Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Nick and the Glimmung, by Philip K. Dick

Staff review by Chris Saliba 

Philip K. Dick's only novel for children, Nick and the Glimmung, is a fine adventure full of mystery, wonderful characters and strange events.   

Science fiction master Philip K. Dick wrote one book for children, Nick and the Glimmung. Originally composed in 1966, it was rejected when submitted to the publishers, Doubleday. The manuscript was thus put in a drawer and didn’t see the light of day again until the author’s death in 1982. It was first published by Gollancz in 1988. Reading it today, fifty years after it was first written, it has the quality of a timeless classic.

It is 1992 and planet earth is crowded. Jobs are scarce, as are resources. To conserve food for humans, all pet ownership is now illegal. Nick, a young boy, has a cat named Horace. Somehow the authorities have found out. The ‘anti-pet man’, an overly militaristic looking police officer, has turned up at Nick and his family’s house. He aims to get rid of the cat. The only option is for the entire family - Nick, his parents and Horace the cat - to leave planet earth and settle on a new colony, Plowman’s Planet.

Once they arrive on Plowman's Planet, all sorts of strange things start to happen. They meet the local indigenous creatures - a lazy wub, the vulture-like werjes and the rather funny spiddles, amongst many others. The most fearful presence is the Glimmung, a cold and malevolent force that came from another planet and has created a state of perpetual war between two major groups. Nick unwittingly becomes involved in a conflict with the Glimmung, and when a group of creatures called trobes steal Horace, the race is on to find and save him.

There is much to enjoy in this absorbing, rather surreal story of strange creatures and evil forces in a foreign land. Philip K. Dick writes his story with great confidence and assurance, making his unbelievable world compelling and real. The story as it unfolds really is very gripping. There are mystical elements as well which are very thought provoking. For example, some of the plant life is able to duplicate humans. These menacing duplicates are called ‘father-things’, which can only be destroyed with fire. We are told in the text that it’s very dangerous to let a father-thing near you, if it has duplicated you.

Philip K. Dick obviously loved his cat, and in many ways, Nick and the Glimmung seems like a fun way for the author to get his beloved pet into a science fiction adventure. Wisely, Horace is given no dialogue. Instead, Dick gives perhaps one of the best descriptions of a cat ever brought to the page. Horace is a wise soul, with intelligent and brooding eyes. He’s almost like a Buddha that sits at the centre of the novel. His every purr, his every movement, is given great importance and weight. Anyone who has ever had a cat and watched them sit in their contented state and wondered, what’s he or she thinking?, may perhaps know after reading Nick and the Glimmung.

Nick and the Glimmung, by Philip K. Dick. Published by Gollancz. ISBN: 9780575132993 RRP: $22.99  

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