My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If written today, this could have been Dick's foray into YA fantasy fiction. He would have needed to change to protagonist into a plucky teenager instead of a full-grown man, but other than that all the elements are in place. On a road trip to Florida with his almost estranged wife, Ted Barton wants to stop off at Millgate, the Virginian town he left as a young man eighteen years before, They find the town, but everything about it has changed. (Cue the Twilight Zone theme music here.) Street names, buildings, people, everything is different and slightly decrepit. Then Ted finds his name in an old newspaper, a victim of scarlet fever in 1935.
The Cosmic Puppets is pure fantasy -- no science fiction involved. There are two children, Peter who makes tiny clay golems to report of Ted's movements, and Mary who gets regular reports from moths and bees on Peter's activities. Mary and Peter do not get along. Peter reveals to Ted the enormous beings who make up the valley's mountainsides and whose heads reach into the heavens. Little Millgate, Virginia, has become the host of an epic battle between the forces of good and evil. (Just their bum luck.) Ted and the town drunk who somehow escaped "the change" have to will the real Millgate back into existence.
There are some creepy elements here, mostly dependent upon how you fell about spiders and rats. But the Twilight Zone theme continues to hum along in the background, and Rod Serling could make an appearance at any moment.
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