brains to change these things - how would that alter the way we see ourselves and the world? How, given the limitations of the above view, do we know we cannot? These are big themes, not the sort of thing that science fiction, in the main, handles awfully well. But because Philip Dick is so concerned with his characters, all of whom feel real, human, fallible and contrary - that is, they react in ways we can relate to - it is easy to forget this is a science fiction book at all (it is a matter of record that Philip K Dick despaired of his pigeonholing as a writer of pulp fiction).

Flow My Tears is characteristic of Philip Dick in other respects (not the least its idiosyncratic title!). As in Ubik,The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and A Scanner Darkly, narcotics - Dick's equivalent of the red and blue pills from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - play a significant role, and his paranoia, by 1974 well documented and approaching the psychotic, is well on display. Dick tended to portray his futures as governed by dystopian states not out of political disposition or dramatic impetus but, I suspect, because he believed that's where the world was inevitably headed.

Flow my tears isn't a perfect novel - the motivations of secondary characters aren't always easy to divine and it's difficult to know which of Jason Taverner and Felix Buckman is meant to be the "emotional axis" of the book - it feels as though it should be Taverner, but Buckman is drawn as a far more complex and carefully worked out character. Ultimately I would not put it in the same category as The Man in the High Castle  or Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, but it's certainly readable and entertaining and linear in a way that later novels weren't.

Olly Buxton
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on 8 July 2002
I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for anybody new to this writer's output, but for any fan of Dick's work who is not familiar with it, I'd advise them to check it out. An intriguing mix of paranoid nightmare and black, black comedy it explores what happens when a celebrity well established within his profession appears to lose his identity and his grip on reality. He becomes a fugitive, and the women he meets while on the run just seem to make his predicament even worse. When the police come for him they knock on the door of the woman sheltering him. "It's probably the man from upstairs," she says,
"He borrows things. Weird things. Like two-fifths of an onion." Unexpected comments like this make the book a joy to read, the constant surprises in the way that the characters respond to each other is refreshing. On the surface the story appears to be relentlessly grim, but in the fine details there is plenty to amuse, like the juke-box in the bar playing Louis Panda's 'The Memory of Your Nose'.
The epilogue doesn't really work for me but I suspect that it was put there as a joke. Overall well worthy of inclusion amongst Dick's best work.
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on 16 January 2006
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is a perfect example of Philip K. Dick’s ingenuity that mixes paranoia and suspense into a nice little novel full of twists and surprises.
It tells the story of famous TV show host Jason Taverner who wakes up to find he doesn’t exist. Set against a backdrop of an oppressive government the story revolves around Taverner’s attempts to discover what happened to him and how he came to this. The other major character in the book is police inspector McNulty who is also trying to discover who Taverner is and determine why he doesn’t appear in their computer databases.
At its heart is a mystery thriller where the science part of this SF book is sidelined yet serves to build an impressive backdrop through which Taverner wanders. The back of this edition states that Taverner is a ‘six’ – a genetically engineered human being born bright and beautiful. That isn’t really part of the story but like I said it flavours it nicely.
It won the 1975 John W. Campbell Award, was nominated for the 1975 Hugo Award and nominated for the 1974 Nebula award.
Well worth a look!
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on 5 June 2009
This book is like a Lynch movie; think it of it as a sci-fi Mulholland drive but with much better plot. For once more, with his usual exquisite writing style, Dick swirls the conception of his character's reality mixing identities, time and space.

Wonderfully satirical and scathing of the arrogant and shallow Hollywood lifestyle this novel contains all the features that made Dick a distinctive figure in science fiction literature. Drugs, hallucinations, identity fusion, corrupted authority, rotten bureaucracies and competing irreal universes create a noir narration which, if had to be adapted to a film, only the complicated, mad genius of David Lynch could ever satisfyingly handle!

Although not as celebrated as his other novels, definitely one of Dick's best.
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PKD; Pulp author in a geek genre detailed philosophy on par with Nietzsche and Jung. Opening up portals, drugs and study alone could never prise open. Hallucinogenics make the mind wander. Study sticks when connected to experience. PKD's insights shifted one gear further. Reality and Humanity were the questions.

The characters, based on people swirling around him exist in a paranoid police state; echoing Nixons hyper vigilance. Fictions abounded as truths in 1970's Americana. Separating required a razor sharp mind.

Waking up, losing a celebrity status, Taverner founders,shipwrecked without identity, wallowing in the fickle foundations of the shallow pool. America desperate to keep its student population in Gulags after a second civil war has gone into 1984 over drive. The surveillance state, watched for your own good, is perceived in the flow. Marilyn Manson makes her first appearance.

Taverner seeks help. Adjust to a society where you have been effectively ostracised is explored? Identity shredded, how can it be affirmed? What is reality, when the drug works or when it wears off?

Gurgling in the backdrop are the events. The decimated black population on the protected list,expanded 1920's hysteria becoming 1980's dystopia. Empathy power and hatred.

Tricky Dicky ascends to heaven, the right wing cultural and political counter revolution embodied with Ronald Reagan prophesised. Entwined in the plot the characters grapple with big existential questions. The meaning of living and the role of death. Those who require a Sci-Fi quick fix will not score.

Spiritual, philosophical, psychological and sociological fragments embeded within the story, glitter as gnostic gold. Jason speculates on control, the meaning of being alive, the role of grief. Power and its effects are detailed through Buckman. Dick ploughs his furrough and genetic modification, distorted realities, drug use, death, incest, same sex relationships, betrayal, anomie, reality and power all buckle and ride throughout the prose.

Jung, New Testament, Classical allusions also surface and glide.

The epilogue brings the transitory nature of everything to a cynical finale as life erodes, only the beauty of artistic objects remain as a legacy.

Finishing the book; the walls wobble as reality reasserts itself.
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on 5 September 2013
This book had one of the best settings for PKD that I've read. It was a very dystopian police state. Universities had become places surrounded by fences and the students and teachers were forced to live underground. If they escaped they were put into forced labour camps. Black people had been sterilised to solve the "race problem". It was all very grim. This was set against a character who was a top entertainer, fundamentally better than everyone else who because he had disappeared from reality finally got to see reality for the first time. Despite oozing charisma (supposedly) he was definitely one of the least likeable of Dick's characters. He never seemed to be quite able to believe that he really had lost everything and never seemed to be that psychologically damaged or properly paranoid about the changes around him. He did however meet some very interesting women along the way. A young ID forger who was an escaped mental patient, a woman into S&M and drugs, a timid potter. They were all only met briefly but were very real despite the sci-fi setting. The book not only touched on the usual themes of distorted reality and drugs but also the nature of fame, racism and fascism. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 31 December 2003
This, on the face of it, is a fairly standard story in the SF / pulp fiction vein. But it is given the usual P. Dick treatment of identity crisis, paranoia and existensialism. This lifts this above the usual of the genre, as does his well written characters (particularly the well drawn women characters). It still was a good read, and kept me entertained on my holiday (the pace of the novel is quite fast).
This is good, but not his best.
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on 14 October 2014
Jason Taverner occupies a privileged position as a well known and wealthy entertainer in a dystopian society. He's got it all. And then loses it all, overnight. He becomes a non-person, pursued by the police, suddenly unknown to his closest acquaintances and not even a birth certificate on file. Let the game commence!
If you've read P. K. Dick before, you will recognise familiar themes: principally, the nature of reality but it definitely doesn't feel tired. Not to me anyway...I am a fan. There's real tension, great dialogue and a fast paced story. No, your questions will not be answered at the end but that's all part of the fun! Recommend!
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