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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, first editionFirst edition
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication

Literary form

Science fiction

Writing language

Author's country
United States

Approx. 80,000 words

Sixties sci-fi novel still a trip

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

It may be Philip K. Dick’s most drug-twisted, reality-questioning science fiction novel.

It starts with Martian settlers who periodically take a substance called Can-D to “translate” themselves into the bodies of Barbie-style dolls in a Barbie-doll world for recreation. Palmer Eldritch is the tycoon who markets this drug but his product is facing competition from a strange new pharmaceutical called Chew-Z that 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.

True visionary?

Unlike some other Dick novels, though, the author does not become lost in his own alternative reality mazes in Palmer Eldritch. Dick seems to stay in control, if only barely, of his plot, characters and the possibly profound questions he's trying to raise.

If you take it all seriously, you might agree with the cover blurb on an old copy of the book: "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 hardcore science fiction fan, you might bewail what Dick hath wrought on this once straight-shooting genre.

But if you’re a child of the counterculture—or any of the countercultures of the past several decades—you may find yourself enjoying the head games and having a great trip.

— Eric


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