Have you ever felt something is wrong with reality but can’t quite put your finger on it? Ever felt that reality isn’t quite what it seems and that somebody else is pulling the cosmic pinball plunger for you? You are not alone. Simulation theory conversations are all the rage right now. Philip K. Dick has been having these conversations with his readers for a very long time. One of his greatest gifts was his ability to transport the reader to fantastic new realities while simultaneously questioning and disassembling those realities. I think this came to him so naturally because he had some pretty big questions about “what is real” due to his own experiences. He became quite famous after his death for his obsession with all the glitches in the matrix. Time Out of Joint is one of the books in which he focuses on this.
What is Real?
Ragle Gumm lives an ideal life. He lives with his sister Margo, her husband Vic, and their son Sammy in 1959 suburbia. Not the 1959 some of us remember though. You can still get a Tucker car, radios are almost non-existent, and nobody has ever heard of Marilyn Monroe. He has the greatest job ever. Every single day he wins the local newspaper contest called “Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next?”. For some reason, Ragle has an uncanny ability to solve these puzzles.
Life is great as Ragle takes Junie Black, a neighbor who he hopes to steal away from her husband, to the beach for a romantic getaway. It’s important to note that I feel Junie is one those characters we see turn up over and over again in his novels, for reasons as of yet, I do not understand. After his romantic advances are rebuffed he decides to head to the soft drink stand only to have it vanish and turn into a piece of paper labeled “soft drink stand”. We find out that Ragle has other similar pieces of paper he’s been collecting and this is not the first time this has happened.
He then finds an old phonebook and some magazines in the ruins Sammy and his friend play in. None of the numbers in the phonebook work and the magazine contains an article about Marilyn Monroe who no one has ever heard of. Junie’s husband Bill really wants that phonebook and we start finding out nothing is what it seems.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Ragle is really starting to wonder what the hell is going on. Why does the building model at the Civil Defenses meeting look so familiar? How are things turning into slips of paper? Why does everyone seem to know his name? Sammy makes matters worse when he asks Ragle to help him with a crystal radio set. Mysterious radio transmissions are discovered and it becomes apparent to Ragle that he must discover what’s happening. He finally manages to escapes suburbia but winds up in a far bigger predicament when the true nature of his reality is revealed.
Time out of Joint is another one of my PKD faves. I listened on Audible and Brilliance Audio narrator Jeff Cummings does an excellent job bringing the novel alive for the listener. Worth reading for sure and available from Amazon here.