8 August 2016

A Maze of Death, by Philip K. Dick

"Welcome to Delmak-O!

It's a world filled with mysteries and incredible possibilities.

You are here because you have applied for a transfer from your most recent employment. Perhaps you were dissatisfied with your previous occupation, and felt that you needed change. Perhaps you feel that your life lacks direction and you see yourself as a failure for not achieving your life goals (that is, if you had any to begin with) We know that what you seek is purpose.

Rejoice! Because your prayers have been answered and you have been selected along with thirteen other purposeless lucky individuals to be the first to settle the mysterious virgin world of Delmak-O.

As per our request, you have arrived here in a disposable, one-way craft, called a noser. We hope you will find your new accommodations in our camp satisfactory.

Pay no attention to the large structures in the jungle, Their purpose will be revealed to you in due time. Do not be alarmed by the mechanical insects that may crawl up your feet. They are equipped with cameras and their job is to monitor your very move.

As more settlers will arrive, you will at first find yourselves curious about each other, but with time, your interest in each other will fade, and you will soon be solely preoccupied with your own selves. All of you will get along, but just enough to function as a microcosm of self-centred individuals. You will fail to form a team and develop any kind of genuine affection or loyalty towards one another.

When the last member of your dysfunctional surrogate family will arrive, you will at last be able to receive the message from our General Treaton and get the instructions that you have travelled many a lightyears for. Unless a small glitch - a ghost in the machine, if you will - will destroy the recording before it can be played.

In that case, you and your new friends will find yourselves stranded on an uninhabited planet, without any means of communication with the outside world. In a moment of panic, you will try and use the nosers to get off the planet, but you know that there isn't enough fuel in any of them to get you to safety.

Don't despair! This will be the perfect opportunity for you to find a solution to the problem together, as a team.

Your ability to function as a group, will be crucial to your survival, especially if one by one, your team mates will start dying from causes that will be impossible to determine. It's very important that you don't start suspecting each other. Suspicion will damage the already thin and fragile structure of your group.

As the population of your little group will rapidly diminish, you will be tempted to venture outside the safety of your camp to explore the jungle. You will be driven by the need to find out who or what is killing you off, and finally find the answer to the question that has been occupying your mind since your arrival: why are you here?

You are, of course, free to explore the planet on your own. A fair warning: tread carefully. And stay together. It is crucial that you do not get separated from your fellow mates, for you will soon discover that on Delmak-O, you can neither trust your senses, nor your judgement.

As you delve deeper into the jungle, not only will you start questioning your own sanity, but reality itself. Do you see the world the way it is or the way you want it to be? Can you trust the people around you to show their true selves? Are you brave enough to face your own true self?

And if you live long enough to find the answers to your questions, you will most certainly not like them.

We at Interplan West wish you a happy stay at Delmak-O: a place that will warp your perception of reality, and test your humanity.

End of message."

Final thoughts

When I started reading this book, I thought it was going to be a metaphor for something. And maybe it is. A metaphor for life, maybe? For the choices that we make in life?

This book is a puzzle, in an almost literal meaning of the word. Dick places small clues along the way for you to find. And I was having so much fun trying to piece them together. I just couldn't keep up with the story, it was that unpredictable.

The book ends on a big, mind-warping twist. And when it comes to twist endings, so often does the author employ them as a cheap plot device when he/she doesn't know how to finish the story. Not to mention, they're often contradicting the plot itself, and make no sense.

This is not one of those twists. It makes perfect sense within the story. It puts the world in this book on its head, but there's a reason for it.

A Maze of Death is one of the most unusual books I have read, and I'm glad I have it on my shelf.

My rating
Plot: 5 stars
Story: 5 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Writing: 5 stars

Total: 5 stars

Title: A Maze of Death
Author: Philip K. Dick
First published in 1970
I read the 2005 edition by SF Masterworks
Source: I bought it

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