Ubik

ubik

Ubik [ew-bik] is a 1969 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. It has been described as ‘a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you’ll never be sure you’ve woken up from.’ The novel takes place in the ‘North American Confederation’ of 1992, wherein technology has advanced to the extent of permitting civilians to reach the Moon and psi phenomena are common. The protagonist is Joe Chip, a debt-ridden technician for Glen Runciter’s ‘prudence organization,’ which employs people with the ability to block certain psychic powers (as in the case of an anti-telepath, who can prevent a telepath from reading a client’s mind) to enforce privacy by request. Runciter runs the company with the assistance of his deceased wife Ella, who is kept in a state of ‘half-life,’ a form of cryonic suspension that gives the deceased person limited consciousness and communication ability. In the novel Ubiq, a product whose name is derived from the word ‘ubiquity,’ has the property of preserving people who are in half-life.

Dick’s former wife Tessa remarked that ‘Ubik is a metaphor for God. Ubik is all-powerful and all-knowing, and Ubik is everywhere. The spray can is only a form that Ubik takes to make it easy for people to understand it and use it. It is not the substance inside the can that helps them, but rather their faith in the promise that it will help them.’ She also interpreted the ending by writing, ‘Many readers have puzzled over the ending of Ubik, when Glen Runciter finds a Joe Chip coin in his pocket. [It] is meant to tell you that we can’t be sure of anything in the world that we call ‘reality.’ It is possible that they are all dead and in cold pac or that the half-life world can affect the full-life world. It is also possible that they are all alive and dreaming.’

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