You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I hate it when this happens. I try out a brand new hallucinogenic drug only to find out that it is addictive after a single use. Then, while suffering withdrawals, I'm offered help only if I agree to spy on my estranged husband who is now special physician to the ailing Sec. Gen of the United Nations Gino Molinari. I take more of the drug to get me through the trip to the White House in Cheyenne, Wyoming, only to find that the drug messes not only with my sense of time but with time itself. I'm  stuck in a cow pasture in a auto-cab in the year 1935. The cab cannot make it to Cheyenne without refueling, and so we have to wait for the effects of the drug to wear off so we will be returned to the mid 21st century where the super-refined protonex that fuels the cab will once again be available. 

Actually that has never happened to me. But it happens to Kathy Sweetscent in Now Wait for Last Year, and true to the spirit of PKD novels this wild scene is barely a sidebar to what -- or whatever -- the book is about. Kathy will make it to Cheyenne, where the time-traveling aspects of the drug JJ-180 will mess with her life and that of her long-suffering, at least in his own mind, husband, Dr. Eric Sweetscent. He has an obese, hypochondriac despot to keep alive while earth is embroiled in a losing war between 'Starmen and reegs. Earth has teamed with the 'Starmen because they are humanoid. The reegs are six-foot tall bugs who must communicate through boxes that resemble training potties. But they are also winning the war. And 'Starmen are infiltrating earth, and Molinari, known affectionately as The Mole, may actually be at death's doorstep, or he might be yet another of the simulacra he has had made of himself, one of which is his young, vibrant leader self while another is a bullet-riddled corpse lying in a glass coffin. 

Molinari is both a buffoon and shrewd politico. His constantly failing body may only be a ruse to get out of awkward meetings with the overbearing Frenesky, leader of the 'Starmen. I pictured him as a character actor whose name I cannot remember, but PKD  thought of him as a combination of Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and Mussolini. (That was an personality triad PKD attributed to several of his favorite characters.)

The plot starts running out of steam towards the end, but there are classic PKD moments of paranoia, intrigue, and absurdity. Now Wait for Last Year has made it into the three volume set of PKD novels distributed by the Library of America, so its reputation must be pretty good. 

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