Mars is a desolate world. Largely forgotten by Earth, the planet remains helpless in the stranglehold of Arnie Kott, who as boss of the plumber's union has a monopoly over the vital water supply. Arnie Kott is obsessed by the past; the native Bleekmen, poverty-stricken wanderers, can see into the future; while to Manfred, an autistic boy, time apparently stops. When one of the colonists, Norbert Steiner, commits suicide, the repercussions are startling and bizarre.
What Did We Think?
Philip K. Dick is always good for interesting discussions, if not only because he can so split his readers but because everyone tends to take different things from his work. Found to be both compelling and 'disturbing in parts', Martian Time-Slip was written in 1964 and touches on some typical Dick themes such as questions of reality.
A lot of attention was given to the characters in the novel. Praise was lavished on their flawed natures, the fact that the "villains" have redeeming features and the "heroes" have severe flaws, that everyone has neuroses of some description from Dr. Milton Glaub's extreme feelings of inadequacy to the schizophrenia of our prime protagonist Jack Bohlen. A major message of the novel seems to be that everyone is abnormal and thus abnormal is normal. In this way the book was very non-judgemental of humanity's foibles.
Interestingly, the subject of the novel's female characters came up and they were revealed as being more two-dimensional than many of the male characters, not necessarily negative stereotypes but certainly drawn from stock female tropes (the widow, the wife, the mistress, and so on). This was, however, recognised not as a sign of Dick's chauvanims, but rather a sign that feminism wasn't on his list of issues, he was writing for and about very different things.
Taking the novel as metaphor it is at once the Wild West, with remote homesteads, limited resources, prospectors, and peculiar natives; whilst at the same time it's also 1960s LA with sordid backroom dealings, power struggles and a dog-eat-dog race for superiority.
However, whether mirroring Wild West, or contemporary LA society, the novel ultimately shows that society, like sanity may appear superficially functional but is at heart completely dysfunctional.
As ever, the novel's ending was found to be perplexing. Dick has always taken a different approach to endings, refusing to tie things up neatly into conclusive packages and is perfectly content to leave questions hanging and loose ends blowing in the narrative wind (it's something Stanislaw Lem praised him for). This lends an unsatisfactory aftertaste to the novel for readers who either dislike Dick's trippy style or the manner in which he chooses to conclude his adventures.
In summary, the novel was largely (but not exclusively) enjoyed, it generated some interesting discussions on time, place and perception (which I cannot hope to do full credit to here - so please continue the discussions in the comments section below), whilst stylistically awkward, and for some perplexing, the relationships and the manner in which Dick draws his characters was enough of an anchor that many of the readers left the novel feeling satisfied.
The average score given to Martian Time-Slip was 7
The votes fell as follows: 4, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8
Waterstone's Liverpool One Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club
Waterstones Liverpool One Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club
"This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a *final* frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier *to*, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate...)"
- Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
This is the official blog for the book club held in the book lounge of Waterstones Liverpool One.
The group meet at 6pm on the first Monday of the month to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the books selected. The books range from classic fantasy to brand new science fiction short story collections.
It's a fun and friendly atmosphere and all are welcome: from those who have never read any science fiction or fantasy before, to those who don't read anything else.
The group, and this blog, are administered by Glyn Morgan, the Bookseller responsible for the Science Fiction section of the store and an avid reader of SF who is currently studying for his PhD at the University of Liverpool.
If you would like to comment on any of the books we've read, this month or in the distant past, please feel free to contribute to the comments section of the relevant posts.
Visit this club's little sister: Coffee and Comics