Martian Time-Slip

The PKD series continues with a look at one of his best.

Raw Feed (1989): Martian Time-Slip, Philip K. Dick, 1964.Martian

I’ve had a reluctance to read this novel since it didn’t sound very interesting, but it turned out to be one of Dick’s best.

The scenes of the world through schizophrenic eyes were the best; they were powerful, eerie, frightening, and creepy. Manfred Steiner’s entropic view of life was scary, compelling and a very original view of madness. Jack Bohlen was also a well-drawn character, damaged, being sucked back into the world of schizophrenia.

The death of Norbert Steiner was quite unexpected, and his suicide bleak and poignant.

Even the women in this book, in addition to being real characters as always in Dick’s work, were not grubbing, unsympathetic, or man-devouring. Doreen Anderton gives Jack Bohlen some much needed understanding though they part at story’s end. Sylvia Bohlen, though she is driven to an adulterous liaison out of loneliness and boredom, stays married to Jack at novel’s end, and their marriage is stronger. The union is reaffirmed, a denial of Jack’s alienating psychosis.

In fact, though the novel’s ends unhappily for Arnie Kott — he’s murdered — the general end tone is positive.

Manfred Steiner is “reborn” and escapes his dreaded future in the AM-WEB building.

Dick’s Mars is bleak, desolate place well suited to his story.

The novel leaves several questions unanswered or only vague suggestions of answers. Is the setting the schizophrenic world of someone? What is the nature of the varying depictions of the party where Arnie, Doreen, and Jack become enemies. Reoccurring visions of the future by Manfred? Manfred-invoked precognitive visions by Jack? Jumbled — via schizophrenia — memories of Jack?

Personally, I think some of the visions of that meeting are Manfred Steiner’s precognitive visions and others are his attempts to alter that future. Still, others seem to be Jack Bohlen’s memories schizophrenically jumbled out of time sequence (as, it is stated, schizophrenia has done with some of his past recollections). Still, the books hints that the world the characters experience is, to a degree, influenced by schizophrenic perceptions.

In a way, Kott, by increasingly distancing himself from his ex-wife Bohlen and Anderton, behaves in sort of a schizophrenic way with his irrational, rather paranoid hatreds. Kott’s final statement, after being shot, that he is caught in the world of a schizophrenic, is rather ironic.

In short, as with so many Dick novels, it is hard to say what, if any, perception is “correct”.

Unfortunately, reading a  lot of Dick makes one rather intellectually lazy since you’re tempted to throw up your hands and not try to figure it out. However, I’m not sure Dick intended in this work to give any firm answers as to what is madness and reality.

I did like Dick’s ruminations about schizophrenia and found the work compelling.

The one flaw of the novel is Dick’s premise that Manfred Steiner experiences time at a different rate. Dick seems to confuse two people perceiving the same events at different rates of time resolution with one person jumping ahead to perceive events in the future.

Despite Dick’s flawed sf premise the idea of autistics jumping ahead in time is good.

 

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11 thoughts on “Martian Time-Slip

  1. I consider MARTIAN TIME-SLIP one of Philip K. Dick’s best novels. The whole presentation of Reality is intriguing. PKD can also work magic with Time. It’s all here in this one slim volume.

  2. Pingback: Ubik; or, Adventures in Reader Reactions | MarzAat

  3. When I first read Martian Time-Slip back in the 1960s or early 1970s I was annoyed that his Mars was so unscientific, but I felt the story was compelling. Since then, I’ve read the book again a couple of times and listened to it on audio. It really is one of PKD’s best. I think it helped that it was written just after his period of trying to write literary novels. As he cranked more and more books in the later sixties some of them were written too fast and it shows. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to relate best to those attempted literary novels, and Martian Time-Slip and The Man in the High Castle.

    • I can see why you would react that way reading it shortly after it came out. In bouncing back and forth in time to read various fictional versions of Mars, I’m used to fanciful Mars that bear no resemblance to current scientific understanding. (On the other hand, it was a delight to read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars books which did make a real effort to do a realistic Mars.) I haven’t yet tackled Dick’s literary mainstream novels. No excuse really since they are now much easily available than the small press editions most got on release. I liked the characterization and many elements of The Man in the High Castle, but I’m not as enamored as some of the ending conceit of our world just being an alternate history.

