To Concide with the Release of Blade runner The Gaurdian has asked a number of writers to choose there avourite Phillip K dick novel to review Time out of Joint is the one Chosen by Michael Moorcock
Time Out of Joint is not the first Philip K Dick novel to explore his now-familiar ideas, neither is it the best, but it was the first story I read of his and it made me an admirer. Without doubt, it’s a good introduction to Dick’s increasingly complex, intelligent metaphysical obsessions.
Ragle Gumm, apparently an ordinary guy in an ordinary 1959, lives conventionally in a small town with ordinary people. The only extraordinary thing about him is his consistent ability to win a newspaper contest in which he guesses where a little green man is hiding. Regularly winning Where Will the Little Green Man Be Next? makes him a minor celebrity. He enjoys a pleasant, comfortable life with his winnings. The middle-American town has all the nostalgic safety Donald Trump supporters yearn for, but attentive readers might notice certain discordant elements. The Tucker car, for instance, has become a standard production model and no one has heard of Marilyn Monroe. Soon Gumm himself sees a food truck disappear before his eyes, to be replaced with a slip of paper reading “SOFT DRINK STAND”.
Gumm becomes obsessed, recruiting friends to investigate the mystery. Radios are unavailable, but, when his landlady’s son makes a crystal set, they pick up mysterious broadcasts. Slowly growing aware of more and more dissonances, Gumm understands that he is not in comfortable 1959 at all, but in a terrifyingfuture where Earth suffers constant H-bomb attack from her old Lunar Colony.
But why the trickery?
The notion that bourgeois life is a comforting illusion, that American capitalism is an insane trick founded on a complex lie, is not new to SF, but Dick came to own it. He developed it into a complex personal belief system, fuelled by clinical paranoia, which heightened as he used amphetamines and LSD to write at high speed one novel after another.
As he expanded and deepened his ideas, when working he was barely able to distinguish a dream-state from reality. His racing mind disciplined by the only things it had to hang on to – the story, the argument and the deadline – he wrote novel after novel, all examining the same obsessions. Genre was, for him, simply the means of maintaining parameters, to frame his constantly expanding logic.