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Book Review – Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Ubik, written in 1966 and published in 1969, is widely regarded as one of PKD’s best novels. But if you were to read the first 70 pages or so, it would be hard to imagine why. More on this later. At the time of Ubik‘s composition, PKD was living with Nancy Hackett, who would soon become his fourth wife and bear him his second child, Isa. Thus his life was relatively stable, which is a surprise, as Ubik is nothing if not a train-ride (some might say train-wreck) through a realm of uncertainty and despair.

The start of Ubik is unpromising. In the year 1992 (a mere 26 years into PKD’s future), a man called Glen Runciter heads an organisation that employs telepaths, precogs (as in precognitive), inertials and other people with psionic powers. Okay. Runciter’s organisation is engaged in a struggle against a rival organisation for control of the psionics market. Right. Runciter’s young wife Ella is in ‘cold-pac’ (a form of cryogenics) in a facility in Switzerland. There’s another boy in cold-pac called Jory who is starting to invade the half-life world of Ella Runciter. But the main focus is on Joe Chip, one of Runciter’s employees who appears to be Dick’s attempt at self-parody.

Joe Chip is in fairly dire straits. His life is a mess (he’s indebted to his front door, among other things) despite the fact that he is in Glen Runciter’s employ. There is an amusing interlude in which Joe has to argue with his door over the need for it to open. This seems to prefigure the kind of humour that Douglas Adams would make famous in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Part of Joe’s job is to interview new talents, such as Patricia Conley, who apparently has a unique gift: she can alter the past. This would make her of great interest to Runciter. Pat is a typicial PKD ‘dark-haired girl’: a young and attractive, but emotionless and manipulative woman. This is pretty standard PKD fare. Pat decides to alter the past so that she and Joe are married, although it goes without saying that she does this to gain control over him.

I’m making this sound a bit more promising than it actually is. To illustrate my point, I want to give an example of how PKD describes G. G. Ashwood, a minor character: “Square and puffy, like an overweight brick, wearing his usual mohair poncho, apricot-colored felt hat, argyle ski socks and carpet slippers, he advanced toward Joe Chip.” (p 25) This is surely a crime, not just against fashion, but against correct grammar as well. The other characters are dressed in similarly ridiculous garb. PKD isn’t taking his novel seriously at this stage. There’s nothing in the first five chapters to suggest that Ubik is going to be anything other than another PKD potboiler. To this stage of the novel, it’s pretty much on a par with The Zap Gun, a completely undistinguished PKD romp. But then something happens. Before I go on with the plot, I want to discuss a couple of side issues.

PKD often spoke about the idea of the ‘God in the gutter’ or finding jewels (or insights) in the trash. This is an important idea. He recognised that his novels are trash, but that he fashions this ‘kipple’ (a neologism from another novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) into something worthwhile. You can actually see this process at work in Ubik. It’s almost as if PKD has piled up all this SF detritus deliberately, only to transmute it into something worthwhile. But it’s a mistake to think that Ubik is deliberately poor in its first third. One must keep in mind that PKD was churning out novels through the 60s in order to feed his family. Many of these novels are poorly written (Ubik included), and many are just poor. Ubik totters on the edge of a writerly abyss that would consume many other PKD novels. But then something happens: “Squeaking in his metal-insect voice, Stanton Mick floated to the ceiling of the room, his arms protruding distendedly and rigidly [...] His rotund, colorful body bobbed about, twisting in a slow, transversal rotation so that now his feet, rather than his head, extended in Runciter’s direction. [...]The bomb exploded.” (p 67)

The situation preceding this explosion is quite dull. Runciter decides to send a team to the Moon to do a job for Stanton Mick, a shady character who may in fact be Runciter’s competitor. Joe Chip is to lead this team. But the explosion, which is curiously reminiscent of a moment in the film Total Recall (which is based on one of PKD’s stories), signals the real beginning of the novel. To gain an insight into Ubik‘s composition, we will briefly turn to Emmanuel Carrere’s ‘biography’ of PKD: I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick. Carrere’s book is a curious attempt at getting into the mind of PKD. Overall it seems somewhat less successful than Lawrence Sutin’s biography Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. One major (and I think warranted) criticism of Carrere’s book is that there are no footnotes, endnotes, bibliography…in short no references at all. Thus it is difficult to tell where ‘fact’ ends and Carrere’s opinions begin. But there are some areas in which Carrere’s book is superior to Sutin’s: namely with regard to the genesis of Ubik.

