this is a book about a small town, and it makes me thank the gods i don’t believe in that i don’t live in one. a small town, not a book.
i’ve read Philip K. Dick’s sf. this book is not sf. it does make me wonder why he never developed a mainstream following, if this is the caliber of his non-sf works.
the story follows friends and neighbors in the little town of Carquinez, circa 1960. two families are center stage: the Dombrosios and the Runcibles. Sherry Dombrosio wants a job; Leo Runcible wants to make a real estate killing. Walt Dombrosio wants to keep Sherry under his thumb and make a fool of Leo. Janet Runcible just wants to drink herself numb at every opportunity.
and it all comes together with a skull–an apparently Neanderthal skull found on Runcible’s property.
if you’re not old enough to remember those times, this book will be quite an eye-opener: racial prejudice, deep and ugly sexism, abuse of women. it certainly makes the necessity for events like the rise of feminism and the civil rights era clear. i am old enough to remember (with a shudder) many of the acts which were pretty much “normal” back then, but which would be considered deeply deranged now. and Dick does such a good job of making these people, bound by their times, seem pretty much sane by the standards of their day.
and for me, that’s really the beauty of this book: he makes these people and their lunatic beliefs, if not entirely sympathetic, at least rational within their cohort. it is such a deep pleasure to look back and think, thank god we are not like that now.
a lot of people seem to think that, as a species, we are hopeless and will never improve. they think that we as a society are regressing, or are at best stagnant. i suppose if the sweep of your vision is only the last ten years, or even 20 years, you could perhaps be forgiven for this shortsightedness. but when i think of how far we have come, even in only my paltry lifetime, i am so astounded at how much we’ve changed.
if you don’t believe me, read the book.