Lies, Inc. Book Review

liesLIES, INC. by Philip K. Dick
Gollancz, p/b, 240pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Phillip K. Dick is an author who has achieved cult status. As a result, even years after his death, there is always at least one title of his in print. Although he much to say about the state of the world while he was writing, there is still much that is relevant. More importantly is the question as to whether the writing itself has stood up to the test of scientific advancement. Whereas a writer of classics such as Dickens or Shakespeare have weathered the ages because the world they had set their works in were either contemporary with themselves or historical in nature science fiction writers have a much harder problem.

Lies, Inc. began life as The Unteleported Man in 1964 in the December issue of Fantastic magazine and published two years later as half of an Ace Double. Then it was novella length. Dick had written an expansion to the text which was finally incorporated within the original in 1983. This version slightly differs from that edition as it includes pages that had gone missing at the time so this can be regarded as a first edition of the book as Dick had wanted it.

The story itself was relevant to the time, and still is now, when one of the concerns was population increase and humanity outstripping the resources available. Planets circling other suns had been discovered but it would take eighteen years of conventional space travel to reach the nearest suitable one. In the nick of time, however, a teleportation system was developed that could transport colonists to their new home in fifteen minutes. The snag was that it was a one-way trip. The incentives were good. Each family would get a plot of land and enough tools and animals to start their own small holding. Messages could be sent back and all of them expressed the delight and satisfaction of those who had emigrated and urged others to join them. Sound too good to be true?

Rachmael ben Applebaum’s father was once the owner of a fleet of space ships but with the development of the telepor, they have become redundant. \by the time of his death there was only one left for his son to inherit. Applebaum Jr has conceived an idea that the paradise offered to emigrants is a lie. He wants to prove it but it will take him a long time to get there, prove his point and get back with his revelations. In the meantime, duped colonists – if that is what they are – will still be making the journey the quick way. He feels he has to try, but the company who owns the telepor system want to confiscate his ship it lieu of debts left by his father. To try to circumvent this, he approaches the head of Lies, Inc. for help.

At this remove from the original publication and the familiarity we, as readers, now have of SF tropes, it is fairly easy to guess what the truth is about the colony planet. Reading the book, it is fairly easy to see where the extra material (about a hundred pages) was added. Personally, this complicates the plot and not much is improved by its inclusion other than to provide the weird twists that dick built his reputation on. The original premise, and the quality of the writing still holds as true today as when it was written and the story line is a precursor to many that have come after. The original was a classic of its time, this expanded version, not so much.