The PKD series continues with a look at one of his best.
Raw Feed (1989): Martian Time-Slip, Philip K. Dick, 1964.
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.