Thursday, 22 September 2016

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K Dick

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K Dick
First published in America by Doubleday in 1974. Audiobook narrated by Scott Brick published by Blackstone Audio in 2007.

This is my 1970s book for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said grapples with many of the themes Philip K. Dick is best known for - identity, altered reality, drug use, and dystopia - in a rollicking chase story that earned the novel the John W. Campbell Award and nominations for the Hugo and Nebula.

Jason Taverner - world-famous talk show host and man-about-town - wakes up one day to find that no one knows who he is - including the vast databases of the totalitarian government. And in a society where lack of identification is a crime, Taverner has no choice but to go on the run with a host of shady characters, including crooked cops and dealers of alien drugs. But do they know more than they are letting on? And just how can a person's identity be erased overnight?'

I listened to the Blackstone Audio edition of this book, expertly narrated by Scott Brick, however can now only find the Brilliance Audio edition to link to so I hope it has as good a performance of the work.

Flow My Tears, for me, is wonderfully dated classic science fiction that incorporates what has now become a bizarre mix of still-futuristic and old-fashioned ideas. Set in the then future of 1988, people drive flying cars and live in hovering apartments, but listen to LP records and have to run to find public payphones. Dick's totalitarian state is cleverly evoked to be a menacing presence surrounding our talk show host hero and I loved that its powerful face is actually backed by inept bureaucracy. Dick has a great descriptive turn of phrase and I could easily picture the decrepit forger's lab, the clinical police academy, luxury apartments and the Buckman's museum-cluttered home.

Once we come to the characters, I am less rapturous though. For someone supposedly genetically engineered to ooze charm, I found Jason Taverner surprisingly unlikeable. The female characters are pretty well defined, especially Alys and Mary Anne, and McNulty was real to me too. I did struggle to understand the point of many of the longer rambling conversations though, particularly those where characters veered off into deep philosophical exchanges seemingly within minutes of meeting each other. There is a lot of repetition of basic facts too although, annoyingly, not when it really would have been helpful such as in explaining just what was going on! I thought I was successfully staying with the mad reality hops and even had a couple of good theories, but then the coroner started his explanation which caused my brain to overheat and quietly melt away!

I was less impressed than I had hoped I would be with Philip K Dick. I liked the scene-setting and overall idea of a famous man cast adrift as a nonentity, but there were several occasions when I felt as though I had missed his point somewhere down the line. Perhaps I should have chosen an earlier of his titles as a starter?

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