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1964 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick.   * * 1/2

Chuck Rittersdorf is content in his job as a CIA simulacrum (android) programmer, but his (much more highly-paid) psychiatrist wife constantly badgers him to get a better job as, say, a TV comedy writer.  Finally deciding that self-respect is more important than his marriage, he leaves his wife and daughter. Mary has her revenge by extracting a financial settlement so ruinous he has to get a higher-paying job, after all.

Soon, Mary is off to a moon of Alpha Centauri III, a prize in a recent war between Earth and the Alphanes.  She is there to study its inhabitants, primarily the former inmates of an insane asylum established on the moon (later abandoned).  The loonies have formed communities based upon their differing types of mental illness:  Manics, schizophrenics, paranoiacs, and depressives are all represented; as are the hebephrenics when they care to.

Back on Earth, Rittersdorf makes some...bad decisions, as well as interesting choices of friends, and his life spirals into ever-greater chaos.  You know you've reached a low point in life when your best friend is a slime mold.

Chuck and Mary find themselves at the center of an interstellar tug-of war for the insignificant Alphane moon, a struggle whose outcome depends upon how well the lunatics can run the asylum.  One might also draw a parallel with the fact that while Dick was writing the novel, the Vietnam War was developing.  A war which came about because people refused to compromise their opposing views of reality.

Yes, I gave a poor rating to a work of Philip K. Dick.  Plot lacunae and contradictions are everywhere, especially at the end.  Opportunities are abandoned everywhere; it's like you have to push a pile of dirty underwear out of the way to continue. Now, I am by no means asking for the story to make sense; that would erase the greatest charm of Dick's style. I'm simply asking for the thing not to fall apart in my hands.  You might be willing to give Dick a break because the book came early in his career. However, he had already published (and won a Hugo Award for) the excellent The Man in the High Castle.  And so I was disappointed.

On the positive side, the book gives you a taste of things to come later in Dick's career: a main character who is not in control of his own mind, let alone his life, a character for whom reality shifts as circumstances change.  You will understand that Dick was interested in Christian mysticism, and flirting with the edge of mental stability, even at this early stage.

But wait, there's more!

The book contains murder plots and blackmail. There are telepathic cops, treasonous celebrities, ray gun battles, and breasts aplenty.

Read Clans of the Alphane Moon if you are an avid Philip K. Dick reader.  Then go read Bill, the Galactic Hero; you'll enjoy it more.

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