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Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

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Jason Tavener woke up one morning to find himself completely unknown. The night before he had been the top-rated television star with millions of devoted watchers. The next day he was just an unidentified walking object, whose face nobody recognised, of whom no one had heard, and without the I.D. papers required in that near future. When he finally found a man w Jason Tavener woke up one morning to find himself completely unknown. The night before he had been the top-rated television star with millions of devoted watchers. The next day he was just an unidentified walking object, whose face nobody recognised, of whom no one had heard, and without the I.D. papers required in that near future. When he finally found a man who would agree to counterfeiting such cards for him, that man turned out to be a police informer. And then Taverner found out not only what it was like to be a nobody but also to be hunted by the whole apparatus of society. It was obvious that in some way Taverner had become the pea in in some sort of cosmic shell game - but how? And why? Philip K. Dick takes the reader on a walking tour of solipsism's scariest margin in his latest novel about the age we are already half into.


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Jason Tavener woke up one morning to find himself completely unknown. The night before he had been the top-rated television star with millions of devoted watchers. The next day he was just an unidentified walking object, whose face nobody recognised, of whom no one had heard, and without the I.D. papers required in that near future. When he finally found a man w Jason Tavener woke up one morning to find himself completely unknown. The night before he had been the top-rated television star with millions of devoted watchers. The next day he was just an unidentified walking object, whose face nobody recognised, of whom no one had heard, and without the I.D. papers required in that near future. When he finally found a man who would agree to counterfeiting such cards for him, that man turned out to be a police informer. And then Taverner found out not only what it was like to be a nobody but also to be hunted by the whole apparatus of society. It was obvious that in some way Taverner had become the pea in in some sort of cosmic shell game - but how? And why? Philip K. Dick takes the reader on a walking tour of solipsism's scariest margin in his latest novel about the age we are already half into.

