FYI, I didn't put the "K." in his name on purpose. I like to upend people's expectations. Is your mind blown?
Similar to Asimov's Foundation series, Ubik occurs in a distant future in which regular people can travel to the moon, rich people can be cryogenically preserved after death in a sort of dreamy half-life, and people with psychic powers are so common that there are entire companies devoted to "anti-psyonic"services. Yes, the distant future of... 1992. Heh. Oh, sci-fi writers from the 60s. Adorable.
Ubik is a great, mind-twisty story about one of the above anti-psy organizations run by Glen Runciter and his half-wife Ella. Joe Chip works for Runciter as an anti-talent scout, and he's quickly introduced to Pat Conley, who has the ability to change events that happened in the past. She doesn't actually go back in time herself, she just thinks really hard about something, and then things that happened have now happened a different way. Conley is brought along with 11 other anti-psys to a top-secret factory on the moon to secure the place from psyonic activity for mega-rich dude Stanton Mick.
As soon as the group lands on the moon, Runciter and Joe Chip included since it's such a big job, a floating person-bomb explodes and kills Runciter. Everyone else drags him into their ship and takes him back to Earth, to the same facility that houses his wife Ella, so that he can be placed in half-life with her. That's when things start getting weird. Chip orders coffee and the cream comes out sour. Cigarettes bought in a store crumble and disintegrate. Modern elevators switch back and forth between their usual form and an old-school form, complete with elevator attendants. And Chip wakes up the next morning in a hotel room, with a disintegrated lady in his closet.
Runciter starts showing up everywhere - on coins, on bathroom stalls, on TV. There are also constant instructions to find and apply something called Ubik, which is apparently the only way to keep from dying. Runciter's trying to tell them something, but nobody can figure out what it all means. Did he have a psy predict the future for him, and he knew this was going to happen, so he planned all of the messages ahead of time?
Time keeps rolling backwards, with airplanes reverting to biplanes, and coin-operated doors reverting to knob-operated doors. (Some of these changes can be appreciated by the perpetually broke Chip.) People keep breaking apart from the group and disintegrating. Suspicion turns to Pat Conley, with her ability to change the past. Is she messing with everyone? If so, why?
Their world stops regressing in the 1930s, and Chip finally discovers that he's in half-life himself, as is everyone else. Runciter is the only person who survived the explosion on the moon, and he's been trying to reach the half-lifers as best as he can, which is why he kept showing up on TV, telling them that they are dead. There is a young boy in half-life, Jory Miller, who died in the 30s and steals people's remaining years. He's been trying to keep the group's mental environment consistent enough to keep their minds fresh for eatin', but it's hard for him to keep the last environment in which he lived from coming through.
Ella finds Chip and tells him all about Ubik, and how it will protect him from Jory. Out in the real world, Runciter's trying to have his wife and employees moved to a secure part of the facility so that Jory can't eat their brains. What a considerate employer. The book ends with Joe Chip appearing on some of his coins.
If I had to describe Ubik for its Match.com profile, I would say it has a good sense of humor, enjoys long walks on the beach because there's no technology available for reversion, but perhaps takes too much pleasure in mind games. Fun for a multiple-night stand, sure, but do not put a ring on that finger.
I Am Still Alive. Basically.
3 days ago