Carrere speaks of the ‘kipple’ that had invaded PKD’s own life, of the ‘termites’ that he got to write his novels for him. By this, Carrere means that PKD had learned to write novels on auto-pilot, completely devoid of soul. The beginning of Ubik was written by termites, then. But the termites did such a poor job that the novel threatened to collapse entirely: “The program wasn’t working. What point was there trying to pile up the words, one on top over another, only to have them come crashing to the floor, as his letters were doing now, with a hostile recalcitrance that terrified him. [...] And if he didn’t get them moving, his zombies would be stuck on Luna forever” (p 162). Apparently, PKD got up in the middle of the night to write the section after the explosion, and wrote in a trance-like state. I know from experience that writing in this kind of state can be very effective, but it’s not a state of mind that you can just simulate.

OK. So there was an explosion and now Runciter needs to be put into cold-pac like his wife. Unfortunately, Joe Chip and co start seeing some strange manifestations that seem to suggest that something is wrong. The air is cold, cigarettes crumble to dust, and phone numbers turn out to be obsolete. Even coins seem to be regressing to earlier kinds of currency. It would appear that some entropic force is working on Runciter’s employees. Concurrently, however, there is another movement: Runciter is trying to communicate with them, even though his body is lying in a half-life coffin. A minor character, Don Denny, explains this dual phenomenon: “I think these processes are going in opposite directions. One is a going-away, so to speak. A going-out-of-existence. That’s process one. The second process is a coming-into-existence.” (p 106) But what is coming and what is going? What on Earth is happening to Chip and co? There’s a scene in which another minor character, Al Hammond, sees an elevator regressing to a 1910 version. Joe Chip sees nothing except a 1990s style lift. This is important: things are regressing at different speeds for different people. One by one, the members of Chip’s team are shriveling up and dying.

There’s a wonderful scene in which Hammond and Chip go to a urinal and see a message from Runciter on the wall: “JUMP IN THE URINAL AND STAND ON YOUR HEAD. I’M THE ONE THAT’S ALIVE. YOU’RE ALL DEAD.” (p 120) This is a crucial message, as we begin to understand why the world is devolving: it seems that Runciter, instead of being the one who died, is actually the only one who survived the blast. It is thought that the ‘going-out-of-existence’ is the entropic process engendered by being in cold-pac, and the ‘coming-into-existence’ is Runciter’s attempts to help them. And Runciter’s tool in helping them is Ubik, which isn’t mentioned in the body of the story until page 127. But what is Ubik? Ubik is another way of spelling ubique, which means everywhere. Ubiquitous. But what, specifically, is Ubik supposed to be in the context of this story? It comes in a spray-can, and later in very different form, but Ubik appears to be a benevolent force of some kind. A ‘coming-into-existence.’

When Joe Chip sees his apartment reverting to one that might have been found in the 1930s, he raises an interesting point: “But why hadn’t the TV set reverted instead to formless metals and plastics? Those, after all, were its constituents; it had been constructed out of them, not out of an earlier radio. Perhaps this weirdly verified a discarded ancient philosophy, that of Plato’s ideal objects, the universals which, in each class, were real.” (p 132) This is where Ubik really warms to the task, so to speak. Time has reverted to 1939 or so. Joe Chip is trying to find a can of Ubik, but even that has regressed to an ‘Elixir of Ubique.’ This is a bad sign, as it would seem to suggest that the forces of entropy are winning. And Joe suspects that it is Pat Conley who is doing ‘this’ to him and the other employees. A word of warning. Nothing in Ubik is clear or easily understood. I suspect that PKD was as much trying to interpret his own strange visions than trying to weave an elaborate web of competing ideas. But it works. On this occasion, it works.

