The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, first edition
First edition

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

Novel, 1964
approx. 80,000 words
On Greatest lists
Notable lines
First line

His head unnaturally aching, Barney Mayerson woke up to find himself in an unfamiliar bedroom in an unfamiliar conapt building.

Great lines

"May I eat you?" it asked.

Last line

The ship rushed on, nearer and nearer earth.

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The author

Besides being one of the most important figures in 20th-century science fiction, this guy was nuts. Philip K. Dick exemplified the cliché about the fine line between genius and madness....more

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

COMMENTARY

Sixties sci-fi novel still a trip

If you like straightforward story-telling with characters well fleshed out, in a book that you can put down and pick up later to continue without losing the thread—then you’re going to hate this novel.

It may be Philip K. Dick’s most drug-twisted science fiction story.

It starts with Martian settlers who take a substance called Can-D to “translate” themselves into the bodies of Barbie-style dolls in a Barbie-doll world. Palmer Eldritch is the tycoon who markets this drug but he is facing competition from a strange new pharmaceutical called Chew-Z which also promises eternal life.

Eldritch disappears, perhaps in one of the time anomalies that may or may not be created by the drugs. But signs of Eldritch—his stigmata, in an obvious Christ reference—crop up in the most unusual places.

And this is just the beginning of the levels of disorientation Dick puts his readers through.

If you take it all seriously, as I do, you might agree with the cover blurb on my copy: "Philip K. Dick explores mysteries that were once the property of St. Paul and Aquinas...moving as well as genuinely visionary."

If you’re a child of the 1960s, you’ll find this a great trip.

If you’re a hardcore science fiction fan, you might bewail what Dick hath wrought on this once straight-shooting genre.

Me, I love the trip and the head-games.

— Eric

COMMENTARY