‘Solar Lottery’ By Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick is deeply weird, but the Ace Double packaging (the other side is Leigh Brackett’s The Big Jump) lulled me into expecting something more like traditional fifties-sixties-seventies genre writing: weird, but not super duper wacky, Philip K. Dick weird.

There is a little bit of genre writing in here, by which I mean bad sex writing.

…bodies steaming moistly with fulfilled love.

Yup.

The rest… a strange dystopia involving elaborate lotteries governing all of society, a reigning figure known as a Quizmaster, chosen by the random twitches of a bottle or by the success of a publicly chosen assassin (chosen in a “Challenge Convention”). An unlivable hero evil somewhere in his soul has figured out that this is all not right. Cosmological cults. Tenth planets (this before Pluto got demoted). A journey by spaceship using charts gleaned from the prophetic ravings of an Erich Von Daniken-esque clown (but with more genius and less colonized racism).

The primary plot, at least I think it’s the primary plot, is this weird, baroque plot to control the known world(s) by becoming Quizmaster. The subplot, which is only barely related to the rest, is a cultish effort to find the living remnants of a lost prophet on an undiscovered planet known as the Flame Disc, which is actually a buoy (Dick’s term) planted by, I guess, aliens.

Weird.