THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH is a 1965 science fiction novel
by US writer
Philip K. Dick
The novel takes place some time in the 21st century. Under United Nations authority, humankind has colonized every habitable planet and moon in the solar system . Like many of Dick's novels, it utilizes an array of science fiction concepts, features several layers of reality and unreality and philosophical ideas. It is one of Dick's first works to explore religious themes. As the book explains, the 'three stigmata' are a mechanical arm, slotted eyes and metallic teeth, which represent alienation, blurred reality, and despair.
* 1 Plot summary * 2 Material used from prior work * 3 Reception * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 Further reading
The story begins in a future world where global temperatures have risen so high that in most of the world it is unsafe to be outside without special cooling gear during daylight hours. In a desperate bid to preserve humanity and ease population burdens on Earth, the UN has initiated a "draft" for colonizing the nearby planets, where conditions are so horrific and primitive that the unwilling colonists have fallen prey to a form of escapism involving the use of an illegal drug (CAN-D) in concert with "layouts." Layouts are physical props intended to simulate a sort of alternate reality where life is easier than either the grim existence of the colonists in their marginal off-world colonies, or even Earth, where global warming has progressed to the point that Antarctica is prime vacation resort territory. The illegal drug CAN-D allows people to "share" their experience of the "Perky Pat" (the name of the main female character in the simulated world) layouts. This "sharing" has caused a pseudo-religious cult or series of cults to grow up around the layouts and the use of the drug.
Up to the point where the novel begins, New York City-based Perky Pat (or P.P.) Layouts, Inc., has held a monopoly on this product, as well as on the illegal trade in the drug CAN-D which makes the shared hallucinations possible.
The novel opens shortly after Barney Mayerson, P.P. Layouts' top
precog , has received a "draft notice" from the UN for involuntary
resettlement as a colonist on
Meanwhile, the UN rescues Palmer Eldritch's ship from a crash on
Meanwhile, Emily and her second husband sell her pottery designs to Eldritch and use the payment to undergo evolution therapy. Unfortunately, Emily begins to devolve rather than evolve. This devolution results in a loss of creativity and she finds herself recreating older, less sophisticated designs from earlier work, without realizing it.
Under the guise of a reporter, Bulero travels to Eldritch's estate on
Bulero returns to Earth and fires Mayerson because Mayerson was
afraid to travel to the
On Mars, Mayerson buys some Chew-Z from Eldritch, who appears in holographic form. Mayerson tries to hallucinate a world where he is still with Emily but finds that he does not control his apparent hallucination. Like Bulero, he finds himself in the future. Mayerson arrives in New York two years hence where he speaks with Bulero, Fugate and his future self about the death of Palmer Eldritch.
He also encounters several manifestations of Eldritch, identifiable by their robotic right hand, artificial eyes, and steel teeth. Eldritch offers to help Mayerson become whatever he wants, but is so controlling of the CHEW-Z alternate reality that Mayerson ultimately decides he'd rather be dead than continue to be manipulated by Eldritch. When a despairing Mayerson chooses death, he finds himself apparently forced into Eldritch's body right at the point in the timeline where Bulero is ready to shoot a torpedo at Eldritch's ship. It appears that Eldritch's plan is to preserve his own life essence housed in Mayerson's body while allowing Mayerson himself to die in Eldritch's place. Eldritch, meanwhile, intends to live on in Mayerson's form and enjoy the simple if arduous life of a Martian colonist. Mayerson, stuck in Eldritch's body and mistaken for him, is indeed nearly killed by Bulero in the near future, but before the fatal shot can be fired he is awakened from his Chew-Z trance in the present by Bulero, who has just arrived on Mars.
Bulero is willing to take Mayerson back to Earth but refuses to after learning that Mayerson did not inject himself with the toxin. Mayerson is now confident that Bulero will kill Eldritch, so the sacrifice of taking the toxin in order to ruin Eldritch's business is unnecessary; but he does not try to convince Bulero of this. Later, Mayerson discusses his experience with a neo-Christian colonist and they conclude that either Eldritch became a god in the Prox system or some god-like being has taken his place. Mayerson is convinced some aspect of Eldritch is still inside him, and that as long as he refuses to take Chew-Z again, it is Eldritch who will actually be killed by Bulero in the near future; Mayerson is half-resigned, half-hopeful about taking on the life of a Martian colonist without reprieve. Mayerson considers the possibility of Eldritch being what humans have always thought of as a god, but inimical, or perhaps merely an inferior aspect of a bigger and better sort of god.
The novel has an ambiguous ending, with Bulero heading back toward Earth, and apparent proliferation of Eldritch's cyborg bodily 'stigmata ', which may mean that Bulero is still trapped in Eldritch's hallucinatory domain, or that Chew-Z is becoming increasingly popular among Terrans and Martian colonists.
MATERIAL USED FROM PRIOR WORK
* The Perky Pat and Connie Companion products were introduced in the
The Days of Perky Pat published in 1963. However, the novel
is not a continuation (e.g.
What the Dead Men Say and the novel
or expansion (e.g. the novella and later novel Vulcan\'s Hammer ) of
an earlier and shorter work.
* Early in chapter 3 a reference is made to "...the Printers, the
Biltong life forms ..." taken from the short story Pay for the Printer
published in 1956.
Precognition as an accepted vocation figures heavily in the plot
of Dick's short story
The Minority Report
Algis Budrys described the novel as "an important, beautifully controlled, smoothly created book which will twist your mind if you give it the least chance to do so." He praised Dick's accomplishment, saying "the whole creation resonates to the touch of the only present science-fiction writer who could possibly have done it" and characterizes the result as "a witty, sometimes lighthearted, and always fascinating piece of fiction."
* Novels portal
* ^ "1965 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-27. * ^ "Galaxy Bookshelf," Galaxy , August 1965, pp.186-92.
* Rossi, Umberto. "Dick e la questione della tecnica (o Della
tecnologia)", Technology and the American Imagination: An Ongoing
Challenge, Atti del XII Convegno biennale AISNA, Eds. Mamoli Zorzi and
Bisutti de Riz, Venezia: Supernova, 1994, p. 473–83.
* Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and
Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 142. ISBN 0-911682-20-1 .
* The Three
* v * t * e
Philip K. Dick
Gather Yourselves Together
A Handful of Darkness (1955)
The Variable Man (1956)
The Preserving Machine (1969)
* The Book of
Philip K. Dick
Beyond Lies the Wub " (1952)
* "The Gun " (1952)
* "The Skull " (1952)
The Little Movement " (1952)
* "The Defenders " (1953)
Mr. Spaceship " (1953)
Piper in the Woods " (1953)
* "Roog " (1953)
The Infinites " (1953)
Second Variety " (1953)
* "Colony " (1953)
* "The Cookie Lady " (1953)
* "Impostor " (1953)
* "Paycheck " (1953)
The Preserving Machine " (1953)
* "Expendable " (1953)
The Indefatigable Frog " (1953)
Total Recall 2070