Time Out of Joint

The PKD series continues.

Raw Feed (1989): Time Out of Joint, Philip K. Dick, 1959.Time Out of Joint 

A very fun and enjoyable book.

I guessed, about half way through, (and given slight clues of book blurbs and Dick’s thematic preoccupations) that Ralph Grumm was being used as a weapons targeting system in a war. I did not guess the mechanism of control (and would have liked more details on that besides just “brainwashing” and mysterious gases), why Grumm had to be insane, or the nature of the war (I thought, given my limited experience, that the economic and philosophic origins of the war between Luna and Earth original and interesting).

The characterization was, as always, excellent.

One of the sad moments of the book was when the main characters found out they really had no relationship with each other. During the course of the novel you really cared for them as a family and as individuals.

I liked the look, however warped, of that alien world of the fifties with its social consciousness, conformity, and Freudian jargon.

I liked the creepy, paranoid flavor of the story, particularly the philosophical ponderings on the relationship of the word to the object. Did lunatic — a great bit of nomenclature — Mrs. Kesselman plant those mysterious slips of paper with words or were they the tools needed — like the dummies on the bus — to perpetuate the illusion? I wish there would have been a more concrete answer.

This book was an interesting combination between pandering to the almost paranoid fantasy trip of fans that they are the center of the world and really have a marvelous talent (what Norman Spinrad termed the “Little Emperor” plot) of value and the insanity and immaturity of such a view. Grumm really is the center of some fantastic attention, but the hoax must be perpetrated because of his moral qualms and psychological frailty.

Afterword“, Lou Stathis — An interesting account of the circumstances surrounding the novel’s writing. Evidently Dick wrote it allegedly to escape the cycle he was trapped in of writing formulaic adventure novels for Donald A. Wollheim and having the plots and titles slaughtered. Time Out of Joint represents, if I’m reading Stathis right, Dick’s first hardcover and his first combining of mainstream techniques with his own unique sf vision. The book was marketed as a “novel of menace” and didn’t have a wide appeal in sf or the mainstream. Stathis makes some interesting points about Dick’s career. Dick’s view of reality was that it was profoundly unknowable, a direct contradiction of the quite influential sf view of reality propagated by the powerful John W. Campbell. Campbell never bought any of Dick’s work and called him neurotic. It probably was a fairly accurate observation. Dick’s obsessions contradicted Campbell’s rationalism. Stathis makes the valid point that (and it is supported by interviews with him) Dick wrote to understand the world more than to make money, a transmuted profession like Ralph Grumm plotting missile intercepts instead of solving a newspaper puzzle. I sympathize with Stathis’ argument (and Wollheim’s) that the two halves of this novel (Wollheim’s original reason for rejecting it) don’t fit together. It is kind of disappointing to find a rational explanation for the paranoia of the novel’s middle but not that disappointing to me, and I found the rationale inventive if not entirely unsuspected. Dick, in a quoted interview, says this is one of his novels dealing with issue of consensus reality versus individual reality. There is some of that in this novel, but I think Dick dealt with the theme better in Eye in the Sky. Dick, in a quoted speech, gives a clue to the inconsistent and contradictory nature of his characters:

We should be content with … the meaningless, the contradictory … the unexplainably warm and giving.

That explains a lot of things in Dick’s style.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

One thought on “Time Out of Joint

  1. George Kelley January 7, 2018 / 10:01 am

    Philip K. Dick knew how to write about Time. I was astonished as a kid to read about seeing the Future in THE WORLD JONES MADE. PKD completely floored me with that ending. And, in TIME OUT OF JOINT, PKD never picks the obvious plot twist.

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