Yesterday I went for a science fiction break from reality and I was not disappointed. Philip K. Dick never disappoints and his book The Simulacra was a fun and engaging read. Set in the future (of course), Dick creates a scenario where the world has been divided into four governing states (one of them is France: as if!). The USEA, which includes the USA, is being run by the first lady and her husband, the now-inconsequential president. First Lady Nicole Thibodeau is beautiful beyond compare and has a narcotic effect on her constituents: they adore her and have kept her in office for over seventy years. Only the husbands change and no one seems to notice that Nicole never gets older, only grows more beautiful and enchanting. Do you smell a conspiracy? Of course, and it is a great one, one which is not fully untangled and exposed until the final pages of this fast-paced and entertaining book.
Dick throws de-evolution, time travel, Himmler, psychoanalysis, life on Mars, and the enduring power of music into the mix of the conspiracy, and then has the whole plot played out by diverse humans whose only similarity is their desire to survive. An added bonus are all the great gizmos Dick thinks up, like the commercial bugs that buzz and irritate and nag with advertising, the reporting machines that have taken over for journalists, the living organisms that play back music better than stereos, and the best of all, the simulacra: the man-created appearances of humans, not robots but more real, more alive, more able to manipulate and be manipulated, so much so that simulacra might even be running the whole show. But who is running the simulacra?