Eyes in the Snow – Thomas Örn Karlsson

Gaze into the Abyme: Navigating the Unnarrated in Ubik

Ciarán Kavanagh

University College Cork

Abstract | Due to the potentially endless convolutions of an unstable pseudoreality, the plot of Philip K. Dick’s 1969 novel Ubik has traditionally been read as irresolvable. Critical focus has, therefore, been centred on Ubik’s resistance to “bourgeois” modes of reading, casting the mise en abyme conjured by its ontological play as essentially unnavigable. While vast parts of Ubik’s world are indeed unnarrated or unreliably narrated, thereby terminally complicating any attempt to completely resolve the plot, this study argues that we are by no means completely lost in the novel’s paradoxes. Situating this hypodiegesis against others in Dick’s oeuvre, this article first seeks to correct a certain myopia in relation to Ubik’s plot, a correction which will allow a more nuanced consideration of the nature of the half-lifewhich its deceased characters inhabit. Intertwined with this reading is a consideration of Ubik’s critical heritage, and the reasons why other critics may have missed potentially vital clues as to the half-life’s true nature.

Keywords | Philip K. Dick; Science Fiction; Ubik; postmodernism; criticism.