Philip K Dick is one of my favourite authors, by far. A little paranoid but with an eye for a great story and unwaveringly unpeeling layers of perception, misdirection and conspiracy, he never shied away from using the perfect medium of SF as a platform for asking philosophical and ethical questions in a wry, comedic and often insightful way.
In ‘The Simulacra’, written in 1964 but set ‘a few years from now’, the President of the USA is an android, the government is a fraud and everyone in the country is maladjusted. The novel is described in the blurb as ‘a story of desperate love, lethal body odour and an attempted fascistic takeover of the USA’, and ‘that there is always another layer of conspiracy beneath the one that we see’. While it is not his best, it is definitely worth a read.
Now, without wishing to fuel conspiracy theorists, and whilst PKD was renowned for questioning everything (good advice for anyone, I think), that does not necessarily mean that this novel was trying to make a true statement about the author’s view of America in 1964. Given his track record in socio-political comment, his mental health issues and his distrust of governments and authority in general, it does not necessarily mean that it wasn’t, of course.
When discussing PKD’s writings, however, there are – necessarily – plenty of italics.
As one of the most adapted SF authors, his novels have an obvious universal appeal (ah, but which universe..?); he pushes the boundaries of reality, and his narratives twist out of grasp until finally they settle on an often surprising outcome. For those interested in the adaptations, see: Blade Runner, which is excellent and based on ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, Total Recall (don’t bother with the Colin Farrell remake; Arnie, all the way), which is based on ‘We Can Remember it for You, Wholesale’, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau and the slightly hit-and-miss-but-overall-rather-good Electric Dreams series by Channel 4, to name just a few.