“Love isn't just wanting another person the way you want to own an object you see in a store. That's just desire. You want to have it around, take it home and set it up somewhere in the apartment like a lamp. Love is"--she paused, reflecting--"like a father saving his children from a burning house, getting them out and dying himself. When you love you cease to live for yourself; you live for another person.”
What? This in a Philip K. Dick novel?
This is an unusual PKD book, though you could argue that all
PKD books are unusual so there is nothing unusual about one of his books being unusual. What I mean is that the tone and style are different from the earlier PKD classics like [b:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep|7082|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865673s/7082.jpg|830939] and [b:Ubik|22590|Ubik|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327995569s/22590.jpg|62929]. First published in 1974 after the aforementioned classic PKD novels, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
seems to be written during a transitional period in Dick’s style. Profanities are common place in the dialogs, something not present in Dick’s works from the 60s (I believe), and there is more depth to the characters, more compassion and more emotional resonance.
This story is set in a dystopian 1988 USA (a “near future” at the time of writing) where the people live under a police state, anybody found at spot checks without proper documentation are liable to be summarily shipped off sent to labour camps (students especially). The novel’s protagonist is Jason Taverner, a famous singer who has his own nightly TV show with viewership in the millions. One day he wakes up in a rundown hotel and finds that nobody knows who he is, not even his closest friends and lover. The how and why of his predicament is one of Dick’s best story ideas, but the less I elaborate on that the better.
This is one of my favorite PKD books, I would rate it alongside the aforementioned [b:Ubik|22590|Ubik|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327995569s/22590.jpg|62929], [b:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep|7082|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865673s/7082.jpg|830939] and [b:The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch|14185|The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338461946s/14185.jpg|1399376] as the best of his works; certainly I would rate it far above his Hugo winner [b:The Man in the High Castle|216363|The Man in the High Castle|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1385189684s/216363.jpg|2398287] of which I am not a fan. The standout feature of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
is that it is more emotional than most of his fiction. There is a sadness and sympathy to it that I do not associate with his works. That said PKD fans will be right at home with the usual Dickian trope of drug induced reality warping.
Dick’s prose is the usual utilitarian style he uses in most of his works, the dialog is often stilted as if the characters are all drug addled to some extent. If this sounds like a criticism it really is not. I like the way Dick writes, it is clear and effective for conveying the weirdness inherent in his stories. As for the dialog his characters tend to say the oddest things out of the blue, like Jason Taverner suddenly tells a woman she looks too old for her age for no apparent reason and getting whacked on the head as a result. Dick’s sense of humour is also wonderfully weird, such as the title of Taverner’s latest hit being “Nowhere Nuthin' Fuck-up”
, which he describes as a sentimental number. His depiction of 1988 of course bears little resemblance to that year in reality with personal flying vehicles and vinyl records still very much in use. I hope this does not dissuade anybody from reading it however, I believe that it is not sci-fi writers’ job to predict the future but to speculate and provide some food for thought. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
is one of Dick’s most underrated books. As usual he makes us question the reality we live in but this time he also makes us think about how we perceive ourselves and others and how our perception affects our social interactions and relationships. An unexpectedly moving book.