Why did I love this book?
Gorging on Philip K. Dick novels in the 1970s made me a full-blown science fiction fan. Written in 1964, this is likely his best. It is dazzling in its twists and turns, philosophical, comic, and at times, downright creepy. The earth has become nearly uninhabitable—with temperatures reaching 180 degrees on a typical day—and the UN is forcing people to colonize Mars, Venus, and the moons of Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. The colonists, miserable outcasts, get their kicks while gathered around a Perky Pat layout, complete with small dolls and accessories. They ingest the alien lichen Can-D which “translates” them into a shared Ken and Barbie-esque fantasy of 1950s-1960s’ life. Billionaire entrepreneur Palmer Eldritch introduces a rival to Can-D called Chew-Z, a diabolical substance that further threatens humanity. Dick was one science fiction writer who had his doubts about the glorious future that space exploration or technological innovation promised.