Essential Sci-Fi Reading: Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick

Title: Time Out of Joint

Author: Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick’s writing has been called everything from soft-sci-fi, to speculative-fiction, to New-Wave SF, to cyberpunk.  If you go to the book store, his works will be lumped in with the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.  It seems even today, no one knows where to place him.  His books are sci-fi, in that they take place in the future, or on Mars, and involve zap guns, but at the same time, there’s not much actual science, except for more than you wanted to know about brain chemistry and pharmeceuticals.  I think it’s because of the way he doesn’t fit in that so many have found entertainment in his work.  You don’t have to be an SF fanatic to read him.

Out of the many books I’ve read by him, Time Out of Joint is my favorite, and it’s the one I’d call essential reading.  It’s maybe not critically his best work, as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is written better and Martian Time Slip is more chilling and suspenseful, but Time Out of Joint has its own charm.  The title is right out of Hamlet.  The main character fills in crossword puzzles for his occupation.  There’s a gang of young people appearing at the end that inspired Anthony Burgess to write A Clockwork Orange.

The plot, in brief, involves a guy who makes his income filling out crossword puzzles for contests.  He’s nagged a lot by his friends and family to get a real job, but he seems perfectly content in his life, until he starts to get the feeling he’s being watched.  The Truman Show basically lifted its premise from this book.  Unlike The Truman Show, the nifty premise of Time Out of Joint doesn’t devolve into pure schmaltz but takes on an exciting, stellar conclusion.  Much of the book reads like one of Hitchcock’s earlier chase movies, like Young and Innocent or The Thirty Nine Steps.  The ending turns into something like the Twilight Zone or Tales of Tomorrow.

—-I have written a book titled The Madness of Art: Short Stories. It’s available on Amazon as well as on Bn.com in paperback and as an ebook. To find out more, please visit the product page.

here's an illustration for my short story The Scream, found in The Madness of Art: Short Stories

If you like Time Out of Joint, you might like the Philip K. Dick book Ubik.

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3 thoughts on “Essential Sci-Fi Reading: Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick

    • Yeah, I have read Martian Time-Slip. That’s a good book too. I remember it being a pretty unsettling experience. I probably had a more emotional response to Martian Time-Slip than most of the books I’ve read.

      • I agree! It was downright disturbing…. And dark…. and creepy…

        My top 5 of his works.
        1. Martian Time-Slip
        2. Ubik
        3. Dr. Bloodmoney
        4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
        5. Man in a High Castle

        (and for hoots and hollers, honorable mention: The Galactic Pot Healer — which no one besides PKD addicts read)

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