30 review for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

  1. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Flow My Tears, the “Reality denied comes back to haunt.” ― Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Written in 1974 and set in the near future (at that time) of 1988, Philip K. Dick’s haunting dystopian novel addresses a range of existential, social and political themes: identity and loss of identity, celebrity and ordinariness, subjective perceptions and objective realSaidFlow Flow My Tears, the “Reality denied comes back to haunt.” ― Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Written in 1974 and set in the near future (at that time) of 1988, Philip K. Dick’s haunting dystopian novel addresses a range of existential, social and political themes: identity and loss of identity, celebrity and ordinariness, subjective perceptions and objective realities, state sponsored mind control and drug induced mind bending, genetic engineering and emotional networking. Never a dull moment as we enter a world where every action counts and all decisions are a matter of life and death. Chapter One provides the framework: It’s Tuesday night at eight o’clock. Along with thirty million other viewers, we’re tuned into The Jason Taverner Show, featuring none other than Jason Taverner, a David Letterman-type TV host and pop singer. And Jason loves everything about his role as singer and entertainer, most especially his fans: “To him they were the lifeblood of his public existence. And to him his public existence, his role as worldwide entertainer, was existence itself, period.” Jason is the perfect choice as main character for this PKD novel exploring individuality since, for Jason, personal identity equals public identity. He’s a celebrity; he’s his own best fan; he’s in love with himself and envisions all of life revolving around his status as celebrity - to be Jason Taverner, to be a star, the ultimate in being alive. The fact that Jason is special is no accident. Leading pundits and politicians in Washington D.C. decided forty-five years ago to experiment with genetic engineering, producing a batch of “sixes,” that is, individuals with tremendous magnetism, physical beauty, charm and especially CHARISMA as well as superior memory and concentration. Jason is a product of such eugenics; he’s a forty-two year old six. He is so exceptional, so extraordinary, so superior, Jason thinks the way things are will never change - he will be forever young, charismatic and beautiful. Forever Jason Taverner. But then it happens: after suffering a violent attack and subsequent emergency surgery, Jason wakes up in a dilapidated L.A. hotel room. Jason quickly discovers, other than wearing his custom-tailored silk suit and carrying a huge wad of money in his pocket, he is completely stripped of his identity along with his personal identification cards. Nobody but nobody, not even his agent, his lawyer or his girlfriend knows a Jason Taverner. Oh, no! He's in a nasty parallel universe, a man without any way or means of identifying himself. From this point forward, we follow Jason's odyssey through seedy and posh L.A. in an attempt to reclaim even a scrap of his past as he is forced to deal with a parade of quirky people, oddball thingamajigs, murky quagmires and impossible dilemmas. To list several: Pols and Nats – Short for Police and National Guard. There are pol and nat road blocks and check points at nearly every traffic intersection. And these fully armed folks can be mighty cruel: after he breaks into an apartment to harass a man he labels a sexual pervert, one Jesus-freak pol shares his Bible-inspired wisdom: “All flesh is like grass. Like low-grade roachweed most likely. Unto us a child is born, unto us a hit is given. The crooked shall be made straight and the straight loaded.” Fundamentalist religion linked to drugs provides a powerful kick. Forced Labor Camps – Many are the men and women, including thousands of students, sent off to forced labor camps. One prime reason – no legitimate ID. Jason needs some good quality false ID fast or he will be picked up and sent off to one such camp as far away as the Moon or Mars to spend his waking hours breaking rocks with a pickaxe. What a plight for Jason Taverner, the rich, famous celebrity. Subsurface Students – In this tightly controlled police state, pols and nats surround college campuses to keep students below ground where they belong. Also, to prevent those potential troublemakers from “creeping across to society like so many black rats swarming out of a leaky ship.” The late 60s - the heyday of campus unrest in the U.S; not to be repeated in this police state. Eddie the hotel clerk – In his new parallel world, the first person Jason meets is Eddie, who is not only a clerk and accomplished mind reader, but also, as Jason eventually learns, a police fink. PKD had his own personal issues with paranoia and he gives Jason many reasons to become paranoid. As they say, even paranoids have enemies. Kathy –A teenage ID forger who tells Jason the pols and nats are looking at him as part of a conspiracy. Even more reason for paranoia. Jason feels the absurdity of being bound by such an ordinary person since, after all, he is a six, someone truly special. Phone-Grid Transex Network – PKD foresees internet sex. But in his futuristic world the sex network is many times more powerful and potentially destructive. If you overdo it, your body will turn flaccid and you will burn out your brains. The pols don’t like this phone sex network; they actually shot its former sponsors – Bill and Carol and Fred and Jill. A police state that doesn't mess around. Sterilization Bill – Government sponsored sterilization of blacks. Recall PKD wrote this novel when the 1968 race riots where fresh in his memory. In this futuristic world, it is only a matter of time, sooner rather than later, when there will be no more black in the US. Race problems solved. Cheerful Charlie – Computerized game-person who gives advice. Not that far removed from kids continually playing and interacting with computer games on their handheld devices. Ruth Ray – Attractive, sensitive lady who shares her philosophy of love and grief with Jason. “Grief is the final outcome of love because it is love lost.” In his smugness of being a six, Jason has difficulty relating with such sentiment since the only real love he appreciates and understands is self-love. Ah, self-love, the love that never dies, especially if one is a celebrity. And most especially if one is Jason Taverner. Hail to the Chief - The ultimate dystopian novel: One apartment has a wall-to-wall carpet depicting Richard M. Nixon’s final ascent into heaven amid joyous singing above and wails of misery below. The wails of misery here on earth every PKD fan can picture with ease. Drugs, Drugs, Drugs, - Who in this futuristic country could ever live a day without drugs? Alys Buckman, sister of Police General Felix Buckman, treats Jason to some mescaline. There's also the mysterious new experimental drug, KR-3, with its mind-warping effects, giving new, expanded meaning to having a bad trip. Microtransmitters – Nearly invisible dots placed on pol and nat suspects to track their every movement. PKD wrote Flow My Tears during the time of Watergate. The author also anticipates the many advanced technological forms of surveillance. Police General Felix Buckman fuming over two of his rivals among the police higher-ups: “They had, five years ago, slaughtered over ten thousand students at the Stanford Campus, a final bloody – and needless – atrocity of that atrocity of atrocities, the Second Civil War." No question, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said depicts a nightmarish futuristic United States police state. American author Philip K. Dick (1928 - 1982)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is one of Philip K. Dick’s best. Yet unlike many main characters from PKD’s books, protagonist Jason Taverner is not a misunderstood, delusional recluse, but rather a world famous, genetically superior celebrity. Supporting protagonist Felix Buckman is a police general with only a handful of individuals more powerful. PKD uses these worldly heroes to illustrate the transience and frailty of what people understand as important. Taverner spends a couple of days wh Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is one of Philip K. Dick’s best. Yet unlike many main characters from PKD’s books, protagonist Jason Taverner is not a misunderstood, delusional recluse, but rather a world famous, genetically superior celebrity. Supporting protagonist Felix Buckman is a police general with only a handful of individuals more powerful. PKD uses these worldly heroes to illustrate the transience and frailty of what people understand as important. Taverner spends a couple of days where no one knows or even recognizes him. Buckman is made to encounter a reality where he is far from in control, and where the whole basis of his power, of the world’s power structure is shown to be ephemeral and false. Set in a dystopian future where the United States is ruled by a police state after a second civil war, and where students are hunted down and interred in forced labor camps, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said brings together many mainstay themes of PKD’s work. This one is more over the top than most, and this is were Dick is at his best.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    “Love isn't just wanting another person the way you want to own an object you see in a store. That's just desire. You want to have it around, take it home and set it up somewhere in the apartment like a lamp. Love is"--she paused, reflecting--"like a father saving his children from a burning house, getting them out and dying himself. When you love you cease to live for yourself; you live for another person.” What? This in a Philip K. Dick novel? This is an unusual PKD book, though you could argue that “Love isn't just wanting another person the way you want to own an object you see in a store. That's just desire. You want to have it around, take it home and set it up somewhere in the apartment like a lamp. Love is"--she paused, reflecting--"like a father saving his children from a burning house, getting them out and dying himself. When you love you cease to live for yourself; you live for another person.” What? This in a Philip K. Dick novel? This is an unusual PKD book, though you could argue that all PKD books are unusual so there is nothing unusual about one of his books being unusual. What I mean is that the tone and style are different from the earlier PKD classics like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Ubik. First published in 1974 after the aforementioned classic PKD novels, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said seems to be written during a transitional period in Dick’s style. Profanities are common place in the dialogs, something not present in Dick’s works from the 60s (I believe), and there is more depth to the characters, more compassion, and more emotional resonance. This story is set in a dystopian 1988 USA (a “near future” at the time of writing) where the people live under a police state, anybody found at spot checks without proper documentation are liable to be summarily shipped off sent to labour camps (students especially). The novel’s protagonist is Jason Taverner, a famous singer who has his own nightly TV show with viewership in the millions. One day he wakes up in a rundown hotel and finds that nobody knows who he is, not even his closest friends and lover. The how and why of his predicament is one of Dick’s best story ideas, but the less I elaborate on that the better. This is one of my favorite PKD books, I would rate it alongside the aforementioned Ubik, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as the best of his works; certainly I would rate it far above his Hugo winner The Man in the High Castle of which I am not a fan. The standout feature of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is that it is more emotional than most of his fiction. There is a sadness and sympathy to it that I do not associate with his works. That said PKD fans will be right at home with the usual Dickian trope of drug induced reality warping. Dick’s prose is the usual utilitarian style he uses in most of his works, the dialog is often stilted as if the characters are all drug addled to some extent. If this sounds like a criticism it really is not. I like the way Dick writes, it is clear and effective for conveying the weirdness inherent in his stories. As for the dialog, his characters tend to say the oddest things out of the blue, like Jason Taverner suddenly tells a woman she looks too old for her age for no apparent reason and getting whacked on the head as a result. Dick’s sense of humour is also wonderfully weird, such as the title of Taverner’s latest hit being “Nowhere Nuthin' Fuck-up”, which he describes as a sentimental number. His depiction of 1988, of course, bears little resemblance to that year in reality with personal flying vehicles and vinyl records still very much in use. I hope this does not dissuade anybody from reading it however, I believe that it is not sci-fi writers’ job to predict the future but to speculate and provide some food for thought. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is one of Dick’s most underrated books. As usual, he makes us question the reality we live in but this time he also makes us think about how we perceive ourselves and others and how our perception affects our social interactions and relationships. An unexpectedly moving book. _________________________ This is the cover of my paperback edition from the 80s, featuring an actual crying policeman; but otherwise, has nothing to do with the plot!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Nature of Reality: "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" by Philip K. Dick Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! Exiled forever, let me mourn; Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live forlorn.   Down vain lights, shine you no more! No nights are dark enough for those That in despair their lost fortunes deplore. Light doth but shame disclose.   Never may If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Nature of Reality: "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" by Philip K. Dick Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! Exiled forever, let me mourn; Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live forlorn.   Down vain lights, shine you no more! No nights are dark enough for those That in despair their lost fortunes deplore. Light doth but shame disclose.   Never may my woes be relieved, Since pity is fled; And tears and sighs and groans my weary days Of all joys have deprived.   From the highest spire of contentment My fortune is thrown; And fear and grief and pain for my deserts Are my hopes, since hope is gone.   Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell, Learn to contemn light Happy, happy they that in hell Feel not the world's despite.   In “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said”, taken from “Flow My Tears” by John Dowland     This is one of the books that changed me in ways I’m still trying to come to terms with, and I’ve read it more than 30 years ago. At the time I lacked the tools to properly tackle this. That’s why I’ve been wanting to re-read it and analyse it in the light what I currently know. I still remember the feeling I had the first time I read it back in the day. Mind-boggling to say the least. 30 years later, can I define what reality is? Doesn’t reality belong to the subjective objectivity realm, i.e., isn’t it the highest degree of objectivity possible for a human being? Reality can only be a subjective objectivity as it falls back on whether I chose to accept it as the truth or deny it completely. This means objective reality does exist, but I can only perceive it with my own perception filters. I have to decide what is reality as best I can, and may choose to assert some prepositions even though everyone else denies it (Copernicus comes to mind). It’s to my advantage to seek to make my perception filters as little distorting as possible, but I doubt I could ever achieve that completely, because I’m the product of my own culture to start with, to say the least.     If you're into SF, read on.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    “St. Paul said, ‘If I have not love then I am jack shit’... or something like that.” —Phillip K Dick, 1977 interview Jason Tavener, celebrity singer and television personality beloved by millions, wakes up one morning in a dingy hotel room to find that nobody has any idea who he is. His agent has never heard of him; his superstar girlfriend has never heard of him; people in the street don't recognise him. He has no ID and no papers – which in a futuristic police state is a serious problem.

  6. 5 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    You can criticise Dick all you like for being wrong about flying cars, or thinking the LP record was for ever (note: it isn't?), but he is writing science fiction and, as Ray Bradbury points out far more eloquently than will I, that is about ideas. It isn't about sentence construction, plot or character development. If you wanted to, it is easy enough to criticise this book on all these counts, but so what? Why would you bother? What matters is.... You can criticise Dick all you like for being wrong about flying cars, or thinking the LP record was for ever (note: it isn't?), but he is writing science fiction and, as Ray Bradbury points out far more eloquently than will I, that is about ideas. It isn't about sentence construction, plot or character development. If you wanted to, it is easy enough to criticise this book on all these counts, but so what? Why would you bother? What matters is.... http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...