The situation basically boils down to Ubik and Runciter on one side, and entropy and Pat Conley on the other. Joe Chip is the helpless object of this tug-of-war. There’s a magical scene in which Chip tries to buy some Ubik from a drugstore that no longer exists. When he looks intensely at the site of the drugstore, it comes back into existence. This is mysterious and highly effective, but not very science-fictional. Then there’s a second explosion when Chip and co. confront Pat about her role in what is happening. Then we get to the masterpiece chapter: Chapter 14, in which Chip tries to get back to his apartment, harassed at every step by Pat. This is SF as only PKD could write it, and here he has triumphed over the kipple, over the termites that had been writing his novel. Now Ubik soars. Runciter comes to the rescue with a handy can of Ubik, saving Chip from certain death. And then there’s a twist or two in the tail.

For a long time, it had been suspected that Pat represented the forces of entropy that was causing the world to devolve. Now it transpires that it isn’t Pat who has been doing it after all. The antagonist is in fact young Jory, the half-dead boy who was taking over Ella Runciter’s half-life reality early in the novel. This makes sense. If Chip and co. are in half-life, then it follows that Jory should be the one influencing their world. And now it is revealed that the whole 1939 set is being animated by Jory himself. This is where Ubik starts to read like another PKD masterwork, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Jory is everything and he is everywhere. Worse, he is malignant and vengeful. But not omnipotent. Ella Runciter makes a late entry into the novel proper with another can of Ubik. Chip manages to ward off Jory’s attempts to finish him off. And then there’s one more twist, which isn’t explained. The final chapter shows Runciter, in his apparently ‘real’ world, discovering that he now has a pocket full of Joe Chip coins. The end.

What does it all mean? It seems significant that PKD himself did not think much of Ubik at the time of writing. He only began to see its value in later years, when others convinced him of its importance. One French critic claimed it was one of the best five novels ever written. Surely not, but I see what he meant (it’s possible as well that the French translator cleaned up the prose somewhat). Ubik is about two competing forces, one representing growth, and the other decay. In this sense, there’s a smattering of Taoism here, which PKD explored more fully in The Man in the High Castle. The actual manuscript presented as the novel Ubik itself seems to mirror this dual process. I’m sure we’ve all read novels that start well and fade out badly, but how many novels begin poorly and then heat up as dramatically as Ubik does? It’s a shame that PKD did not have time to work on the ms. of this book further, as it is crying out for some revision. PKD would get a second chance at Ubik, however, in the form of a screenplay. Ubik represents a fantastic achievement in the face of grueling adversity. It’s hard not to envy a writer who could produce such luminous work in such trying circumstances.

  1. Ned Ryerson
    March 26, 2008 at 12:30 am | #1

    Hi Guy,

    This is interesting.

    I have only just begun to read Phillip K. Dick and Ubik is one of 5 Dick novels I’ve read in the last month or so. (I found your blog by searching “Ubik” in the google blog search.)

    I haven’t read any biographical material on PKD other than some things here and there on the web, so I found your recounting of Dick’s writing of this novel very telling. I may have to seek out the biographies.

    I found much more humor in Ubik, The Three Stigmata… and Do Androids Dream…, than I would have expected for some reason (don’t ask me why I had those expectations, probably just some preconceived notion with no foundation). But I see your point about Ubik and the sort of clownishness of the set-up (as typified by the detailing of the extremely silly clothes worn by each character.) I was thinking this novel was going to be a space opera of some sort.

    You say that PKD wrote a screenplay based on this novel. What were the circumstances? Was he approached to do this? Did he get paid to do so? Again, I probably would enjoy reading the biographies. PKD’s life certainly made a compelling story.

    Keep up the good work. (I like your picture – reminds me of a few “one author shelves” I’ve assembled in my days.)

