Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 8 Mar 2007
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Philip K Dick notoriously charted SF's most dangerous, booby-trapped realities. Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974) is a relatively straightforward tale of paranoid unease at finding the world isn't what it should be.
Jason Taverner is world-famous for his songs and regular TV show. "Thirty million people saw you zip up your fly tonight." "... It's my trademark." Although this future US is a grim police state with labour camps in Alaska and Canada, jetsetting Taverner enjoys being one of the winners.
Then he wakes up in a sleazy hotel room, still well-dressed and flush with money, but no longer the famous Jason Taverner. No ID--that's a forced-labour offence. His agent doesn't know him. Nor do his closest friends. He's even vanished from police databanks.
Forged documents are needed, hand-drawn by teenaged expert Kathy--one of Dick's most alarming women, a neurotic petty criminal who's also a police informer, who entraps and manipulates Taverner until he's terrified of her. He may deserve it: this self-obsessed megastar inflicts small, unthinking cruelties on virtually every woman he meets.
The title's policeman is another interesting character: Police General Felix Buckman, a mostly good man (and fan of Elizabethan songs: "Flow, my teares...") trapped in a horrible system. Is Taverner, the man with no past, a threat? Less so, maybe, than Buckman's amoral sister Alys, who takes special interest in Taverner and seems to have the world's only copies of his music albums...
Paranoid wrongness is expertly conveyed, and resolved with a typically offbeat SF notion. A sunny finale concludes one of Dick's most approachable novels.--David Langford --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
One of the most original practitioners writing any kind of fiction, Dick made most of the European avant-garde seem like navel-gazers in a cul-de-sac (Sunday Times)
Dick quietly produced serious fiction in a popular form and there can be no greater praise (Michael Moorcock)
One of the genuine visionaries that North American fiction has produced (LA Weekly)
For everyone lost in the endlessly multiplicating realities of the modern world, remember: Philip K. Dick got there first (Terry Gilliam)
The most consistently brilliant SF writer in the world (John Brunner)
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Top customer reviews
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.
Once we come to the characters, I am less rapturous though. For someone supposedly genetically engineered to ooze charm, I found Jason Taverner surprisingly unlikeable. The female characters are pretty well defined, especially Alys and Mary Anne, and McNulty was real to me too. I did struggle to understand the point of many of the longer rambling conversations though, particularly those where characters veered off into deep philosophical exchanges seemingly within minutes of meeting each other. There is a lot of repetition of basic facts too although, annoyingly, not when it really would have been helpful such as in explaining just what was going on! I thought I was successfully staying with the mad reality hops and even had a couple of good theories, but then the coroner started his explanation which caused my brain to overheat and quietly melt away!
I was less impressed than I had hoped I would be with Philip K Dick. I liked the scene-setting and overall idea of a famous man cast adrift as a nonentity, but there were several occasions when I felt as though I had missed his point somewhere down the line. Perhaps I should have chosen an earlier of his titles as a starter?
Once I had set up my phone to play the tracks IN ORDER, this made a lot more sense!!! It's in essence a linear enough story, but of course it's Philip K Dick, so it's rather far-out, mind-bending and very sci-fi.
I like to vary my genres and haven't read much Dick (Man in the High Castle many years ago, a few that were adapted into films), and thought this sounded good on audiobook.
The plot follows the turn in fortunes of Jason Taverner, big TV star who suddenly finds he doesn't exist anymore. In his search for ID in a police state, he runs into some very disturbing characters, does some soul-searching and gets involved in a murder investigation.
Just what is going on? Well, I'd be lying if I said I followed it all completely. There's a reason I don't read a lot of science fiction, and I do find it just passes me by at times. But I did enjoy Jason's story, and the narrator gives him a bluff and pompous voice that suited the personality. I can't say the same for a single female character though, I hated the voices of each of them, the narrator really wasn't cut out for women's voices. They grated and simpered and annoyed me throughout, and probably also affected my feelings about the characters as I didn't like a single woman in the book. Disturbed, self-obsessed and secondary to the men around them.
These are my initial thoughts after finishing, it's not a book I finished in triumph, feeling satisfied - I did feel I'd had a small mental workout and was glad I could move onto something easier to latch onto.
But I will continue to sample outside my comfort zone and look for examples of the best of every genre. Lots to recommend it, but not quite my cup of tea, though I did enjoy Jason.
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