  7. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Grand Theft Identity An old-fashioned Western dressed as sci-fi? Could be, but with a Dickian twist: everyone loses, and no one gets the girl. Or a murder mystery? Only no one is murdered. I tried my best all the way through to pick up the thread. It eluded me entirely. The guy in the White Hat, Jason, is an intelligent, handsome, talented and popular musical celebrity. He is also a narcissistic, misogynistic druggie who manipulates women to get where he thinks he should be Grand Theft Identity An old-fashioned Western dressed as sci-fi? Could be, but with a Dickian twist: everyone loses, and no one gets the girl. Or a murder mystery? Only no one is murdered. I tried my best all the way through to pick up the thread. It eluded me entirely. The guy in the White Hat, Jason, is an intelligent, handsome, talented and popular musical celebrity. He is also a narcissistic, misogynistic druggie who manipulates women to get where he thinks he should be. He is fundamentally amoral and bred to be that way, despite his occasional flashes of empathy. Jason is picked by the Black Hat, for reasons that really are not reasonable, to take the rap for the accidental death of Black Hat’s sister. The Black Hat belongs to Felix, an authoritarian senior policeman who believes that anything justifies the maintenance of the established order. He has an incestuous relationship with his sister, whose intolerance for orderliness he protects from scrutiny. On the other hand, he is single-handedly responsible for shutting down forced labour camps and protecting the lives of student demonstrators. On the whole, despite his occasional flashes of conscience, he is a rat. Jason and Felix come into contact through a vague slippage between alternative universes, which temporarily erases Jason’s identity. It’s not clear whether this is drug-induced, a criminal conspiracy, or divine forgetfulness. But the end result is that both end up more or less where they started. Jason is vindicated and has a marginally bigger audience. Felix mourns his sister’s death but gets on with his life of law enforcement. Both retire after long and comfortable lives. Then they die, apparently unmourned. And so? I suppose there is a certain nihilism which appeals to those who are fed up with society in general... or just with Westerns. Reputation, either through celebrity or formal authority is a fleeting compensation for the battles we fight in life. I can understand that. But if that sentiment defines Dick’s target audience, the story could have been improved by killing them all off sooner. And God alone knows what John Dowland’s composition for lute has to do with any of it. The whole thing has about as much literary merit as a computer game.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Probably 3.5 stars, but I tend towards grade-inflation with authors I admire, so -- just to be safe -- I'm rounding down on this one (until I decide I want to round up in 3 years). I liked the first 4/5, but the last quintile bugged a little. It started brilliantly, but ended with a J. Leno (long explanation of the joke just told). It was like towards the end PKD discounted his readers would get it, so he left simple instructions (remove plastic before eating) and tied the whole thing off neat ( Probably 3.5 stars, but I tend towards grade-inflation with authors I admire, so -- just to be safe -- I'm rounding down on this one (until I decide I want to round up in 3 years). I liked the first 4/5, but the last quintile bugged a little. It started brilliantly, but ended with a J. Leno (long explanation of the joke just told). It was like towards the end PKD discounted his readers would get it, so he left simple instructions (remove plastic before eating) and tied the whole thing off neat (with complementary happy ending). Other than the explanatory ending and the relative happy ending for the narrator, the book was fascinating and at times brilliant.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lᴀʏᴀ Rᴀɴɪ ✦

    That .GIF image perfectly captures the range of distinct reactions that Philip K. Dick's Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said got out of me in the expanse of reading it in the last four days. There was bafflement--then disbelief--then mild disgust--and, finally, karmic relief. Don't get me wrong, it's not a badly written book. Of course fucking not, it's PHILIP K. DICK! His outstanding Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep will forever destroy me in this world and in another parallel existence because asdfghj That .GIF image perfectly captures the range of distinct reactions that Philip K. Dick's Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said got out of me in the expanse of reading it in the last four days. There was bafflement--then disbelief--then mild disgust--and, finally, karmic relief. Don't get me wrong, it's not a badly written book. Of course fucking not, it's PHILIP K. DICK! His outstanding Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep will forever destroy me in this world and in another parallel existence because asdfghjklmalfunctionerror10101... Anyway, that being said, something along the way went wrong as I peruse through the two hundred and four pages of this novel; I can't really pinpoint exactly where, but all I know is that I couldn't help but alternate between confusion and rage as I went on. Originally, around eighty pages or so, I was going to rate it with four stars because, right from the get-go, I was just enjoying the brisk, no-nonesense yet highly engrossing pacing and linguistic style that Dick had incorporated in his storytelling; the breadth of the entire narrative work felt so much lighter than Do Androids Dream, honestly, making it easy for me to keep up with every twist and turn as I follow the protagonist Jason Taverner, a government-experimented Six which basically means a person with enhanced physical/sexual appeal and whatever attractive aptitude there is. He's a former musician-turned celebrity talk show host and in a relationship with another icon named Heather Hart, also a Six. After a confrontation with one of the women he duped and took advantage of, promising her a career in showbiz only to sleep with her a few times, he was left physically compromised and woke up in a dingy motel room with only a wad of cash on hand but with no trace of discernible legal records of proof of identity whatsoever. It's as if he's been literally deduced to non-existence. Set in a fictional futuristic world of 1988 in the United States where everything seems to be under the command of a rampant police state where laws and legislation are just plain FUCKED-UP (sexual legal consent is reduced to thirteen years of age; African-American lineage is sanctioned to die out), the premise and the mystery that this book are hitched on were promising and I really did eat it all up in the first two days of reading. By the fourth day, however, as I stare blankly at the last page (right after containing myself from convulsing in laughter), I realized it had more to do with my unmistakable dislike for every goddamn character featured in the book with the exception of the police general Felix Buckman (whom I was 50/50 with) and the very brief insert of one Mary Anne Dominic (who really should have been a major character as oppose to some flimsy extra in the background). Other than those two, I cringe my nose at the rest, more particularly in vile contempt for the overall way the female characters are portrayed, the greatest offenders of them all have to be the insecure, selfish and self-entitled paranoid bitch Heather Hart, and the clinically insane (sort of a) sexual predator who is skilled in the art of emotional blackmail, Kathy Nelson. The least offenders have to be Ruth Mae (whose speech about love and grief was actually pretty philosophical--too bad it came off completely dissonant to her general characterization), and the bisexual (pansexual?) fetish-driven drug addict Alys who had an incestuous affair with her twin brother and sired a son with him. And YES she is less offensive than Hart and Nelson because at least Alys had a personality I did enjoy reading about while the other two were so emotionally flat and perceived only in how the main male character objectifies them. They're placeholders that reflect his sexual frustration and inadequacy which make them rather one-dimensional miserable fuckers. Normally, I could overlook gender-biased portrayals if they serve the story or a theme in the narrative. However, it didn't feel like these poorly characterized female characters ever served a purpose except to interact with the male protagonist, Jason Taverner. I don't have any kind of concern about his character since he took that mescaline drug. I suppose I eagerly wanted to know what happened to him that he lost his identity and people don't remember him at all in spite of being a popular son of a bitch. My interest in his welfare continued to decline the more he showed what a pompous chauvinist he was (although his very short interaction with Mary Anne Dominic rekindled some sympathy because that was the only sweet and humanizing moment for his character in this book). Then again, everyone in this book is miserable--and not even in a compelling way that makes me sympathetic for them. Whatever end they got (Dick was kind enough to wrap up their fates nicely in his Epilog) is something they more than deserved, in my brutally honest opinion. It's actually great that Dick didn't leave it to chance, or his readers' imaginations, as to how these characters' fates came to an end because I personally didn't form any sort of connection with them to ponder about what happened in their lives after the novel finished. So thank Loki that Dick inquisitively wrapped it all up. Phew. I love character-driven stories; I root for characters with problems and struggles that make me sympathetic to their plights; characters who later on develop self-awareness of their bad choices instead of just going through the motions of being victims forever. None of the characters in this book ever grew or did anything that could have redeemed them, with the exception of Mary Anne (who is so slight of a character that she only appeared in six or eight pages). I did LOVE THE ENDING though. Basically, the beautiful blue vase that was the product of love, commitment and talent that Mary Anne produced was able to be displayed in a museum (while she had a career in ceramics; how ironically bittersweet and awful was it that the shoe-in extra gets a happy ending?) AND MORE OR LESS OUTLIVED EVERY MISERABLE FUCKER IN THIS BOOK. That was poetic justice if nothing else. In any case, I will keep reading more of Philip K. Dick's books because THERE ARE SO MANY OUT THERE and I am looking forward to acquaint myself more with his writing. Overall, Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said just didn't work for me as a sum of its parts, especially when the parts are composed of characters that I perceived to be grimy, irresponsible disablers of human dignity and progress. The mystery plot and the answer concerning Jason Taverner's sudden lack of identity was still a pretty thrilling read, though. RECOMMENDED: 7/10 DO READ MY REVIEWS AT

