Sunday, July 21, 2019

Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964)

For the most part this Philip K. Dick novel dispenses with the usual distortions of reality via time travel or drugs, though mental illness is prominent. In the future, Earth ("Terra") has expanded civilization to the richly populated Alpha Centauri system four and a half light-years away. Alpha Centauri has many habitable planets and moons, many of them populated by Alphanes, an insect-like breed with license plate numbers for names. But Terrans managed to get a toehold in one moon, Alpha III M2 by name, which they used to house the exiled mentally ill. But then, in the last war, it came under Alphane control, which enabled the Terrans exiled there to live as they choose. The story involves a plot on Earth to take back control of it, a mission headed up by the CIA using simulacrums controlled remotely. Dick imagines that the mentally ill Terrans on Alpha III M2 would organize themselves by diagnosis. The "Pares" are paranoid schizophrenics, "Heebs" hebephrenics (a type of schizophrenia), "Manses" manics, "Deps" depressives, etc. They are not always easy to make out from group label or behavior—the Heebs felt Rastafarian without the patois, for example—and I'm not sure any of this would be likely to ever happen, but all right. My favorite character was Lord Running Clam, a slime mold that is not only sentient but telepathic, and not only telepathic but manipulative. My love for him starts with his name. Another point I liked was a supernatural power of one character, Joan Trieste, to run time backward for up to five minutes. She works for the police department and is detailed to emergency scenes where she is able to bring people back to life if she can get there fast enough. She carries the Dick version of a beeper. Evidently her strange power only works in a localized way. I'm not as sure about certain aspects of Alpha III M2, or the strange relationship at the center of the story between a CIA agent with a moral compass and his wife without one. She's a marriage counsellor—one of the best in the business. Huh?! Inevitably there is also a TV variety show host with an uncertain agenda. Clans of the Alphane Moon probably doesn't stand with Dick's best, but even in the din of the meaningless event it does have some of his sharpest ideas.

In case it's not at the library.

No comments:

Post a Comment