VALIS - Part 1 Reflection

9:04 PM
Valis is weird. I don't mean that lightly either. In the past PKD novels we've read for class, characters experienced drugs and the mentality brought along with that. Here we are presented with both the inter and outer workings of a man as he starts his decline into insanity. The narrator is Horselover Fat, telling us the story of Horselover Fat. At the beginning, it seems as if he is one person looking back at an event. As the story pushes on, the narrator removes himself from Fat--sometimes saying 'I' then correcting himself to say 'Fat' instead-- and often says he was one of the people talking and debating Fat on various things. As Fat becomes convenced that God has talked to him, the narrator toys with the idea. He says that he adopts views suiting who he is talking with, even though he is talking to himself at times. Fat saw the laser pointer light shone on the narrator's arm at one point and it reminded him of when he had seen God.

The novel itself is insanely interesting. Unfortunately, it is just as hard to follow as it is interesting. It seems to be one part narrative, two parts philosophical paper.  At times I'm so distracted by the ideas Fat is cooking up that I lose track of where exactly our characters are or in which setting the conversation is taking place. I'm hoping that things will become clearer as I progress in the novel.

A Scanner Darkly - Part 2 Reflection

2:40 AM
(2006) Movie Adaptation of A Scanner Darkly

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it,does it make a sound?"
I cannot count the number of times I've heard this saying. Not one of those times have I given it the thought that I did during my reading of A Scanner Darkly. The phrase, probably due to repetition, had deteriorated so much in meaning that it lost whatever intelligence it had contained. A Scanner Darkly put it back in perspective. Who are people when we're not around? Does a thing or person still exist as we know it when it is out of our perception? As Fred begins to lose track of his different personas he questions both people around him and himself. When he first starts viewing the holotapes of Arctor's house he worries about the side of Donna he may see. He fears the loss of the niceness, the good image he has built up of Donna. Furthermore, what could he find out about himself as Arctor? Fred's mind starts to split at this point. The divide between Bob Arctor and Fred widens, until it is unbridgeable. Were the tapes a contributing factor in this? Was Fred granted that insight into his own mind as Arctor and his mind chose to separate those parts rather than piece together a single identity? Fred becomes the awareness of the logical side of the mind, while Arctor claims the creativity and freedom. Fred-Arctor has seperated into two parts: good and evil, law bringer and doper, Fred and Arctor.

Before I said I didn't like Arctor. As his mind put him into two persons ( and later into a united, vegetable Bruce ) my opinion of him morphed. I think I like Fred, as he was after the separation. I pitied Bruce more than anything. Arctor, free of his memories of being a narq, just became more of an ass.

Donna is a character I found myself questioning more and more as the novel progressed. Toward the beginning, she was Arctor's goal, both sexually and to progress his career. The middle of the novel allowed that 'dealer' motivation to fade away, allowing the focus on the relationship between her and Arctor and the development of her character as an individual to flourish. At the end of the novel she is shown to have not been a tool of Arctor but rather the one pulling the strings. A federal agent, though we are only given fringe details on her position. The seeds of this suspicion were planted earlier on, most notably when he saw her appear where Connie should have been. I would have passed it off as hallucination, if not for the fact that the discrepancy had appeared both while he was in bed with her and when he as Fred watched objectively from the holotapes.

A Scanner Darkly felt very differently from the other PKD novels we have read thus far in class. A focus, for the most part, on one character. Though that one character later branched off into multiple awarenesses, we witnessed the deterioration. Arctor was the puppet the entire time, even when he thought he was the one in charge. His downfall was orchestrated by people more important than he, all for a good we will never know.

A Scanner Darkly - Part 1 Reflection (Or why I'm starting to both hate and love Bob Arctor)

8:11 PM

I say it every time. Philip K. Dick has a gift when it comes to creating believable worlds and populating those worlds with vibrant characters. A Scanner Darkly is, once again, no exception. But for the first time I find my self in conflict with the character he has given us; I don't like Bob Arctor.

Arctor started off the same as any character to me. He is a complex man somehow lodged at the pivotal point between the 'straight' world and the world of Substance-D. Much like our other leading men in the past, he was thrust into a position that gave him a unique look at the universe PKD had created for us. Like some of the prior protagonists, he had a moral high ground given to him by position. Deckard of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was a officer charged with decommissioning rogue androids.  Arctor is a undercover narc agent, responsible for busting and reporting on the drug business in the city. Deckard goes through his crisis of identity when he thinks of androids as more than machines, but Arctor's big change in personality came before we met him. And unlike Deckard's, Arctor's change of perspective failed to put him on the moral high ground.

Arctor hit his head. That bump on a kitchen cabinet convinced him to leave his wife and two daughters, quit his job, and start life anew.  I had been tolerating his character until that detail was revealed. I had almost been looking at him, and any book protagonist until their little details are revealed, as if he were wearing one of those Scramble Suits. He was everyman, not a specific man. I didn't notice my traits, only imposed my ideas of a PKD protagonist onto him. Now the suit is off and I'm not sure I like what I'm seeing.