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    This is my fifth PKD book this year, and while I thought it was beautifully written in parts, and its depiction of a police state appropriately chilling, it lacked many of the reality-bending twists and macabre humor of some of his best books, like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and UBIK. The main characters Jason Taverner and Felix Buckman were sufficiently troubled and complex to keep my interest, but the events of the middle portion of the book dragged a bit, although the endi This is my fifth PKD book this year, and while I thought it was beautifully written in parts, and its depiction of a police state appropriately chilling, it lacked many of the reality-bending twists and macabre humor of some of his best books, like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and UBIK. The main characters Jason Taverner and Felix Buckman were sufficiently troubled and complex to keep my interest, but the events of the middle portion of the book dragged a bit, although the ending does provide for some very moving passages that are presaged by the book's title. Still, the revelations at the end don't generate the disorientation and horror that UBIK did, nor the dark humor and satire that infuses Androids. I imagine that the pervasive use of drugs, forced labor camps, police checkpoints, and references to starving students living in underground warrens surrounded by barbed wire fences and police barricades were much more relevant at the time of the book's publication in 1974, but it doesn't have as much shock value now. Still, PKD gets deep into his characters' minds and probes some uncomfortable places with empathy and insight, but this wasn't my favorite of his. I'm looking forward to reading A Scanner Darkly next, which I've heard good things about.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marvin

    Phillip K. Dick is a philosopher in a pulp writer's body. His books reads like pulp fiction in style but are loaded with philosophical inquires regarding reality and perception. Sometimes so much so that the text can't keep up with it. Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is one example. The plot centers around a celebrity who finds himself no longer remembered. To be more precise, he no longer exists. All his identity is wiped out and no one knows him not even his friends. This is actually one of his Phillip K. Dick is a philosopher in a pulp writer's body. His books reads like pulp fiction in style but are loaded with philosophical inquires regarding reality and perception. Sometimes so much so that the text can't keep up with it. Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is one example. The plot centers around a celebrity who finds himself no longer remembered. To be more precise, he no longer exists. All his identity is wiped out and no one knows him not even his friends. This is actually one of his more straight forward stories but all the gimmicks of a Dick novel are there; the mind altering drugs, people removed from a safe environment into the unknown, police states and malevolent authorities. Some of this may seem well worn to the casual reader However it is important to realize no one was writing stories like this before Phillip K Dick. Flow My Tears is a good read but I would recommend a couple others before this one, like Man in The High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or Martian Timeslip. But whatever you choose, anyone into science fiction or even 20th century literature, should read at least one Dick novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    RJ

    "So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power." - Philip K. Dick, "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" It's going to take a while to process this one. PKD's novels often strike an existential chord and FMTTPS is no exception. Amoral TV personality Jason Taverner is "So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power." - Philip K. Dick, "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" It's going to take a while to process this one. PKD's novels often strike an existential chord and FMTTPS is no exception. Amoral TV personality Jason Taverner is attacked by a tentacled alien creature and when he awakens the following day he's...somebody else? Or nobody? As in most PKD stories, the future is an absurdist dystopia that is often a reflection of the author's life and times. So the "drug" chapter is therefore hilarious and sad all at the same time. Written towards the end of PKD's career when he had gained some literary recognition but financial success still eluded him (but prior to the "pink ray of light" encounter), FMTTPS is more challenging and raw than his earlier pulp work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is a somewhat typical Philip K. Dick novel, albeit not quite as good as I expected. PDK is mostly famous for the movies that have been made from his novels. His books are a bit obscure, even among many Science Fiction fans, and for a good reason: he's not a very good storyteller. Now, scifi fans are frequently a tolerant bunch. Among them are fans that will tolerate abysmal writing because the author nails the science (typically physics). Others couldn't care less abou This is a somewhat typical Philip K. Dick novel, albeit not quite as good as I expected. PDK is mostly famous for the movies that have been made from his novels. His books are a bit obscure, even among many Science Fiction fans, and for a good reason: he's not a very good storyteller. Now, scifi fans are frequently a tolerant bunch. Among them are fans that will tolerate abysmal writing because the author nails the science (typically physics). Others couldn't care less about hard science, but want to see interesting projections of the technology our grandchildren will get to play with (or be oppressed by). But PDK doesn't do well at the visionary technology thing: this book was written in 1974, and he had folks who were fifty years old and had been genetically bred to be superior humans; he had nuclear weapons the size of sesame seeds that could be secretly planted on people and detonated remotely to assassinate them; he had rocket cars and interplanetary travel... but he also was still using phonograph records because the story was set in 1988! He doesn't do stories too well, either. This one had some pretty glaring holes in the plot once you spend a few minutes pondering everything. And even with all that, it simply wasn't well thought out. His protagonist is desperately trying to solve the puzzle his life has become, and it turns out a character not even introduced until two-thirds into the book is responsible. Had PDK gone to a writing workshop or handed his story to a writing coach, they probably would have told him he was crazy. But, frankly, those that enjoy him will overlook all of this, because one doesn't read PDK for plot coherence, visionary futurism or character development. He has this quirk in his brain that lets him spin out freakishly interesting puzzles of an existential nature. The movie folks love him because they can grab this central nugget of bizarreness, "re-imagine" his characters, completely re-write the dialog, and get — hopefully — a conceptually fascinating film. A film version of Flow My Tears is in development; see here. Long after his death, PDK remains very popular in Hollywood, with over seven films in development or production. But he simply doesn't tell his stories well, so I doubt I'd ever give him five stars. And Flow My Tears suffers because the protagonist's existential crisis is philosophically less interesting than I've come to expect. Sure, there's a crisis, but it isn't philosophical or psychological, and only existential in a superficial manner. This isn't a good book for PDK beginners. For anyone curious, watch one of the better movies (Blade Runner, from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, or Minority Report, from the short story The Minority Report), then read the matching story and consider the differences and similarities and decide whether you can enjoy the unpolished version. ­

