Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405
Dr. Bloodmoney was one of four novels Dick completed in 1963 and one of twelve completed be-tween 1962 and 1964, a period of prodigious output. He was, at this time, writing some of his finest science fiction. He recently had won the Hugo Award in 1963 for best science-fiction novel of the year for his alternate history story, The Man in the High Castle (1962), the book for which he is perhaps best known.
The post-nuclear holocaust novel had emerged clearly as an important subgenre of science fiction by the time Dick’s novel was published by Ace Books in 1965. The title itself is the result of a marketing ploy by Ace, a not very subtle allusion to Stanley Kubrick’s highly successful 1964 film about nuclear war, Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Dick’s original title for the novel was In Earth’s Diurnal Course, but the novel does have a character named Dr. Bluthgeld, translatable as “Bloodmoney.”
The late 1950’s and early 1960’s had seen many fine post-holocaust novels published, among the most notable of which are Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957), Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959), Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959), Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s classic A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960), and Robert A. Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold (1964). Dr. Bloodmoney shares at least a superficial similarity with Frank’s Alas, Babylon. Both feature small, idyllic, agrarian communities that emerge after the holocaust. Such communities would seem to be possible only after the technocratic, industrial world is purged by a massive nuclear war. In contrast to Frank’s post-holocaust world, however, Dick strenuously avoided plotting his book as an adventure story, using instead his unusual multifocused approach, weaving explorations of his many characters’ complex psychologies and personal relationships into a story that details the re-formation of civil society in small, decentralized communities.
Dick himself believed Dr. Bloodmoney to be a unique novel precisely because of the way in which he imagined the post-holocaust world: Horses are used to pull automobiles, for example, and as a result of radiation, rodents have mutated into highly intelligent creatures capable of disabling the traps humans set for them. Critical regard for the novel generally is very positive, as it is seen as one of Dick’s most accessible books and also one of his most provocative ones. Much of Dick’s fiction is decidedly pessimistic. This novel, ironically, emerges as strangely optimistic in outlook.
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