Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K Dick
(Vintage Books, $12.00, 177 pages, trade paperback, a UK reprint forthcoming through Gollancz in 2003.)
It's nothing like what you might think of from seeing the title. In fact, it's nothing like you could think of, period. Somebody said it's the kind of novel Chesterton would have written had he written science fiction. That's not quite true, but only because this is uniquely a Philip K. Dick novel. Nobody else could even have imagined it.
Joe Fernwright heals ceramic pots in some distant dystopian future, but there is little work and all he does is play word games over long distance communiqués, and he's getting desperate. Then, as it happens, he receives a job offer from the bottom of his toilet bowl, sent through strange channels by a supreme deity (well, sorta) called Glimmung, living at the distant Plowman's Planet. Glimmung is attempting to raise the great cathedral of Heldscalla from the dark sea of Mare Nostrum and needs assistance in the project. Joe the pot healer is but one of many in a slapdash assembly of strange characters set on restoring the history to its rightful place.
The novel is not profound in the manner of Dick's greatest work, but it is both delightful and serious in its eccentric appraisal of humanity. It comes as a startling surprise how the semi-all-powerful Glimmung and the robot servant Willis are really no different from us -- their omniscience is only a veil to cover for their all-too-human flaws and failings. In a conversational manner the book tosses philosophical ideas and dialogue into the pot, adds a touch of comic interludes and esoteric puns, stirs vigorously and assembles a dish that is invigoratingly different, energetic to a fault, and of course the pure product of Phil Dick's unique vision. But behind that veil of blipples and Kalends, burfles and Glimmungs, the novel, like most of PKD's body of work, is simply about a small man who struggles to find meaning to his life.
Review by JT Lindroos.
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© JT Lindroos 23 August 2001