Philip K. Dick's 1959 novel Time Out of Joint presents a pre-transitional stage for the author. Probably published while Dick was concentrating his efforts on writing what he dubbed his literary fiction (as opposed to his science fiction), this novel is of pre-the Man in the High Castle and Ubik-period quality.

Still, as a story that embodies the rapture and grin-factor of sci-fi, Dick accomplishes much in the way of down-pat presenting a story of interest to the reader, well-written, planned, and executed. A hint of the philosophy that would come to play a major role in later novels, and brief encounter with semiotics.

This is the story of one Ragle Gumm, who lives with his sister and her husband. Ragle Gumm solves a daily newspaper puzzle, for which he recieves the money that keeps him going. The puzzle is Where-will-the-little-green-man-be-next?, presenting a grid from which Ragle must choose a single square (but in fact, he can select a series of squares--there are special rules for Ragle). Through careful consideration, research materials, and a variety of usually useless hints the newspaper provides, Ragle consistently wins. He is a local celebrity.

Down the way are some old houses, torn down. Just the support left. They call them the ruins. Inside these ruins Ragle finds an old magazine, and it mentions Marilyn Monroe, a starlet he'd never heard of. And there are phone books that don't represent the world he knows. Like in Ubik, time begins to deterioate: a soda pop stand regresses into a slip of paper reading Soft Drink Stand.

Combine this with mysterious sonic booms and crystal radio sets talking about him, and Ragle starts suspecting everyone as being part of a conspiracy to make him crazy. And so it goes. Is it the late 50's as they know it to be? Why are there references to it being 1996?

As a book of ideas, this novel shoots up in a scale quickly. It is an obvious precursor to The Truman Show, The Matrix, Pleasantville, as well as a variety of other similar, more contemporary tales. It even parellels other Dick works like We Can Remember It For You Wholesale whereas the protagonist is slowly convinced that they are the center of the universe, the pivotal point upon which all else rests, and they start to go crazy for it until they realize that it is true: they are the galactic center.

Time out of Joint, originally published in 1959 has recently been reprinted by Vintage in 2002. John Lennon, back in the day had publically noted he had read and highly enjoyed this novel. One can see why, as it twists and turns. We are all being duped.

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