Disliking a character isn't necessarily a bad thing. The fact that I feel any emotions at all to a fictional person is a victory in itself. At the same time, it opens the doors to character development. On the level of the reader, Arctor will have to earn every bit of admiration he wants out of me. Within the story, Arctor could have a massive change of heart. He, like Deckard, could discover his humanity and either embrace it, or leave it behind. I'm willing to tolerate a few hundred more pages with Arctor to find out how its going to go for him.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Part 1 Reflection

12:28 AM
"What might Perky Pat Layouts correspond to in your own world? Why do you make that connection?" 
The entire interface with the Perky Pat Layouts reminded me a lot of Role Playing Games that we have in our world. The connection was first brought up in the D2L quiz we took. From there I saw more and more connections. In Three Stigmata, people escape their lives and take solace becoming someone else. Different people embody the same person and live that person's life, even if only for a short period of time.

That kind of escapism is largely the idea behind many video games. A person, seeking to experience something other than their own life, takes on the roles and responsibilties of a character. Only in recent developments have games that involve player choice become popular. Most of the time you are playing through another person. Yes you are you playing, but at the same time you are this other person making decisions for them.

Dr. Bloodmoney - My Part 1 Reflection

10:34 PM
I've found Dr. Bloodmoney to be an interesting follow up to The Simulacra  We open, once again, with a trip to a psychiatrist's office. The universe this time around is more accepting of mental rehabilitation. Rather than the hope that the Doctor would fail (as we saw with The Simulacra) the good doctor this time was reccomended by a friend to help a man solve his issues. The first patient in this case is a (in)famous figure who believes he is disfigured despite not being so. People staring, disfigurations that don't exist... sound familiar?

Hoppy shows me differences between this and the last novel we read, but also throwing back to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  What exactly is 'human'? Electric Sheep asked us this, and it seems Dr. Bloodmoney is asking once more. When thinking about his future augmentations, Hoppy mentally remarks that he would be stronger than a human. Does he think himself separate from the human race?

The Simulacra - My Part 2 Relection

11:55 AM

Chapter 13 was hardly the end of the book, but it held within it some of the strongest moments of the book.  Kongrosian is finally shown to use his psychic ability, though not on the piano as everyone had hoped.  He turns his powers on the A.G. Chemie agent first and is then revealed to (according to the Von Lessinger device) use his powers later on Nicole. Goltz appears and disappears around the room, dropping information to Kongrosian as Pembroke fires at the moving figure.

I thought the recording of Kongrosian's child was an interesting point in the story, mainly for what it said about the society. The boy's mother protested but Nat responded with: "Its been tested in USEA courts many times and the recording firm has always won". Right now, in our world, we are in a world where often content producers no longer 'own' their content. A musician records a song, a label circulates it for a large cut, then gives some royalties back to the musician. One step farther I've heard mention of musicians getting sued for using their own songs because the rights technically belong to the label they were recorded under. Here we see one step farther than this. These people, children in this case, have no right to the music they produce. It belongs to the recording agency, recording them without permission. What kind of society has this become? I knew the government in The Simulacra was controlling, but hadn't really known the extent until this very moment.

The Simulacra - My Part 1 Reflection

2:13 PM
"The Simulacra"
Not a cover for the American release, but an interesting cover none-the-less.

I like to go into my stories 'clean'. That is, no plot synopsis, no wikipedia pre-reading, and absolutely no spoilers. I like to enjoy books as they happen and notice I have a harder time doing this when I know the basis of the story before hand. The Sumulacra has been the exception to this. I read the first few pages without any prior thought, but I had to pause to read the back cover. That seems like a silly thing I'm sure, refusing the read the back cover of a book, but it has been my standpoint thus far in life. Checking out the plot of The Simulacra before hand didn't ruin the story for me. On the contrary, it gave my attention a place to focus and helped the plot to take root in my mind.

The aspect of this first part that interested me most was the existence of multiple protagonists and, more specifically, their relationship with the reader. Thus far in The Simulacra I've been introduced to a vast array of characters with one trait in common: they all could be the fabled 'patient' (save, of course, for our Doctor Superb). Nat Fliegar is our first character, an employee for the Electronic Musical Enterprise and the man tasked with coaxing the illusive musician Kongrosian into preforming for the White House, along with the help of his companions Molly Dondoldo and Jim Planck. Kongrosian himself is already a patient of Doctor Superb and finds himself suffering from a multitude of mental disorders. Other characters call him a hypochondriac. He very well may be so, fearing that he has contracted a 'phobic odor' capable of infecting anyone who comes in contact with him (even digitally!), has turned invisible, and has caused all the psychomotor accidents of late. Vince and Chic Strikerock are another set of characters, brothers at that, 'battling' over Vince's ex-wife Julie. I say 'battling' because only one of the two is really interested in her, Chic is currently using her as a bargaining chip against his brother in exchange for a job.

The plot I find most interesting, and the one that explains that last paragraph's place in this post, is the one surrounding Doctor Superb. Superb was to be shut down with the rest of the world's therapists. A mysterious individual granted him permission to continue practice so long as he turned down no new patients. Someone he was to treat is important to the future, but no one knows who. This is the biggest draw I feel as a reader. I am in the same shoes as Doctor Superb, wondering "Is this the guy??" each and every time a new character is introduced. I find myself drawing conclusions from each character's actions, linking him to others and trying to grasp why he would need to be treated and why the failure of that treatment is so important to the future of the entire country. That motivation keeps the pages turning and makes me anxious to see where all these different roads converge.