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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 Mar 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (13 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575074809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575074804
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

One of the genuine visionaries that North American literature has produced. (L.A.WEEKLY) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Philip K. Dick is the bestselling author of MINORITY REPORT and BLADE RUNNER.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"In the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late 21st century, tedium can be endured through the use of the drug Can-D, which enables the user to inhabit a shared illusory world. When industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from an interstellar trip, he brings with him a new drug, Chew-Z, which is far more potent than Can-D, but threatens to plunge the world into a permanent state of drugged illusion controlled by the mysterious Eldritch."
-- from the back cover

Written in 1964 and published the following year, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Philip K Dick's sixteenth published novel), deals with a number of the themes that dominate his work (pre-cognition, the nature of reality, drugs etc..). As with all PKD's works this novel is packed with ideas that make you marvel at his imagination but also (if you are of a philosophical turn of mind) bring you to question and consider the themes he raises for yourself. PKD also creates characters that I at least find believable. As Ursula Le Guin has said "There are no heroes in Dick's books, but there are heroics. One is reminded of Dickens: what counts is the honesty, constancy, kindness and patience of ordinary people." PKD's characters always strike me as in some way authentic.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1965.

"I am afraid of that book [The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch]; it deals with absolute evil, and I wrote it during a great crisis in my religious beliefs. I decided to write a novel dealing with absolute evil as personified in the form of a "human." When the galleys came from Doubleday I couldn't correct them because I could not bear to read the text, and this is still true.
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Format: Paperback
Firstly, this book is easy to pick up and read. Some reviewers suggest that you should try other works first, but I don't see why this should be the case. The story is quite involving and complex (as an idea), but the actual writing style and explanation is clear and very well described. Eldritch is coming back to earth and quite what he has with him, and whether he is still human is up for debate.

As you read this book, you almost go through all of the deadly sins and their impact on human life - someone is trying to upgrade their beauty or their intelligence (vanity), a co-worker is trying to take your job (envy), the boss is sleeping with the consultant (lust) - Dick plays out the story against a backdrop of impending doom, with the present-day prophet of the universe about to set up a new world based on his own self, a self that is alien, obnoxious, and without a true soul. The interesting twist to the story is the fact that we are all a part of this monstrosity, and perhaps Dick was ultimately trying to lay out the process by which the mind loses itself. I read somewhere that Dick could never actually read this story again, and never checked the final draft as it scared him.

For such a doom-laden book, it is remarkably upbeat, and the central figures have a lot to like in them, and a distinct sense of purpose even in the most trying of times. Towards the end the fight against Eldritch mounts, and the all-knowing nature of the new god is put into question. Everything is a question with Dick, and all is never lost.

This is classic sci-fi, and highly recommendable.
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It gets five stars for sheer wildness, though it's perhaps not quite up there with Ubik and Androids. The plot here is fairly simple: Palmer Eldritch is an industrialist who's returned from some distant star system with a mysterious lichen which, when chewed (it's called Chew-Z) transports the taker into an illusory world. Trouble is, Eldritch is able to enter and manipulate that world.

This gives Dick licence to be continually pulling the rug from beneath the reader's feet, and he rather over-indulges in this. Chew-Z is used by those forced to emigrate to Mars, where they scrape a living in 'hovels' (the Martian landscape is hopelessly unrealistic, but don't let that put you off!) whilst using the rather inferior Can-D, an illegal drug that needs a curious miniature layout to be effective. Parts of the novel come from the short story, The days of Perky Pat, Perky Pat being the doll used by the female Can-D users.

There are lots of nice, typically Dickian touches: people use portable psychiatrists to make them more, rather than less, stressed, so they can fail the draft and avoid being forced to go to Mars; there are the usual psi talents often found in Dick books of this period. But humour is pretty thin on the ground - this is, after all, as Dick himself noted, a study of evil. He compares the use of Can-D to the blood-and-wafer religious ceremony, and posits the question, what if this were true, but that the god concerned (Eldritch) were an evil one? A disturbing notion, and if the book isn't as downright scary as it thinks it is - and which Dick found it - it's still unsettling. For once a character has taken Chew-Z, has been delivered over to Eldritch, there's no certainty any more about what is real and what isn't.

Possibly not the Dick novel to read first, but definitely recommended.
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