  2. guysalvidge
    March 26, 2008 at 7:15 am | #2

    Hello,

    From memory, the situation with the Ubik screenplay was this. PKD wrote the book in 1966, it was published in 1970, and the French loved it. There was a French company interested in making a film of the book, and approached PKD to write a screenplay. This might have been in 1976-77. He wrote it, but the film was never made. The screenplay is excellent, but extremely hard to find now. But it is being re-released later this year by Subterrarean Press (see another post about this).

    I hope you enjoy reading PKD – it literally changed my life.

  3. Craig D.
    December 26, 2009 at 1:52 am | #3

    “What does it all mean?”

    Dick’s former wife Tessa offered a wonderful interpretation of Ubik on her blog:

    “Ubik is a metaphor for God. Ubik is all-powerful and all-knowing, and Ubik is everywhere. The spray can is only a form that Ubik takes to make it easy for people to understand it and use it. It is not the substance inside the can that helps them, but rather their faith in the promise that it will help them.”

    “Many readers have puzzled over the ending of Ubik, when Glen Runciter finds a Joe Chip coin in his pocket. What does it mean? Is Runciter dead? Are Joe Chip and the others alive? Actually, this is meant to tell you that we can’t be sure of anything in the world that we call ‘reality.’ It is possible that they are all dead and in cold pac. It is also possible that they are all alive and dreaming.”

    Link: http://tessadick.blogspot.com/2008/12/ubik-explained-sort-of.html

  4. guysalvidge
    December 26, 2009 at 8:33 am | #4

    Craig,

    I remember reading Tessa’s explanation of Ubik on her blog, even if I didn’t find it very satisfactory. I’ve read her sequel to Valis, The Owl in Daylight, and I can highly recommend it (see my review hereabouts). But on the subject of what Ubik means, I suspect PKD himself didn’t really know what it meant, which helps to give the book its power. I think there is more of a direct parallel to Christianity in a book like The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. The ending of Ubik is one of my favourite moments in PKD’s work. To me it just means PKD is saying to the reader: “You think you’ve made it to reality now? You think this is over? Think again.”

    Ubik is one of the great works of science fiction, despite the messy prose. I think it will last a long time, especially now that it has been near immortalised by the Library of America.

  5. Bryan
    January 23, 2010 at 9:38 am | #5

    Hello

    I just finished reading Ubik yesterday, it was fantastic!

    My interpretation is that Ubik is salvation/god. Ubik is the only thing that can save him from jory, but ubik is nothing physical. He’s in coldpac, there are no products there, Ubik is a form of god and that’s why joe chip couldn’t get it, he didn’t know how to find god, he didn’t believe in Ubik until it saved him in halflife. Finding Ubik keeps you alive, and if you can use it long enough you can get reborn again. Ella knew this, and she gave him a lifetime supply of Ubik. I feel that the Ubik ads at the beginning of the chapters explain this as well, everything in moderation, you need Ubik, but don’t use it too much as you can get addicted which can be dangerous. I’m an Atheist, but i can def. see how some religious folks could interpret this book as a meaning of finding god, especially if a nonreligious person sees it that way.

    Now, I have another theory that they weren’t alive at all in the book other than the halflife. Tippy jackson has visions in her dreams before going to luna, of matt and bill saying that they’re going to get her, it turns out that matt and bill are versions of jory. Can jory get powerful enough to send out his halflife beyond coldpac? if so then was he a precog before he died? How else could jory invade tippy jacksons dream and give a cryptic warning?

    This book raises more questions than it answers, and i think that’s why it’s so captivating and enduring

  6. guysalvidge
    January 23, 2010 at 10:45 am | #6

    Bryan,

    I like your second theory, the one about the characters being in halflife the whole time. From memory, Runciter basically says this to Joe too. Basically, though, I think there are always things in PKD’s books that don’t make a whole lot of sense. I don’t think it’s worthwhile trying to piece together the exact cause and effect sequence, as there isn’t one. But that’s why I love Ubik as much as any other PKD novel – it eludes comprehension. The thing at the end with the Joe Chip coins is just another curveball. PKD kept throwing ‘em to the end.

