Is Philip K. Dick a staple in your science fiction library? Maybe you enjoyed The Man in the High Castle or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Well, welcome to something a little more weird. Enter: Counter Clock World.
Counter Clock World
Counter Clock World takes place in a future where an event has made time move in reverse. The dead become old-born, and mortuary services dig up the newly risen. The old grow young and the young regress until they rejoin the womb of a volunteer. Libraries destroy information instead of curate it. Cigarettes start as butts and grow as they’re smoked. As for eating? Well, it gets a little gross.
The main thread of the story involves a former religious leader who gained popularity especially after his death. He is revived by the owner of a mortuary, which leads to a series of escalating events, each more dangerous than the last.
Sound interesting? Well, the premise is indeed fascinating. The execution, however, was less than perfect.
To start, the premise wasn’t explained well in the first few chapters, which made it difficult to get into. This was conflated by the fact that too many characters were introduced in the first three chapters with few distinguishing characteristics. It wasn’t until midway through the novel that the main players were truly hashed out. Even then, it wasn’t clear where Dick was going with the premise.
Ambiguity can be perfectly okay in fiction, but the way it was gone about in Counter Clock World was too vague, which hindered the story. Instead of worrying about what was happening to the characters and the main plot threads I was worried about the mechanics of time-reversal and why some things happened in reverse and others didn’t. Dick seemed to go out of his way to throw in time-reversal spice, but carelessly left out some of the more obvious opportunities. It almost felt like he had a great idea but wrote himself into a corner.
Free is good
They can’t all be winners. Still, Counter Clock World is a quick read and, as of this writing, is free through Amazon Prime. The ideas presented themselves are interesting and fun to think about. However, they might have made a better short story or fun conversation among friends rather than a novel.
If you’re just getting started with Philip K. Dick, I can think of several better novels to start with. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below:
If you’d like a sci-fi/fantasy detour from Philip K. Dick, I recommend one of the following books:
Read my review of Foundation here.