book review: martian timeslip

Remember in my recent post where I talked about liking “cyberspace” even though dude, that’s not at all how the internet works? Well Philip K Dick’s Martian Timeslip is about a bunch of people living on Mars in 1994. You can get acclimatized to the atmosphere and there’s (a bit of) water and giant bugs as pets and oh yes, Mars is inhabited by Bleekmen. The Bleekmen are smaller and blacker than Earth humans and are used basically like 19th century slaves. All of that though? Background.

The story is about people wanting to buy land and dealing with schizophrenia. There’s one scene that’s repeated four times from four different characters’ POVs as the autistic kid is jittering time back and forth. The union boss is trying to use the kid to go three weeks into the past to buy some worthless land and his repairman is trying not to be overwhelmed by his mental condition as he tries to make a device for the union boss to communicate with the autistic kid.

Through the whole story I was wondering if what schizophrenia and autism meant in the 1960s is as completely different from what I think of it being today, or if PKD was slipshod in his terminology, or if I just have no idea of what mental disorders mean.

The story has a weird logic of madness to it. It seems sort of understandable that Kott tries to harness this kid’s time perception power, but it’s casually suggested as a theory that just happens to be somewhat correct. It’s Kott’s madness that really drives the whole thing. And the fact that they’re on Mars doing all this just adds to the weirdness.

It’s hard to know if PKD thought of this as a possible future or if he just didn’t give a shit. It’s ballsy how he puts a date on it though. So few people do that in SF anymore. Especially if they’re writing near-future stuff. (I suppose this was thirty years away when it was written, but in my books that counts as near future.)

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