“At seven A.M., Allen Purcell, the forward-looking young president of the newest and most creative of the Research Agencies, lost a bedroom,” and so begins The Man Who Japed.
This novel, published in 1956 (a product of the very early period of Philip K. Dick’s career) is an immense step forward from his inferior, disjointed, and amateurish novel, The World Jones Made (also 1956). The uncanny feeling, which one associates with PKD when reading his later and more famous works (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Martian Time-Slip, etc) is apparent from the very first line. For example, Purcell’s apartment randomly changes shape – his oven is a table that is a sink that is a food cupboard – his intelligent, caring, and somewhat bewildered wife constantly sedates herself with a vast array of drugs – and mankind emigrates to other planets and moons.
The most surprising element is Allen Purcell himself, a remarkably well-rounded character (albeit some reviewers note, the secondary characters are flat as ironed cardboard).
Also, the society of The Man Who Japed is remarkably vivid. The reader must remember that this book was written in the late 50s so concepts and societies that we might consider cliché were fresh off the oven (the dystopian masterpiece 1984 had only been around for 7 years!).
The Man Who Japed takes place in 2114 after a nuclear war in a society founded upon Puritanical ideals (no extra marital sex or classic books). Allen Purcell simultaneously creates propaganda ‘brochures’ and debases symbols of the regime without understanding his own motivations. He eventually must decide if he is to change society.
All in all, this is a very good effort. It is well written and contains the embryonic manifestations of PKD’s most compelling and poignant themes.
10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Man Who Japed, Philip K. Dick (1956)”
So, what are your top three Dick novels?
Galactic Pot Healer
These might not be his “best” but they’re my favorite.
Obviously ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ and ‘Man in a High Castle’ are considered his masterpieces for good reason…. I go for the more esoteric — hehe
My top three of his,if I could make such a list,would be different,but I wouldn’t disagree with your choices.”Galactic Pot-Healer is the lightest and funniest of his novels,and has been pushed aside for more serious toned novels,such as “Martian Time-Slip”…….that is a great novel,and Dick’s bleak humour is easily discernible,but has a gloomy external tone,so different to GPH.”Ubik” is strongly comedic novel of,as I expect you know,pataphysique.
Definitely “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”,more than “Ubik”,but “The Man in the High Castle” is on the top tier
And your top three?
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”
“Counter Clock World….”
Neither of the last two are his best, in my viewpoint, but I like them the most all the same.
I’ve yet to read Valis. I definitely enjoyed Counter Clock World and Do Androids Dream….
Have you read Martian Time-Slip? I highly highly highly suggest it.
“Counter-Clock World” is quite excellent,and has suffered more awful rigmarole I think than is necessary.It was the first in a new batch of novels after a short hiatus after an almost non-stop writing “binge”,that would soon include DADOES,and see his interest in pseudo religious experience come to the fore.
I read this a few years back and really enjoyed it. I thought it was a bit slow, but like you mention the ideas in it are great for the time.
It’s great for early PKD! I suffered through his previous novel The World Jones Made (yuck) so I guess he had to improve sometime.
TWJM was too self conscious,and it’s literary influence,as I’ve said before,of probably Borges,and was ill meshed into the general plot of the novel,but “Eye in the Sky” composed soon afterwards,had improved exponentially.”The Man who Japed”,was his next novel before committing himself to a failed mainstream career,due I an apparent dissolution with sf,and while not a bad novel,it shows within I think.I thought it showed the influence of Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”,perhaps a little too much.
Three years later he wrote the excellent “Time Out of Joint”.