One day, my wife decided to explore her way down to the Escondido Public Library. She found a wealth of books and a relatively awesome selection. I followed her back and immediately did what I had the habit of doing anytime I visited a library: search their catalog for books by Philip K. Dick.
What I discovered was a relatively large selection of PKD’s work. I promptly checked out an armful of them.
Hithterto, I have primarily fed myself with PKD’s short fiction stories, having amassed just about the entirety of his work in the medium. I’ve read about a zillion of them. Of his novels, I have only read four:
- The Man In The High Castle (1962)
- Our Friends From Frolix 8 (1970)
- A Scanner Darkly (1977)
and now, Galactic Pot Healer (1969)
I’ll spare any of the major plot details and simply say this: Galactic Pot Healer is a glorious mess of competing themes.
Joe Fernwright is a pot healer. He possesses the long-forgotten skills to practicing the art of ceramics repair. Nothing is made from pottery anymore, as everything is composed of plastic. The entire Earth is subject to one, vast mélange of a government that is basically a socialist police state.
“Our government is the ultimate version of socialism, everyone is aced out in the end.” ~ Joe Fernwright
When reading a book- particularly a science fiction book- one has to mentally engage that mechanism of imagination, in order to fully inhabit the world of the book. In the case of Galactic Pot Healer, one has to quite literally take the boundaries of the imagination and shatter them against the wall. The pure quantity of literary, theological, and philosophical information being tossed about would be enough to glaze the eyes of most laymen.
Joe receives a job offer to go heal some pots from a mysterious, off-world, possibly even divine, source. He struggles with whether or not to accept the offer and leave Earth for some distant planet in order to participate in the undertaking. Obviously, he must go. He meets a pretty girl. Various supranatural events occur.
In my view, the basic story was primarily about a man trying to find his place in the universe, and to discover whether or not the work he performed actually mattered. Dick casts overtones of immeasurable significance are over Joe’s potential undertaking, yet the ultimate purpose of the work (ostensibly, to reverse entropy and challenge a manifestation of the concept of deterministic ‘fate’) is ultimately left to the side of the narrative.
The book’s conclusion would seem to throw into doubt the ‘good-ness’ of creation as spawned from the efforts of any being lacking perfection. Even the divine elements of the story exhibit qualities of indecision, volatility, desire, rage and selfishness.
Joe Fernwright, pot healer, individual, and an essential component of a greater plan, is faced with a choice that pits his individual will against the will of many. His struggle to produce meaningful work may end in triumph, or it may end in tears. Can any being aside from God create, then rest, and look upon that creation and call it “good”?
Next up is Radio Free Albemuth (published posthumously in 1985)