  14. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    It really was refreshing to read such a simply and straightforwardly told story for a change. This novel contains the usual stuff you’d expect from PKD, with heavy themes of drugs, and strange metaphysics (the novel is more about these than any sort of futurism, which comes across as incidental). The story itself was compelling, and the conclusion was surprisingly coherent, given the loose ends and meanderings of the plot, though I didn’t find the ending entirely satisfying. There was a point at It really was refreshing to read such a simply and straightforwardly told story for a change. This novel contains the usual stuff you’d expect from PKD, with heavy themes of drugs, and strange metaphysics (the novel is more about these than any sort of futurism, which comes across as incidental). The story itself was compelling, and the conclusion was surprisingly coherent, given the loose ends and meanderings of the plot, though I didn’t find the ending entirely satisfying. There was a point at which the protagonist’s actions became incongruous with aspects of his personality that had been set up (such as taking random hits of Mescaline in situations that demanded his full mental attention). But what the hell, this novel is fun, compelling and thought-provoking, despite its flaws. It’s not my favourite PKD, but it's a solid and enjoyable read nonetheless.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    Jason Taverner is on top of the world. He has it all- a house in the Swiss Alps, a beautiful girlfriend, an illustrious singing career, and a hit late-night talk show. In a sense, he is Justin Timberlake (yes, Timberlake doesn't have a talk show... yet). Until one morning he awakens to find that no one knows who he is anymore, all of his IDs are gone and, in the matter of a few hours, he has become an unperson. Which, in the militarized post-Real ID future this book is set in, makes him a very obviou Jason Taverner is on top of the world. He has it all- a house in the Swiss Alps, a beautiful girlfriend, an illustrious singing career, and a hit late-night talk show. In a sense, he is Justin Timberlake (yes, Timberlake doesn't have a talk show... yet). Until one morning he awakens to find that no one knows who he is anymore, all of his IDs are gone and, in the matter of a few hours, he has become an unperson. Which, in the militarized post-Real ID future this book is set in, makes him a very obvious and tempting target for the military police. As he goes about trying to reclaim his identity, Jason becomes enmeshed in all sorts of various interactions with various damaged women. First there's Kathy, a 17 year old psychotic forger who provides him with a fake set of papers to move through the police checkpoints and then proceeds to toy with him as to whether she gave him a valid set of papers or not. She seems a stand-in for Dick's fifth and final wife, Leslie "Tessa" Busby, to whom the book is dedicated. If Kathy is in any way based on Tessa, it is understandable that during the time he was writing this book, Dick was committed to a psychiatric ward, went on multiple amphetamine benders, and feared for his safety so much that he placed the manuscript into the care of his attorneys to protect it from the insanity of his home life. She baits him again and again, spins stories about an imprisoned boyfriend out of thin air, and continually wavers between saving Taverner from the police and turning him in herself. Next there's Alys Buckman, the bdsm-obsessed drug addict sister/occasional lover of the Police General who is investigating Jason Taverner's lack of identity. She inveigles Jason into her home with promises of protection and then doses him with an exceptionally strong amount of mescaline and further complicates his life in ways I will not spoil for future readers. Finally there's Mary Anne, a kindly shut-in neighbor of Alys' who Jason momentarily kidnaps before having a series of existential discussions on the benefits of taking risks and who gives him one of her cherished ceramic vases. This book is incredibly scattered, even for Dick, and there are numerous plot points that are brought up, expounded upon at length, and then forgotten almost as quickly. For instance, Jason Taverner is a Six- one of a group of genetically-advanced experimental children whose aptitude for logical thinking, persuasiveness, and sheer sexual charisma have been elevated beyond that of normal humans. Yet this has absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. Taverner never uses that fabled Six intelligence to find the source of his removal from high society, never acts in any way like the advanced human he is and, in fact, is easily manipulated by normal humans on a number of occasions. There is an ex-girlfriend who attacks him at the beginning of the book but who is never mentioned again. There is a police investigator hot on Taverner's trail who is summarily dismissed from the story. Taken as a work of science fiction, this is a mediocre effort. Too chaotic and scattershot for me to ignore without comment. However, taken as a bit of autobiography- Dick trying to make sense of his failed relationships and wondering, from the depths of his benzedrine benders, whether his paranoid impulses are correct and all of the women in his life are, in fact, out to get him, the book succeeds admirably. None of the women in the story are purely evil, but mere damaged souls who are re-visiting their own damage upon his character. Definitely worth reading, but I would not recommend this to neophyte Dick readers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    All who have tasted the bitter juice of madness know that reality is ultimately a fragile creature. It is a pale insect, a lightning gnat in a vitreous lantern, that each of us brandishes at the dark unknown. Our tepid light pushes back this tenebrous sea only just enough to reveal a shadowy landscape, a hazy glimpse of truth. The worst of us see this and declare all is known. The best of us admit doubt. Either way, what we think we know is little more than an Escherian architecture of heuristic All who have tasted the bitter juice of madness know that reality is ultimately a fragile creature. It is a pale insect, a lightning gnat in a vitreous lantern, that each of us brandishes at the dark unknown. Our tepid light pushes back this tenebrous sea only just enough to reveal a shadowy landscape, a hazy glimpse of truth. The worst of us see this and declare all is known. The best of us admit doubt. Either way, what we think we know is little more than an Escherian architecture of heuristic and bias, a cognitive illusion necessitated by the limitations of our brains. This difficulty is in turn compounded by a constant bombardment of alternative realities. Our little insect in its little jar is besieged. Politicians tell us comforting bedtime stories in which, e.g., vast quantities of poisonous gas can be emptied in the atmosphere without consequence. Armed with both pen and sword, religious adherents slaughter each other wholesale in their struggle for mythological dominance. Advertising execs peddle glamorous fairy tales, as much selling a way of life as a product in their pursuit of our coin. Nevertheless, the mutability and instability of reality isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Truth is, I happen to *like* the notion that every person’s reality is niche and that the universe chose not to shackle us with any monolithic inescapable meaning. I happen to think the phrase, “I don’t know” is sexy. I mean, really, we could choose to summarize every relationship as an intersection of constructively or destructively interfering realities. Each person yearns to be perceived in a certain way, while others try to maintain the integrity of their own realities. I would go so far as to say that you could measure love by the degree to which you subordinate your reality to another person’s. To love completely is to surrender completely, to actually take up another’s lantern in emphatic union. Put another way, love has no room for ego. But what happens when the surrendering of reality isn’t voluntary? What happens when our firebug flickers, sickens, or is extinguished by insidious external or internal forces? That was the question that galvanized Philip K. Dick to write. In his 1978 essay/speech How To Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later, he wrote, “The two basic topics which fascinate me are ‘What is reality?’ and ‘What constitutes the authentic human being?’ Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?” Flow My Tears is no exception. It tells the story of mega-famous celebrity singer and TV host Jason Taverner who one day wakes up in a seedy hotel and discovers that no one knows who he is. Since he lives in a police-state (populated in usual PKD fashion with empaths, flying cars, and experimental drugs), his non-identity puts him in danger of being rounded up and sent to a forced labor camp. In short, the highest falls to the lowest – and he doesn’t even know why. Thus begins his and the reader’s quest to discover how the subversion of his reality came about. Along the way we meet such characters as Kathy, the probably insane police informant / counterfeiter; the titular police general Felix who is in love with his wild, sexual, drug-abusing sister; and a fearful middle-aged spinster, maker of beautiful retail pottery that, as the final words of the book’s epilogue tells us, is probably loved. In some ways, Flow My Tears is one of PKD’s most human books. Entire scenes are dedicated not to any plot movement but to two characters – often strangers – sharing their burdens with each other. I particularly appreciated a conversation Jason has with a woman on the nature of grief, which the woman claims is a good emotion. She says: “Grief causes you to leave yourself. You step outside your narrow little pelt. And you can’t feel grief unless you’ve had love before it—grief is the final outcome of love, because it’s love lost. It’s the cycle of love completed: to love, to lose, to feel grief, to leave, and then to love again. Grief is the awareness that you will have to be alone, and there is nothing beyond that because being alone is the ultimate final destiny of each individual living creature. That’s what death is, the great loneliness.” Yet, despite this humanity, Flow My Tears fails in much the same way that Philip K. Dick ultimately failed in his quest to explore reality. While PKD’s eminently readable style provides real joy during the journey, Flow My Tears is essentially a kind of ontological puzzle. What keeps us reading is a desire to understand the HOW and WHY of our protag’s mysterious loss of identity. To be blunt, the puzzle’s solution is garbage. It is complete and utter tripe. It is an obvious afterthought. It fails on every conceivable level. It is not hard science. It is not metaphorical allusion. It’s not like a guessable culprit in a mystery novel. There is no satisfaction whatsoever, neither the ‘ahhh!’ of illumination, the ‘oooh!’ of spectacle, nor the ‘hmmm’ of introspection. Instead, the book’s ontological denouement retroactively cheapens the journey readers took to get there. Hell, the character who hears the explanation does himself say, WTF are you talking about? The real tragedy is how this disappointing conclusion reflects the end of the author’s life arc. See, Flow My Tears is the last book PKD wrote (besides A Scanner Darkly maybe?) before his great “revelation” in which he began to experience visions of a supposedly religious nature. Earlier I quoted from a speech, written in 1978, four years after his revelation. Here’ s the speech and here’s a summary. If you read both, what you’ll find interesting is that the summary contains only quotes from the first half. Probably because the first half is awesome. It’s everything we love about PKD. Perceptive, philosophical, honest, even optimistic in the face of darkness. I liken this first half to the bulk of PKD’s bibliography, and to the bulk of Flow My Tears. But the second half is tragic. He speaks in great detail about Flow My Tears and claims that some Spirit guided his hand as he wrote it. He notes parallels between events in the book and events that later happened in his life, and suggests a cosmic importance. He even draws a connection between a scene in the book (in which police general Felix has an emotional moment with a stranger at a gas station) and a scene in Acts (in which Paul meets a stranger on a road), claiming that it was “an obvious retelling” of that Biblical story. Well, I read both. It isn’t. No more than the daily horoscope – “Aspects of your life that you've neglected lately might haunt you on a day like today, Virgo” – is an obvious prophecy of my day. Nevertheless, based on this deluded confirmation bias, PKD goes on to claim that our reality is a sort of hologram overlaying a TRUE Biblical reality, in particular the time period of around 50 AD when Acts was written. Contrary to how PKD saw it, this revelation doesn’t grant extra significance to his work. To invoke an invisible, sectarian spirit retroactively cheapens the real, universal humanity. So. That much for reality. But what about the other question PKD obsessed over, the question of, “What is an authentic human being?” I’ll let him speak for himself: “The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.” PKD phrases the authenticity of humanity in terms of resistance to external threats, but I would suggest the greatest threats to reality come from within. It is our own venal, desperate, confused selves we must watch and resist. Alas, PKD’s resistance was not enough. For reasons too complex for any of us to know, he transformed from a man who was seeking reality to a man who believed he had found it. The ultimate dead end. Flow My Tears is not about that, but if you pay close attention, you can see the first intimations of his transformation. It is, after all, an emotional book about a famous man seeking to understand the mystery of his reality, with an answer that makes no sense and explains nothing. A vision, if you will, of the first cracks in PKD's reality lantern and a prophecy of an imminent shattering and the final escape of one man’s bright reality.