Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Horselover Fat Returns "The Game-Players of Titan"-Style

Horselover Fat is Philip K. Dick's alter-ego in "VALIS," which is not completely unlike Kilgore Trout ... if Kurt Vonnegut had written about Kilgore Trout after many, many years of sustained and hard drug use. As for "VALIS," well, I haven't gotten to "VALIS" yet, still a few more novels by Philip K. Dick to read until I'm fully prepared for its ass-kicking narrative (they say), but I continue to look forward to reading it.

Presently, I've just finished "The Game-Players of Titan." One thing I like -- and I'm a man known for his liking things -- is there's not much use in guessing where a Philip K. Dick story is headed. He can change it up on you at a moment's caprice (it seems capricious for its irregularity). Maybe it's more planned than I know. But from what I've heard said, "The Game-Players of Titan" is anything but a clearly and finely contrived novel. So let's see if I might determine more, by finding out more about it, and thus knowing more. (It's a fairly simple process.)

...And I return from my frustrating, not terribly well-conceived Internet surf of "The Game-Players of Titan." Simple process? Not so much as it first seemed. Most of what I found was criticism wanting only to tear down "The Game-Players" in favor of other PKD novels or simply provide plot synopsis, which is useful to those people who haven't read the novel and want it ruined -- but not useful to me and my purposes.

Maybe I'm lazy and "not good" at surfing the web, but I was expecting something more substantial in terms of biographical information about the high profile PKD's work behind his work. What factors of note led to the conception of "The Game-Players of Titan"? Rumor has it he created the novel on a very short schedule, some three or four days, stopping each night and resuming the next day with renewed effort and a slightly shifted direction. Even if that's not how "The Game-Players of Titan" came to be, it is how it feels it came to be. There is something fascinating about the way the story stops and leaps forward throughout various points of the narrative. Pete Garden, the main character or central focus, is a very different man by the novel's completion. Or so it seemed to me.

In fact, the novel doesn't seem to get going until these twists, or leaps, in narrative take their first turn. To plot rehash so you have a basis for understanding everything after, the story concerns several characters living in a post-apocalyptic Earth, ravaged by the damaging effects and after effects of a Hinkel Radiation created by Bernhardt Hinkel whose weapon was acquired by the Red Chinese and via satellite used against the United States. However, the entire world lost because the Hinkel Radiation waves couldn't be contained and decimated all life on Earth.

Where we begin is in a world that has about two million or so inhabitants and of those inhabitants, for reasons no doubt related to the radiation (and / or possibly something more nefarious), only select combinations of individuals are able to produce viable offspring. (They thus constantly rotate spouses in hopes of finding a partner with whom this is possible.) Meanwhile, aliens from Saturn's moon, Titan, have intervened and enticed the remaining human population to gamble for control of huge tracts of land, say in city-size increments. For example, Pete Garden has just lost Berkley, CA, to his great dismay, as the story opens. These property holders are then referred to as bindmen. Apparently the Titanians themselves are huge proponents of the power of chance, which impels their decision to foist gambling on humans as their preferred and curious method of reconstruction.

Humorously and inscrutably, the game Earthlings are set against each other nightly to play in the battle for global supremacy is fairly simple, and sounded to me like a combination of the Candyland and Monopoly. I think perhaps PKD purposely made the game rather unexciting, because its a hilariously banal anchor in the screaming chaos of the narrative revolving around it.

Is there murder? Yes. Precognition? yuh-huh! Telepathy? A fair bit. Aliens from Saturn's moon, Titan, who are also called vugs and who materialize in strange places? And how!

I read in one review that this is not a PKD to start your PKD journey with, that it is "for completists" only. I suppose you might be better served beginning any of those they suggest, having read two of three and starting on the third, but skip it if you're not a "completist"? Perish the thought! As said, this novel is great for its inscrutability and chaos, its failure to be completely straightforward. And if you ask me, all things considered I'd say it ties together fairly well at the end (I have but one real point of confusion, which might be adequately well cleared up and is only a minor complaint, anyway).

"The Game-Players of Titan" is for readers who enjoy PKD, period. Suck on that, Infinity Plus!

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