Science Fiction | Book Review: Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick

Martian Time-Slip

I picked up Martian Time-Slip because the plot described on the back cover is exciting. The fact that the book is written by PKD is just icing on the top. He was a most brilliant writer; bending reality with just words and making you believe impossible worlds.

Martian Time-Slip takes the reader to a human colony on Mars and explores in detail that no matter where we live, humans will never stop doing to each other what they did on Earth. Greed, power, segregation, discrimination, slavery and smuggling are rampant in the human society on Mars. The story focuses on an autistic boy, Manfred Steiner, and what his perception of time is thought to be. Arnie, with the help of Jack wants to devise a way to communicate with Manfred.

“True autism, Jack had decided, was in the last analysis an apathy toward public endeavor; it was a private existence carried on as if the individual person were the creator of all value, rather than merely the repository of inherited values. And Jack Bohlen, for the life of him, could not accept the Public School with its teaching machines as the sole arbiter of what was and what wasn’t of value. For the values of a society were in ceaseless flux, and the Public School was an attempt to stabilize those values, to jell them at a fixed point-to embalm them.”Philip K. Dick

Schizophrenia and autism are dealt with on Mars by hiding all the afflicted at a camp run by the Israeli contingent. The existence of autistic children is denied so that the fair people of Earth don’t look at Mars as some failed colony where everyone gives birth to these broken children. The parents who give birth to such children are often looked down upon and sterilised so that no more autistic kids are born. The Steiner family in the book keeps their boy Manfred a secret so that society does not look down upon them or judge them.

Off the bat, I have to say that the characters in this book were brilliant, deeply flawed and complex. Some notable characters,

Jack Bohlen, an electronics repairman who has a schizophrenic past of his own.

Arnie Kott, a man influenced by greed, power and his ability to take revenge on whoever he feels like.

Doreen Anderton, a stunningly beautiful woman who is Arnie Kott’s mistress and eventually becomes Jack Bohlen’s mistress.

The Bleekmen, an indigenous and extraterrestrial race that lived on Mars. After humans arrived on Mars, they have been treated like slaves and ridiculed for their beliefs. They are often referred to as ‘niggers’ in the book by Arnie Kott.

“His thoughts,” Helio said, “are as clear as plastic to me, and mine likewise to him. We are both prisoners, Mister, in a hostile land.” At that Arnie laughed loud and long. “Truth always amuses the ignorant,” Helio said.” Philip K. Dick

There are so many reasons to hate Arnie Kott but he is such a well written character. Manfred Steiner is just an autistic boy but to Arnie he’s less than a tool. He couldn’t care less if the boy died as long as he gets what he needs.

Living on Mars has its own set of challenges but the society is still just as broken as it is on Earth. Of this, the most shocking was the way the Bleekmen are treated on their own planet. The parallels to human culture and society can’t be missed here. It’s easy to compare this to the plight of the Aztecs meeting the Spanish.

The education system on Mars is another marvel of technology for its residents. The teachers are all droids who personas of famous people from Earth’s past. Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison are teachers here at this school. Being machines, they are far more efficient and can remember every child to tune their teaching accordingly. Its hard to believe this book was written in 1964.

While this book was not as trippy as some of PKD’s other works, it is still just as good. The plot will easily hold your attention and is enjoyable. If you’ve never read any of PKD’s books, this should be a great starting point.

Definitely worth a read.

Martian Time-Slip




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