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    Despondent over the failure of his fourth marriage and at the same time stimulated to fresh creativity after his first mescaline trip, cult author Philip K. Dick worked on what would be his 29th published sci-fi novel, "Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said," from March to August 1970. Ultimately released in 1974, an important year in Phil's life (the year of his legendary "pink light" incident), the book went on to win the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award, was nominated for both the Hugo Despondent over the failure of his fourth marriage and at the same time stimulated to fresh creativity after his first mescaline trip, cult author Philip K. Dick worked on what would be his 29th published sci-fi novel, "Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said," from March to August 1970. Ultimately released in 1974, an important year in Phil's life (the year of his legendary "pink light" incident), the book went on to win the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award, was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and has been a fan favorite ever since. Incorporating many of the themes, tropes and obsessions that would later be subsumed under the adjective "phildickian," the novel introduces the reader to Jason Taverner, a popular singer/TV variety show host in the Los Angeles of 1988. It is a typically dystopian Dick future, in which a second Civil War has transpired, college students are in perpetual warfare with the government, and an all-pervasive police state keeps relentless tabs on the citizenry. In a classic opener--the old "what if you awoke one morning to find that no one knew who you were"--Jason is attacked by an old girlfriend with a "gelatinlike Callisto cuddle sponge," a dangerously parasitic creature. Awakening in a seedy hotel room, the popular celebrity finds that he is now a nobody; a total unknown, with no birth certificate on file, no one who remembers him, and no IDs. And in the police state of 1988 L.A., not having an ID is a very easy way to get shipped off to an FLC (forced labor camp).... During his travails in this new reality of his, the befuddled Taverner encounters a series of women even more striking than the wacky dames that Bobby Dupea met in "Five Easy Pieces." There is Heather Hart, a fellow singer and, like Jason, a genetically engineered "six"; Kathy Nelson, an ID forger with obvious mental problems; Rachel Rae, an alcoholic old flame with a deep insecurity about aging; Alys Buckman, a leather-clad lesbian and twin sister of Police General Felix Buckman, with whom she has had a baby (!); and Mary Anne Dominic, a sweet potter (yes, ceramics and pottery again feature in this story, as they had in Dick's 1969 novel "Galactic Pot-Healer") who helps Jason at one of his lowest points. Interesting and well-drawn characters, all, but it is perhaps Felix Buckman who is the most fascinating of the bunch. Though one of the policymakers in this thoroughly frightening police state, he is shown to be quite a complex person by Dick, a writer who had undergone his fair share of harassment and intimidation by the authorities in his own time. Buckman, despite a certain ruthlessness, is also a lover and collector of old stamps, antique snuffboxes and, amusingly, old issues of "Weird Tales" magazines. Dick shows this authority figure to be capable of a certain liberalness of spirit and even--in perhaps the novel's most startling scene--spontaneously hugging a total stranger in the street. Still, Buckman reflects, in a passage that the justifiably paranoid Dick obviously related to: "Don't come to the attention of the authorities. Don't ever interest us. Don't make us want to know more about you." The real heart and soul of the novel (his are the tears that are referenced in the book's title, as well as his love of John Dowland's lute song of 1596, "Flow My Tears"), Buckman is one of Dick's most memorable and ambivalent characters. As mentioned, many of Dick's favorite subjects get another workover in "Flow My Tears...." Thus, the book touches on divorce (Ruth Rae is said to have been married 51 times; 46 more than Phil!), cigars (Buckman smokes Cuesta Reys), classical music (Buckman ponders the relative merits of Wagner, Berlioz and others), sex (the legal age of consent in this typically wacky Dickian future is 12!), drugs (Alys is a walking pharmacopoeia, Jason himself undergoes an extremely well-portrayed mescaline experience, and pot is legally sold in packs) and, of course, the tricky subject of the plastic and elusive nature of reality. The novel is consistently inventive and filled with all manner of imaginative touches, from Alys' teeth (which are ornamented with signs of the zodiac) to luxury apartment buildings that float on jets of compressed air. It also features some offhand humor, such as the reference to phone orgy participants Bill and Carol and Fred and Jill (a nod to the 1969 film "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice") and the wall-to-wall carpet depicting Nixon's ascent to heaven! Dick, to add verisimilitude to his novel, employs throwaway references to fictional objects and uses futuristic slang expressions that no one could possibly understand (such as "jeter," "thungly," "rotive," "floogle," "gunjy" and "cheruba") except the characters in his story. A further sense of fidelity to facts is engendered when the author has Gen. Buckman, in the middle of speaking, pause "a moment to quietly fart, then continue...." What other author would do this? You've gotta love that Dick! In addition to its compelling and touching story line, "Flow My Tears..." also provides the reader with some wonderful discussions on the importance of love ("When you love you cease to live for yourself," Ruth tells Jason), fear (it "can make you do more wrong than hate or jealousy," Jason says to Mary Anne) and, fascinatingly, art and critics (Jason grouses about critics discussing the work that he had put out 19 years earlier; in 1974, Dick's first novel, "Solar Lottery," had been released 19 years before!). It is not a perfect novel, and as usual, a close reading will reveal some inconsistencies and minor goofs. For example, the hotel clerk Eddy Pracim leaves a room at one point, but a few pages later is still present. In another scene, Jason has terminals placed on his head to record an "electrocardiogram"; that, of course, should be an "electroencephalogram." And then there are the occasional ungrammatical sentences, such as "Things which even he, at forty-two years, didn't know them all." But these are quibbles. Ultimately, "Flow My Tears..." is a tense, exciting, passionately written, inventive and moving novel, filled with memorable characters and some remarkable situations. Compulsively readable, it is Dick near the top of his form, and for many of us, modern sci-fi does not get too much better. Oh...as to the reason for Taverner's predicament, Phil DOES manage to give us a somewhat plausible, if way-out, explanation for it. But, like Felix Buckman, you might feel the need of some Darvon after hearing it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    Maybe I was in the wrong mood for it, but something was off with one. I usually love the classic science-fiction (Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Vonnegut, etc) and Flow My Tears had some moments of greatness, especially in the interraction between the man with no identity and the various women he encounters. The change of POV to the police general was also effective, and the paranoid surveillance state described almost 40 years ago still has the power to evoke disturbing thoughts of "are we there yet Maybe I was in the wrong mood for it, but something was off with one. I usually love the classic science-fiction (Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Vonnegut, etc) and Flow My Tears had some moments of greatness, especially in the interraction between the man with no identity and the various women he encounters. The change of POV to the police general was also effective, and the paranoid surveillance state described almost 40 years ago still has the power to evoke disturbing thoughts of "are we there yet?" Despite all the positive aspects I mentioned, I felt let down by the ending. I'm trying not to give spoilers, but I detected a certain lack of logic and a bit of deux et machina in the resolution. I got the message I think (life is absurd and depressing, but there is beauty and love to be found along the way) but my engineer mind expected a better explanation for the concepts presented here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    This is a mysterious book that raises many more questions than it answers. Among the questions this book has inspired me to ask: -How on earth could I have spent a year and a half in love with a woman who told me this was her favorite novel? -Is there a time/space-altering drug that can transport me to a universe where I never wasted my time on this book? -Am I honestly supposed to believe that a world in which not everyone cares about the existence of a pompous This is a mysterious book that raises many more questions than it answers. Among the questions this book has inspired me to ask: -How on earth could I have spent a year and a half in love with a woman who told me this was her favorite novel? -Is there a time/space-altering drug that can transport me to a universe where I never wasted my time on this book? -Am I honestly supposed to believe that a world in which not everyone cares about the existence of a pompous white dude is some kind of dystopia? -What's with Philip K. Dick's obsession with lesbians, anyway? Conclusion: when I'm in the mood to read sci-fi, I'll stick to Octavia Butler and her ilk, thankyouverymuch.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    This is my first dip into the work of Philip K. Dick. After reading a chat board on where to start reading PKD, I kept hearing Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said mentioned over and over again. So, without pause, I went to the library the next day and retrieved a copy. I sat and read this book in one sitting. It is not often that I read books at once. In fact, the last time I remember reading a book so quickly was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am certainly not a fast reader -- I take my This is my first dip into the work of Philip K. Dick. After reading a chat board on where to start reading PKD, I kept hearing Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said mentioned over and over again. So, without pause, I went to the library the next day and retrieved a copy. I sat and read this book in one sitting. It is not often that I read books at once. In fact, the last time I remember reading a book so quickly was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am certainly not a fast reader -- I take my time and savor each page with thought, much like a fine wine -- and I was surprised to finish this book before mid-afternoon. PKD's words are jumble-y, but for whatever reason, his prose works its magic and simply flows. It's kind of like eating a literary Tootsie Pop: frantic and bizarre tangy-crunchy outside, heartfelt and astoundingly-resonantly-humane gooey inside. I think that, perhaps, this is the first time I've ever been so captured by a novel in which I really don't care about the characters or plots; I just want to sit and soak in a tub of this author's silky-sad truth. One thing I must say, however: the resolution of this novel's conflict is stupid. PKD must not have been able to figure out a logical way to explain the main character's sudden nonexistence. There were also a few other times when I questioned certain scenes -- namely the child sex and random hugging of black people scenes -- within the book and their relations to overall plot, aside from questions to the theme of love. I am also baffled, and mildly delighted, at the book's strange epilogue. I find it particularly lovely that life ends well for at least something: namely, the blue vase. Overall, this book left a funny taste in my mouth, like when I've finished off a strawberry shake from McDonald's, and all I can taste is that weird, strawberry syrup-y afterbirth. The end of that shake sucks ass, but I still want more strawberry shake.

