It’s a book that stretches beyond it’s capacity and tries to incorporate many disparate storylines into a cohesive plot structure. The Simulacra investigates some thought-bending concepts involving a cynical future but fails to demonstrate it’s points effectively.
In the futuristic America Dick creates in. The Simulacra, the population is divided into two groups. TheBe’s are the masses who live their dull existences with blind acceptance and are brainwashed by a condescending government. The Ge’s are the elite who control the population through a matriarchal “puppet” government. The power structure of the country rests on the popularity (and deep love for) Nicole Thibodeaux, the first-lady who has remained in power for more than 40 years.
The story follow a diverse group of characters whose adventures are seemingly unrelated except that they inhabit the same world. Nat Flieger is a record company executive who travels to northern California to record the greatest living musician, telepathic pianist Richard Kongrosian. The problem is Kongrosian is too much of a genius and reflects his low self-confidence and mental illness on his view of the world. Three characters, brothers Vince & Chic Strikerock and Ian Duncan are trying to get ahead in the world but can’t seem to get a break. In a subplot that could only have been dreamed up by PKD, Hermann Goering is brought from the Nazi Germany of the past by first-lady Nicole (as she’ affectionately known) in an attempt to influence the outcome of WWII. This is one of the more intriguing parts of The Simulacra but unfortunately is not well developed in the story.
There’s also a popular leader named Bertold Goltz who is able to see beyond the government’s facade and also the limitations of time due to his possession of time travel equipment. When the government facade collapses and the strict societal boundaries are broken down, the lives of all the characters are affected. They all face difficult decisions involving planetary emigration, loyalty to each other and even establishing contact with reality.
There are some radical notion of the world and the future presented in The Simulacra. Dick’s portrayal of a matriarchal society draws from the deepest and most basic human emotions. Kongrosian’s use of telepathy is the basis for the highest degree of creativity and artistic ability. Dick also addresses the role and need for government in people’s lives. He suggests that underneath the surface, society creates a population that needs to be ignorant and apathetic in order to preserve it’s own structure.
Take your chances with the The Simulacra. It may be inconsistent and difficult to get into but it does follow a twisted logic and is drawn from Dick’s incomparable source of ideas.