      • I consider “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny in 1963 the continental divide between the pulp worldview of Mars by science fiction and everything that came after Mariner IV in 1964. I remember when those photos were coming in how crushed I was that Mars looked like the Moon. But I should have forgiven PKD too, since Martian Time-Slip was 1964. But I didn’t read it until a few years later.

        I highly recommend the audiobooks of Dick’s literary novels, especially Confessions of a Crap Artist. The narrators are very good, and the feel of the 1950s comes out in them very well. PKD was really a 1950s writer. Even his weird Valis books, with all their 1970s hippie weirdness, had the mental outlook of the 1950s. Martian Time-Slip is very 1950s-ish, with its preoccupation of labor leaders, psychiatry and intellectual ideas of that decade. PKD reminds me of my father’s brothers, who were both crap artists.

        The more I read and reread the biographies of PKD, and the more I listen to his books on audio, the more I hear and feel the 1950s I grew up seeing and hearing. It was not a Leave It To Beaver decade. It was weird like PKD.

      • I have Confessions of a Crap Artist. While I’ve seen the movie Barjo based on it, I haven’t read the book yet.

        In thinking about it, there really isn’t a noticeable tonal shift or change of voice in Dick from one decade to the other.

        I have to admit that, based on my reading, I favor 1950s sf more than any other decade. Not out of nostalgia, I was born in the 1960s, but I like the social satire that was becoming more prevalent and the sort of work-a-day characters that were showing up. And, of course, it’s Alfred Bester’s best decade. And I do like Bester.

        If any sf actually takes me back to recollections of youth, it would be Simak. When I first encountered him, he was the first sf writer I encountered who set things in an environment that reminded me of where I was.

        That’s an interesting observation about Mars. I wonder if anyone’s done a timeline or essay about the specifics of how the fictional Mars changed due to science. (There are certainly hints in the SFE “Mars” entry.) I would be surprised if someone hasn’t done it

        Venus as a setting was even more decisively crushed by space exploration than Mars.

  4. How did you get to see Barjo? How was it? I’d love to see it.

    I too am partial to 1950s SF, and I’m also a fan of Clifford Simak. My big three of the 1950s would have been Heinlein-Dick-Simak rather than Heinlein-Asimov-Clarke, although I like those guys too.

    I’ve been wishing for Alfred Bester’s work to come to audio, and last month both The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man finally showed up on audio. Haven’t listened to them yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I just finished gorging myself on The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One which also came out on audio in December. Volumes 2a will be released in late February and 2b in April. I’m in 1950s science fiction nirvana.

    • I saw Barjo as a VHS rental many years ago. I have no idea if you can easily get it now.

      I’ll be curious to hear how they translate all those typographical tricks in those Bester novels.

      So, do you think your affinity for 1950s sf is just nostalgic given that you are closer to it in time than me?

      I suspect that’s not the whole story.

      I think that 1950s sf had some unique virtues (obviously not every work): economy of length, speculative vigor (sometimes based on totally implausible ideas), the faith that social sciences would become as rigorous as physical ones, social satire, common man protagonists, and (especially in America) a mix of technological optimism and pessimism not seen before. (The Brits started their pessimistic sf in earnest after WWI.)

      At least, that’s my impression from far from exhaustive reading in the decade.

      And Silverberg started then. He’s been with me my whole sf reading life. His first novel was the first sf novel I remember reading, and I’ve been reading his collected stories just recently.

      • I think who we are is partly shaped by the generation we grow up with – our peers, and partly by the generation before, the people slightly older than us, the ones we look up to who did all the cool things we admired. Baby boomers love The Beatles, but The Beatles were not Baby Boomers but from the previous generation. I admired Jack Kerouac, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany – writers who were breaking out as I was growing up, in the 1957-1967 range. Of course, I admired them for two reasons. One, because of their work, but two because they were all lost souls. I even wrote about them, calling them the ghosts that haunt me. https://auxiliarymemory.com/2013/08/04/the-ghosts-that-haunt-me/

        I read a handful of Silverberg back in the 60s and 70s, and then went decades without reading him. Then a few years ago I reread Downward to the Earth by listening to it. I really got into it. I’ve since listened to it again. I’ve tried a few other Silverberg novels since, but they didn’t hit me like Downward to the Earth. I’m hoping to find more.

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