  21. 4 out of 5

    F.R.

    It’s a terrible confession to make, but this is my first read of a Philip K. Dick novel. I don’t really know why it’s taken me so long to pick up one of his books, but it’s probably something to do with the zany titles or those wide eyed zealots determined to tell you how he was the greatest and most visionary writer who ever lived. And I’ll be honest: there was part of me which expected to be disappointed and uninvolved in what I found, but instead I greatly enjoyed ‘Flow My Tears, the Policema It’s a terrible confession to make, but this is my first read of a Philip K. Dick novel. I don’t really know why it’s taken me so long to pick up one of his books, but it’s probably something to do with the zany titles or those wide eyed zealots determined to tell you how he was the greatest and most visionary writer who ever lived. And I’ll be honest: there was part of me which expected to be disappointed and uninvolved in what I found, but instead I greatly enjoyed ‘Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said’, Like early to mid period Ballard (a writer I greatly admire), Dick takes what is recognisably the real world and tips it slightly on an angle to explore a variety of themes – in particular, man’s isolation. A popular TV celebrity wakes up to find that no one – not his agent, his lover, nor his fans – have any idea who he is. What’s more, all official record of him has vanished and he has to navigate his way through a police state that is very focused on paper and identification. The plot is incredibly complex, but remarkably all makes a kind of sense in the end – and I found the whole thing to be an intriguing, thought provoking and rollicking good read. Undoubtedly it’s a very early Seventies idea to make the main protagonist a lounge singer who has his own weekly variety hour, but in amongst the elements which date this science fiction to a very specific time and place, there are others which still resonate. Dick is incredibly good on what happens when a police force becomes overly powerful and a bureaucracy gets out of him. I am a convert, my scepticism is no more. I look forward to exploring Philip K. Dick’s world further.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jayanth

    Mediocre. I tried so hard to like it, but the way the story took shape did not help one bit. I chose to read this while searching for long, quirky, strange titles. Having read and liked 'Second Variety' by Philip K. Dick, I was eager to read this one. PKD is considered to be a sci-fi genre defining author, for having thought of unimaginable things during his time, opening up a new worlds of imagination for future authors and readers. The premise is very very interesting and the book s Mediocre. I tried so hard to like it, but the way the story took shape did not help one bit. I chose to read this while searching for long, quirky, strange titles. Having read and liked 'Second Variety' by Philip K. Dick, I was eager to read this one. PKD is considered to be a sci-fi genre defining author, for having thought of unimaginable things during his time, opening up a new worlds of imagination for future authors and readers. The premise is very very interesting and the book started off very well - What if you are a celebrity who has 30 millions viewers weekly and one day you wake up to realize nobody recognizes you, as if you never existed before?. The scene that is critical for this strange event that sets things in motion is chilling. It was so good that my expectations for the rest of the story doubled. But this event and its sci-fi elements are never again addressed, which is so disappointing. Also, the story went down hill from that critical moment. The character arcs are not well done in my opinion, especially the protagonist's. There are glaring flaws in the story that made me think "are you really that stupid?". Most of the characters were interesting, although not much likeable. The futuristic world of this book felt shallow and underdeveloped. For me, the only highlights of this book are the premise and a certain conversation between two characters about love, happiness and grief. It went on for 3-4 pages, but it was beautifully written.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is one of Philip K. Dick's most "literary" novels, which is to say that it reads as if he took some time to edit and think about the plotline, rather than just getting cranked up on speed and hurling out the words as fast as they would come. Decades of that style of writing had already taken their toll on the paranoid genius, however, and anyone hoping for the lyric poetry of a Samuel R. Delany will be disappointed. One does not read Dick for the subtle crafting of the English language, how This is one of Philip K. Dick's most "literary" novels, which is to say that it reads as if he took some time to edit and think about the plotline, rather than just getting cranked up on speed and hurling out the words as fast as they would come. Decades of that style of writing had already taken their toll on the paranoid genius, however, and anyone hoping for the lyric poetry of a Samuel R. Delany will be disappointed. One does not read Dick for the subtle crafting of the English language, however, one reads him for a rollicking good time and insights into a world most of us are afraid to confront. This, _Flow my Tears_ provides. It begins like many Dick novels, in a paranoid police-state society teetering on the edge between anarchy and totalitarianism, with a citizen who discovers that overnight his privileges and protections are gone and that he is on the run from a near-omniscient super-State. But the action shifts mid-way, as we realize that the "hero" of the story is inconsequential to anyone except for his egotistical self. The character of real interest is the policeman pursuing him, and the relationship of the most importance is that he has with his debauched sister, who almost seems to be his alter-ego. For Dick to shift his attention from a victim of the police state to its perpetrator is a rare treat, and here Dick gives us psychological insights into authority that will tickle any anarchist's funny bone. It may surprise some, however, how sympathetic we become with the policeman as we get to know his pains, his anxieties, his secret sins. There is also a curious Taoist message about the importance of pottery, but this may be missed by all but the Illuminated.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    My third novel by Dick and I must be on a roll because they've all been really great. Jason Taverner is a TV celebrity and vocalist and he's extremely famous. He's attacked one night (which is never actually explained) and ends up in the hospital. The next morning he wakes up and he's in a rundown motel with no ID of any kind. If he gets caught at a checkpoint then it's off to a labor camp for him. Luckily he's rich and carrying ridiculous amounts of cash. He asks someone to help him My third novel by Dick and I must be on a roll because they've all been really great. Jason Taverner is a TV celebrity and vocalist and he's extremely famous. He's attacked one night (which is never actually explained) and ends up in the hospital. The next morning he wakes up and he's in a rundown motel with no ID of any kind. If he gets caught at a checkpoint then it's off to a labor camp for him. Luckily he's rich and carrying ridiculous amounts of cash. He asks someone to help him get fake IDs but this person steers him to a police informant. What follows is a nightmarish run in a world where you do not come to the attention of the authorities or you're pretty much screwed. Jason is screwed. Dick keeps you moving through a series of strange events in this strange world where Jason is a nobody, since all of his records were purged in the same event that left him an unknown non-entity. He meets a series of strange people, culminating in one of the most bizarre relationships I've read about, and then we finally find out why this happened. And boy, is it a doozy. I really do love the end on this :)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    In a time and place where the pols (US Police) and nats (national guard) carry out random ID checks to catch escaped students and send them to forced labour camps, what would happen if you woke up one day with no identity? Jason Taverner, host of a hit TV show with thirty thousand weekly viewers, find's himself in exactly this position. Not only have his ID cards disappeared, but his whole identity. One day a worldwide celebrity, the next a nobody, someone who no one has ever heard of before.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Jose

