It's been a while since I've read any PKD, so I was way overdue for a dose of his usual crazy. This one comes with an extra helping of surreality! It's the future (i.e. the year 1998 -- Dick didn't really leave himself much room with this one) and for reasons no one is really sure about, time has begun moving backward. It's a phenomenon known as the Hobart Phase, named after the guy who predicted it, who of course everyone assumed was a lunatic until it actually happened. Now people don't eat, they disgorge food; men don't shave in the morning but apply whiskers instead; and people begin smoking by lighting butts from the ashtray, which grow which each inhalation until they're full cigarettes again. There's some amusing wordplay with this -- "food" is now an expletive instead of "shit", and people greet each other with "goodbye" and end conversations by saying "hello". In addition, the library is no longer a depository of books and knowledge but a place where the written word is systematically eradicated. (There's a touch of [b:Fahrenheit 451|4381|Fahrenheit 451|Ray Bradbury|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1351643740s/4381.jpg|1272463]
about it.) Oh yeah, and the dead come back to life in their graves to start the whole cycle over again, growing young, dwindling into children and babies, and then finally finding a womb to crawl back into. Kind of a disturbing visual, that last part.
The whole reverse-time thing isn't that consistent though, and I wish it were more so. As usual, Dick is really great with ideas and then falters a bit in the execution. His characters are typically a bit flat and undeveloped, and here they're incredibly naive and constantly doing stupid things to boot. I still enjoyed this one, though. I'm actually kind of surprised it was as easy to follow as it was, since the temporal changes were really only window dressing to the main story.
I actually kept trying to read all the future-y words backwards, searching for hidden meanings, but there weren't really any that I found. I almost would have expected Dick to write the whole story in reverse to go with the whole "Goodbye" and "Hello" changes in language and conversation: .him past it put wouldn't I .mindfuck postmodern a be really would that Now .ecneirepe kcolc-retnuoc eurt a rof sdrawkcab yletelpmoc levon eht eht gnitirw ,srettel eht ot nwod lla ti esrever neve rO
But I suppose that would be much more difficult to read.