Now Wait For Last Year is as elaborate and complex of a novel that you will find by Philip K. Dick and that really is saying a lot! This complexity and attention to detail makes it a great book and highly typical of Dick’s own SF style (to the extent that any of Dick’s work could be called typical). Set in the context of shifting loyalties, political intrigue and hallucinogenic drug experiences, at its heart Now Wait For Last Year is a story that deals with the psychological elements of human relationships and the consequences of human action (or inaction).
The story takes place in the year 2055. Dr. Eric Sweetscent is the country’s leading organ transplant surgeon and he works for the Tijuana Fur and Dye Corporation, sustaining his boss Virgil Ackerman’s life by replacing his failing organs. This technique enables people to live hundreds of years past normal human life expectancy.
Sweetscent and his troubled wife Kathy find themselves involved in the highest levels of politics when Eric is assigned to be the doctor for Gino Molinari, the leader of the Terrans. Molinari, a character based on Mussolini is a complex, manipulative and somehow enduring leader. His ability to survive repeated illnesses without transplants confounds Sweetscent and the other physicians. Molinari’s responsibilities are huge since Earth is at war with two alien races, the Lillistar Starmen (who are very similar to humans) and the bug-like Reegs. Molinari must forge partnerships and determine which side is the true enemy.
Meanwhile Sweetscent’s wife Kathy has experimented with a psychedelic drug which induces time-travel called JJ-180. Since only one exposure to JJ-180 is completely addictive, both Kathy and Erik work together to find the antidote even if it means moving through time into alternate realities.
Now Wait For Last Year is a mind-fuck of a book. It is one conspiracy on top of another and a mixed bag of loyalties and intentions. It is more of a psychological thriller than a science fiction story. While the future and space-travel are important elements, Dick chooses to focus on the emotional traumas of the main characters; Eric and Kathy in an unhappy marriage and Gino Milonari with his incomprehensible political strategies.
This novel is recommended to readers who want to experience the bizarre intricacies of Dick’s fiction in their fullest capacity. However, it is not as focused as some of Dick’s best-known fiction such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or Ubik. The unrelentless plot twists may frustrate some readers but this novel incorporates many stylistic elements which are hallmarks of Philip K. Dick’s fiction. The reader never stands on steady ground in Now Wait For Last Year.