  7. Rocky
    May 17, 2010 at 1:27 am | #7

    I think they were all dead to begin with. Here are some ideas why….

    The Matt, Bill =Jory. Also Pat can be seen as a form of Jory as well because she tries to regress things the same way Jory can regress cigarettes and Ubik. Pat is tagged as being dangerous and her talent is to go back in time. Jory’s aim is make everything decay and he starts by creating a false future or consciousness for these people, he can also make time reverse. Pat also creates a type of false consciousness by changing the past so that alternate past events get wiped from the memories of others. These talents of false consciousness are similar in that they are both trying to trick people into thinking they are still alive and in control. This connection, and Pat’s actions in the first half of the book, suggest Jory is manifesting as Pat, Matt and Bill as well as Ed(?) long before the bomb explodes, to suggest they are dead to begin with.

    Also, the name of Runciter’s anti-psionics are called “inertials”. The idea of being inert and inactive seems to suggest that they were all dead to begin with. Not only that, Runciter has no idea where all Hollis’s Psionics went. He says that they left earth. Did they in fact leave earth or can he not find Hollis’s psys because the psionics are still alive and he is, in all reality dead, but just doesn’t know it?

    The world that regresses is from 1939, a time that Runciter knew intimately because he grew up there. It says that Jory wouldn’t know those details so well. Ella also knew those and the whole point of half-life was for Runicter to merge with Ella -this could have happened or Ella could have passed on to be reborn, however, it seems that the source of decay is not the fact that the world has regressed. In fact, everything is better in the past, it tastes better etc. Jory’s time is the future and Jory wants to consume everything. I think the notion of Consuming, or consumption (conspicuous capitalism) equating with death and thus connecting to the idea that Joe Chip cannot consume anything in the monetary sense because he is always broke in the future. The irony being: Joe Chip ends up on the coin at the end -to suggest his troubles are over financially, again suggesting he is dead and has begun to figure out how to influnence things in the half-life after successfully manifesting a can of Ubik. Not only that, Joe Chips realization and confrontation with Pat three quarters of the way through creates another type of explosion, where the book suggests the room “blows up” around him, then he cannot see and he experiences another type of death.

    these are just some quick ideas. forgive the grammar.

  8. Dave
    October 26, 2010 at 8:14 am | #8

    Ubik as god? Perhaps, there are certain god like qualities. I think Dick was more grounded in reality in his metaphors and subtext than in his plot. Ubik for me was a story about good and evil, technological and social progress, life and death, capitalism, reality.

    Ubik is an answer for the problems you do have, the problems you don’t have, and the problems you didn’t know were problems. It is capitalism’s constant creation of demand. It makes promises and rarely delivers. It is a constant force at work in our world, and as Dick might say, in the next world as well.

    An important point as well, if everybody died in the blast then who got the people to cold pack. Is this world perhaps not a creation of Jory in cold pac but a world created entirely by Chip? Does Runciter then have his own world too?

    I think there is something here about the necessity of ideas. The world boiling down to basic wants and needs(many of which of not of our own creation); indeed the simple idea of a Ubik could be a creation of Chips to satisfy the need for a force that was constantly present in reality. What about the inability to find truth in the world echoed by the lack of truth in the afterlife?

    The reversion is by far the hardest thing to understand. I don’t fully get it but I think there is something about being left behind; like the world keeps moving forward and it leaves you behind. The irony is that its moving backward and the characters know the superficial reality but have no idea of what’s really happening. I guess we are always kinda trying to figure things out and we never really get anywhere. If anybody ‘has the answer’ to the reversion thing I would love to hear it.

    Sorry I wrote so much but this is a pretty incredible book. I think its one of the most powerful imperfect books ever written. In a sense though it was imperfect by nature and its hard to hold this against Dick. It couldn’t have been as great if it weren’t imperfect.