    In a highly reductionist view, this novel is Borne Identity on drugs and in reverse, with Dick’s own domestic Jason. (view spoiler)[Jason Taverner is a ‘six’, a genetically superior elite human, both in looks and skills. He is wealthy, extremely successful as a TV musical personality and well popular among ladies. Though written a bit insolent with narcissist tendencies, Taverner is a reasonably decent man, maybe as much as Bester’s Foyle. After being attackedas Bester’sdomestic .

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    It has been two months since I last finished a novel. Two months chasing images, reading about Godard and Kurosawa. This marks my entry into PKD. I see Alphaville and Dodes’ka-den as being supplemental texts. Ostensibly Flow My Tears is about celebrity and drugs. Neither is explored in a vacuum but rather as symbols of liberty in a repressive system. David mentioned that Dhalgren despite its flaws had not left his memory months after reading it. Delany’s rumination certainly bubbles in this exc It has been two months since I last finished a novel. Two months chasing images, reading about Godard and Kurosawa. This marks my entry into PKD. I see Alphaville and Dodes’ka-den as being supplemental texts. Ostensibly Flow My Tears is about celebrity and drugs. Neither is explored in a vacuum but rather as symbols of liberty in a repressive system. David mentioned that Dhalgren despite its flaws had not left his memory months after reading it. Delany’s rumination certainly bubbles in this excursion from PKD. Not sure of any interaction between Delany and Dick; I’m actually not sure I want to know. The synopsis is simple—uber famous singer/chat show host wakes in an Orwellian reality where no one knows him nor is there any record of his existence. The membranes of reality are explored and many damaged souls take the stage. The conclusion is satisfyingly bleak.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    I mostly enjoyed this queer, unsettled novel. Dick did a good job of instigating the de rigueur anxiety and paranoia early on, when his protagonist (Taverner) wakes after a near fatal assault to find that no-one knows who he is, though the night before over 20 million people had seen him on his weekly talk and variety show. As he tries to navigate a future where authorized/external identification comes to mean more than one’s own existence, he encounters a cross-section of the world (police, inf I mostly enjoyed this queer, unsettled novel. Dick did a good job of instigating the de rigueur anxiety and paranoia early on, when his protagonist (Taverner) wakes after a near fatal assault to find that no-one knows who he is, though the night before over 20 million people had seen him on his weekly talk and variety show. As he tries to navigate a future where authorized/external identification comes to mean more than one’s own existence, he encounters a cross-section of the world (police, informants, and underground radicals) he’d not dealt with from his lofty height as a well-off/insulated entertainer. The complete loss of all record of his existence is equally puzzling to him and reader, and the ultimate explanation for this is too outré to comprehend/believe: a powerful new drug enables one of the principals in this novel to shift reality and erase all evidence of Taverner’s existence except in her reality. The novel doesn’t really cohere, though there are some fascinating things along the way, glimpses into an extrapolated reality that has its basis in late 1960s news: race riots, political unrest on college campuses, FBI surveillance, even Nixon’s presidency. What’s intriguing is the depiction of dawning awareness in the police chief (Buckman) that Taverner isn’t some agent of powerful forces, but is instead an inexplicable anomaly. That this mystery ends up being connected to Buckman’s drug-addled sister, with whom he’s in an incestuous relationship, only further muddies the water. The epigraphs for each chapter are verses from 16th-century lutist John Dowland’s “Pavane Lachrimae”, a paean to melancholy endured—even nurtured—as the singer-narrator reflects on his fallen fortunes. …Which ties in with the protagonist’s situation and his nemesis’s enthusiasm for Dowland. I see correlation in Dick’s use of these lyrics with his efforts to portray his characters more fully than was his wont; it’s interesting to observe Dick having his characters speak and act out “normal” exchanges of feeling. The epilogue—offering a summary survey of the lives left to the characters in the novel—works to ground the novel in some peculiar way, making it clear that despite the oddness of Taverner’s (and the reader’s) experience, life (as defined by the premises of time, culture, and place) proceeds apace, easily reduced to more of the same old, same old.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Estelle

    Closer to a 3.5 rating. While I enjoyed this novel and thought it was really well written and at times beautiful and moving, the story didn't quite blow me away. Something was missing for me, I didn't feel that little spark of brilliance that I so often find in PKD's novel. Still a very good book!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I'm beginning to think that Philip K. Dick is to be blamed for Hollywood's typical inability to make good science fiction movies. It's clear that PKD had no idea where he was going with this story when he started it, nor did he care where he had been while going forward with it. Most of what happens in the story is irrelevant to it. A cavalcade of broken dysfunctional geniuses come and then disappear, serving as little more than eye candy and vehicles for monologues on PKD's thoughts about the m I'm beginning to think that Philip K. Dick is to be blamed for Hollywood's typical inability to make good science fiction movies. It's clear that PKD had no idea where he was going with this story when he started it, nor did he care where he had been while going forward with it. Most of what happens in the story is irrelevant to it. A cavalcade of broken dysfunctional geniuses come and then disappear, serving as little more than eye candy and vehicles for monologues on PKD's thoughts about the meaning and meaninglessness of love. There are lots of drugs, and quite obviously many more than are in the text. There is nothing quite in the way of resolution, and the explanation is lame techno-gibberish that explains nothing and doesn't survive fridge logic. It's all so perfect for Hollywood. Despite the story supposedly occurring in the 1990's, it's actually a 1990's where the 1970's never stopped - only with flying cars. Looking back, it's always easy to smile at writers from the 1960's anticipating an ever increasing pace of change in the future and all sorts of radical laws of physics breaking technology, but unable to imagine a world where you wouldn't use vinyl LP's to play music. I'm always confused by what they were seeing or experiencing or thought they were seeing or experiencing that made them think the rate of change was accelerating. But then again, we have the Kurzweilians these days to answer that question for us - they really desperately wanted it to be true because they were bored and jaded and a world that was radically different, even if bad, gave them something to hope for. I'd say the best thing about a PKD novel is that for people like me who don't use, you get to have a pretty close approximation of an acid trip without any risk of actual damage to your body or mind. And you definitely get the feeling that if you were on some chemical enhancement, all of this would feel really profound and amazing. Without that enhancement though, it all feels somewhat disappointing like the end of an X-Files episode. There are some good ideas here, but they are buried deep under a mescaline induced haze and rarely explored in the way you'd want them to be. The book is a work of genius, but sadly it is the work of a broken dysfunctional genius already at midlife too weary with life.

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