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3.8 out of 5 stars
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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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on 20 September 2016
Flow My Tears, for me, is wonderfully dated classic science fiction that incorporates what has now become a bizarre mix of still-futuristic and old-fashioned ideas. Set in the then future of 1988, people drive flying cars and live in hovering apartments, but listen to LP records and have to run to find public payphones. Dick's totalitarian state is cleverly evoked to be a menacing presence surrounding our talk show host hero and I loved that its powerful face is actually backed by inept bureaucracy. Dick has a great descriptive turn of phrase and I could easily picture the decrepit forger's lab, the clinical police academy, luxury apartments and the Buckman's museum-cluttered home.

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?
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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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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2016
3.5 stars

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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on 28 August 2012
It's a terrible confession to make, but this is my first read of a Philip K. Dick novel. I don't really know why it's taken me so long to pick up one of his books, but it's probably something to do with the zany titles or those wide eyed zealots determined to tell you how he was the greatest and most visionary writer who ever lived. And I'll be honest: there was part of me which expected to be disappointed and uninvolved in what I found, but instead I greatly enjoyed `Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said', Like early to mid period Ballard (a writer I greatly admire), Dick takes what is recognisably the real world and tips it slightly on an angle to explore a variety of themes - in particular, man's isolation.

A popular TV celebrity wakes up to find that no one - not his agent, his lover, nor his fans - have any idea who he is. What's more, all official record of him has vanished and he has to navigate his way through a police state that is very focused on paper and identification. The plot is incredibly complex, but remarkably all makes a kind of sense in the end - and I found the whole thing to be an intriguing, thought provoking and rollicking good read.

Undoubtedly it's a very early Seventies idea to make the main protagonist a lounge singer who has his own weekly variety hour, but in amongst the elements which date this science fiction to a very specific time and place, there are others which still resonate. Dick is incredibly good on what happens when a police force becomes overly powerful and a bureaucracy gets out of him.

I am a convert, my scepticism is no more. I look forward to exploring Philip K. Dick's world further.
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on 26 May 2012
I first read this book in the mid 70's so probably soon after it was published. My hardback is still on the shelf, proudly kept.

It's a story which has remained with me throughout. I remember quoting from it at a school assembly during my final year. Nowadays we are overrun with stories which hint at an alternative reality, some more overt than others. It's a wise thing that no reviewer here has actually given the game away because no matter how clever and erudite the reviews are, it can't be denied - in my view - that this story is a very worthy read. Perhaps we can predict the ending nowadays because it's been "done to death" as they say, but when published this story was, believe me, fresh and insightful. (Please bear in mind the first line - to PKD 1988 was the future!)

I'd recommend this book to all who have tried Sheep and Castle, to those who aren't too jaded by modern expectations and can understand how innovative this was back in the 1970's.
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on 4 August 2013
Anything by Dick carries the enormous weight of his reputation with it - visionary, philosopher, maverick, shaman. Added to which, this novel about identity, policing and perception has the most suggestive of titles. Unfortunately whille there's much to admire in the simplicity of Dick's writing, it's a rather empty affair that left me somewhat undernourished after a week's reading. For completists only.
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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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