  9. guysalvidge
    October 26, 2010 at 8:29 am | #9

    Dave – I don’t think anyone ‘has the answer’ to the reversion thing or indeed anything in Ubik. Some people put up the ‘critique of capitalism’ lens (as you have done here), some people the ‘God’ lens, and a range of others. For me, it’s as simple and elusive as PKD himself stated when he said that Ubik was about something ‘coming into existence’ and something ‘going out of existence’ (but of course it’s unclear exactly what). PKD was always writing about these dualities, but here in Ubik, as I’m sure you’ll agree, the notion reaches its most profound and seductive state.

  10. June 28, 2011 at 1:59 am | #10

    The Science Fiction Bookclub in London England will be discussing Ubik in September 2011.
    Any and all are welcome.

    http://www.sciencefictionbookclub.org/events/19263301/

  11. Sam
    February 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | #11

    Bryan, you make a good point that also occurred to me. Ubik isn’t REAL! So how can it block protophasons back in the real world? I thought PKD had made a mistake, tho having read much more of his work since then, his books are full of vagueness that requires an interpretation. Still, if the whole thing was a cold-pac dream of Runciters, why would he be seeing his crew and not himself? Tho Runciter was present, in a vague, godlike way.

    The thing about Joe not knowing what 1939 would look like refers to Ancient Greek philosophy. Aristotle and Plato, particularly, had the idea that universal forms existed independently of reality. That all chairs are just versions of the eternal chair, all rocks are just incarnations of the idea of a rock. Through time, these things can express themselves in different forms, but they are really the same thing. Joe’s stereo system warping back into a gramophone is this idea, a gramophone being essentially the same thing as a CD player in form and function, just the details are changed.

    If this is a universal truth (and I don’t think it is!), then the innate forms of the things in Joe’s experience could decay naturally, without his being aware of gramophones personally. It would be like a natural process.

    The Joe Chip coin at the end, I just think of as the twist at the end of a Twilight Zone episode. A “Dun-der-DUUUUN!” that gives it a nice kick, pulling the rug out at the end. I ignore it as important to the rest of the story. The events of the whole book could have not been real. But they aren’t, anyway, it’s just a book! So there’s only so much point in working out what’s “real”, unless it’s very relevant to the plot. And again, I’m sure PKD wouldn’t have been surprised to wake up one day and find out he was one of his own characters. Like he actually was, in Valis! The untrustworthiness of reality is a big PKD theme.

    Anyway this was the first PKD I read, and it’s the one I recommend first to any new reader. Possibly his best work, tho I still have a couple of dozen more books to go. I’ve read a good dozen including some of the most famous ones, and so far nothing beats Ubik yet.

  12. Brendan
    April 19, 2012 at 8:14 am | #12

    Firstly, I’ve just begun to read through PKD’s material. UBIK is by far the most interesting to date (Androids, Wholesale, Variety, Eyes, Paycheck all done).

    I think the first thing I would suggest is that they are indeed all dead from the get-go.

    I think Joe Chip’s apartment, specifically his Door and inexplicable poverty are symptoms of the malevolent force at work in this pseudo-existence. I don’t recall any other doors in the universe (other people’s offices, etc.) hassling their owner.

    I think the initial talk that Runciter has with his also dead wife, Ella, is him in cold-pac. Jory is not invading Ella’s cold-pac, he is invading Runciters.

    When Runciter decides he has had enough and flies back to New York – this requires Jory to create a large city (which he later says weakens him).

    Pat introduces herself into the scenario and already the first thing she looks to do is mess around with Joe Chips head. She also has coins with her, which I thought was symbolic in the sense that Joe did not have a means to exit his own apartment at this stage – and his freedom was afforded to him only when Pat arrives.

    When they all arrive at Runciter’s office to introduce him to Pat, Runciter has another client present, whom he brings into a room with a map that shows Psionic-enabled humans working for his rival. Runciter comments that they are disappearing and does not know where to.

    This could be due to Jory “eating” them.

    Then the entire team assemble and Pat again shows off her unique talent of “time/past/reality bending.”

    A key hint (in my opinion) was, as a previous poster pointed out, the dream that a member of the team have before the Lunar explosion. She dreams of Bill/Matt. This is crucial. This shows that Jory has been inhabiting Tippy Jackson’s alleged sleep (or her cold-pac equivalent.)

