Only Apparently Real
, a book of interviews with Philip K. Dick
, reveals that Dick intently set a "park bench
reality" from which the walls would come tumbling down
. Dr. Bloodmoney
is structured in just this way.
We are introduced to Stuart McConchie one fine morning, sweeping the Berkeley sidewalk outside of Modern TV Sales & Service where he is a salesman. Down the street is a psychiatrist, Doctor Stockstill who is just about to see one Doctor Bluthgeld, alias Mr. Tree.
The good Doctor Bloodmoney has a problem with paranoia. He thinks everyone is looking at the non-existant marks on his face, knowing the he is to blame for the last nuclear accident, an empirical mathmatical error for which he is not soley responsible.
We're introduced to the young phocomelus, Hoppy Harrington. Hoppy has no arms, no legs--just a torso and a head. His head has some strange powers too. He has at first a government-issue cart, with clumsy robotic arms, connected to his brain allowing control. He likes to fix radios, and TVs, and just got a job at the same stereo store as Stuart McConchie.
Today is the day the first manned rocket will be sent off to Mars. Walter Dangerfield and his wife, Lilly are the lucky first migrators. Walter is charming, really a positive image icon from which NASA can reflect as the outlook on this mission.
Stuart finds the (to him) undesirable Hoppy in his favorite restaurant. Freaks got to eat too, it seems but Stuart is resistant to releasing his animosity towards the phocomelus. Hoppy drinks a beer after an esculated conversation, peeters out and into this world he percieves as the afterlife. Somewhat like an epileptic fit, but lucid--Hoppy describes to the patrons his vision of the afterlife. And he is flying above it all. When he comes out, he tells Stuart that "one time I saw you," and "you were eating a dead rat raw."
By the subtitle of the book, the reader knows that some shit is going to go down. And oh, how it does. Never have I previously seen such an ingenious exploration into the nature of nuclear perception upon ground zero/time zero. Dick shifts from character to character, slowly describing what has happened. Dr. Bluthgeld experiences the explosion sensually, leaving the reader feeling as if they had just experienced the same.
Walter Dangerfield's ship never got to Mars, it remained in the Earth's atmosphere. Dangerfield, a resourceful compassionate chap, adjusts his ship to send radio waves via satellite down to the scattered communities across the globe. He is the damned best deejay they can get. He ties them together, but he can only last so long...
Now, this book won't get my reward for being one of my very favorite Dick novels, but it is solidly written and engaging. The portrait of a post-nuclear holocaustic Marin in societal reconstruction is affirming, the brilliant idea-per-page quotient is high, and the last fifty pages are gripping.
Dr. Bloodmoney was recently republished by Vintage Books in May 2002. It was originally published in 1965 by Ace Books.