Ubik

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Ubik (pronounced /ˈjuːbɨk/ EW-bik[1]) is a 1969 science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. In 2005, Time magazine named it one of the 100 greatest English-language novels published since 1923; critic Lev Grossman described it as "a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you'll never be sure you've woken up from."[2]

Contents

Plot synopsis

The novel takes place in the 'North American Confederation' of 1992, wherein technology has advanced to the extent of permitting civilians to reach the Moon and psi phenomena are common. The protagonist is Joe Chip, a debt-ridden technician for Glen Runciter's "prudence organization", which employs people with the ability to block certain psychic powers (as in the case of an anti-telepath, who can prevent a telepath from reading a client's mind) to enforce privacy by request. Runciter runs the company with the assistance of his deceased wife Ella, who is kept in a state of "half-life", a form of cryonic suspension that gives the deceased person limited consciousness and communication ability.

When business magnate Stanton Mick hires Runciter’s company to secure his lunar facilities from telepaths, Runciter assembles eleven agents for this task. The group includes Pat Conley, a mysterious young woman who has an unprecedented parapsychological ability to undo events by changing the past. Joe Chip is shown at several points to have sexual feelings for the defiant Pat Conley, who once gives the impression of reciprocating them.

When Runciter, Chip, and the others reach Mick’s moon base, they discover that the assignment is a trap, presumably set by the company’s main adversary Ray Hollis, who leads an organization of psychics. A bomb explosion apparently kills Runciter without significantly harming the others. They rush back to Earth to place him in half-life.

Afterwards, the group begins to experience strange shifts in reality. Consumables, such as milk and cigarettes, begin to deteriorate prematurely. Also, the group sees Runciter's face on coins and receives strange messages from him in writing and on television. Most of these messages imply that Runciter is in fact alive, while the others are in half-life, or "cold-pac" as it is informally called. Group members who separate from the group are found dead, in a gruesome state of decomposition.

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