    They get to the Moon, again not much detail here – not too many other people mentioned – as this would tax Jory’s energy.

    The explosion goes off. They believe that Runciter is now “dead” and they want to get back to Earth, to the funeral home.

    What happens is that Jory creates an alternate illusion for Runciter – an existence – where he believes that he is alive and they are dead/cold-pac’d. This will now require him to manage two independent, overlapping realities – once again, taxing his energies.

    Runciter is running around in what he believes is the real world, trying to rescue/save his cold-pac employees.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the team are running around thinking that they need to save Runciter, that failed, and now they are trying to get to his funeral.

    Along the way, UBIK is appearing here and there as some kind of Truth, that can be applied as a miracle solution. A sense of Hope.

    More clues come when Joe tries to hire a plane to get him to Runciter’s funeral – there’s a sly comment about “lots of counterfeit money” coming through these parts lately.

    This is another clue that Jory has been playing this game with other Psionicists he’s been hunting and eating. The previous “counterfeiters” were the missing Psionicists from Runciter’s whiteboard (if they genuinely existed).

    When Jory tries to write a cheque to the Chemist for a bottle of Ubik, he again tells Joe that there’s been a lot of “out of towners with fake cheques” (or something to that effect) lately.

    Another clue.

    Joe and the Police Officer. This is Runciter breaking through from his “alternate illusion” overlapping into Joe’s (in similar fashion to how Jory does it to Ella) – through force of will. He gets his message to Joe – and this probably down to a period where Jory was taxed and resting or running low on what ever he feeds on.)

    Joe demonstrates the importance of willpower by forcing the chemist into existence.

    Back to the hotel, when Joe confronts Pat – and the whole room explodes. I wasn’t sure about this – I think it was a case of Jory, as a malevolent child – not wanting his illusion to come to a premature end and therefore threw a tantrum, in the form of an explosive headshock.

    Joe who seems to be ruining Jory’s fun at this stage is then set upon and drained of his energy. When he gets up the stairs and to his room and Runciter has somehow managed to force his way into this parallel illusion and provides Joe with a can of UBIK. Faith. Truth. Willpower. Resistance. Whatever.

    This reinvigorates Joe at least for a while, to the point where he can go toe to toe with Jory, who appears to relax now that Joe has seemingly figured out he is in cold-pac (the matrix).

    Joe’s run-in with Ella who seems to be on her way out of existence/expiring and he gets the point where he will have an infinite supply of UBIK (so she’s kind of a Morpheus – showing Joe how to believe and self-sustain, fight the agents, etc.)

    Lastly, we jump back into Runciter’s reality. There he feels “tired” (a warning sign) and gets some rest.

    At this stage he either dies (if he was ever alive, e.g. survived the bomb blast) or was always dead, just in a parallel Jory-created illusion. When he awakens, he wants to speak with his wife and hands the guy a tip.

    The coin had Joe’s head on it.

    I think there’s several issues here. Up until this point it has always been Runciter communicating towards Joe and his team, as that is how they believe the tech works – Runciter on the outside can talk to them on the inside – and them on the inside believe Runciter is dead and their attempts to cold-pac him failed so they stopped.

    No we have contact. Overlap. Runciter has received a message from Joe. A message that is both an in-joke between the two of them, as Runciter always japed at Joe for being broke, and mismanaging his money and that he would always be broke. It is also a clue to Runciter that he is now in the same world as Joe. The veil between them lifted and that Joe has become a Neo in this world, to the point where he can sculpt it and make his head appear on money. He and Runciter will work together, as Ella foresaw.

    Anyway, that’s my interpretation. I plan to re-read a couple of times and see what other interpretations are out there.

    Presently (as PKD says oh so often), I’m still amazed at the parallels between UBIK and INCEPTION. I think the coincidences are phenomenal to the point where I think Inception is at best paying homage.

    Right folks – step right up – let’s hear it.

  1. March 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm | #1
  2. October 8, 2013 at 11:19 pm | #2

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