Four people's lives intertwine and collide in this early novel from one of the SF greats
San Francisco in the 1950s, a turning point in American culture: the rise of rock and roll and the teenage lifestyle. Jim Briskin is a disc jockey on radio KOIF. He's still in love with his ex-wife, Pat - even though she's about to marry someone else at the station - and she's vacillating between them. But when he takes her to visit the desperate household of two of his teenage fans, she seduces the boy into abandoning his pregnant wife - who then claims Jim as her protector and support.
And all around them the cultural upheaval of postwar American society is manifest, by teenage outcasts who have a remote-controlled Nazi automobile they use to bump into the rich kids' cars; by Thisbe Holt, the dancer who performs for conventioneers by stuffing herself inside a clear plastic bubble; by blaring used-car ads and the conflict between generations.
Dick gives us a vision of redemption tempered with layered ironies and a lot of real humour.
Dick, primarily known for his science fiction, produced a number of mainstream novels, but only one of these was published during his lifetime. Since his death in 1982, these fresh, involving books, written in the 1950s, have been appearing at the rate of about one a year; they reveal the author as a keen observer of life and love with an acutely modern sensibility. This narrative centers on the breathtakingly destructive lives of four residents of Northern California in 1956. All are lost souls to some extent, capable of taking almost violent action to assuage feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness. The narrator is Jim Briskin, a radio personality who has jeopardized his job in an act of willful rebellion and now turns to his ex-wife Pat, whom he still loves. Pat is even more willful but less mindful of consequences than Jim; when he takes her to visit two of his fans, a married teenage couple, Pat seduces the husband, setting in motion chaotic forces that almost wreck the lives of all four. A fascinating, totally believable account of life in the age of anxiety.