I have just finished Philip K. Dick’s 1965 sci fi tour de force, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Having finished the book, I went on the web and stumbled across a rather sniffy-with-hindsight review by another author I admire, Michael Moorcock. None of Dick’s ideas are original, sniffs Moorcock; his characterisation is poor and his speed-enhanced writing results in dizzying plots and the constant risk of cod philosophy. Well, Moorcock would know, but I think this particular book stands up there with The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Indeed, for descriptions of drug-tempered dystopias I would put it on my bookshelf alongside Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Dick’s descriptions of drug-induced trances and his weaving of reality and fantasy are very cleverly done, always leading to that most fundamental of questions, what is reality? Maybe, as Moorcock suggests, Dick did increasingly lose his way in the 1970s but in these novels he comes across like sci fi’s version of Raymond Chandler, getting the intriguing plot down and his characters from A to B between swigs from the bottle and cynical, world-weary asides (‘It was the smile of someone who wasn’t going,’ says Dick’s Barney Mayerson, for example). In the end, it is not clear to Mayerson or the reader that he has met God, but he does encounter a being that inspires wonder as it survives through others by becoming others.