(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Martian Time-Slip is vintage Philip K. Dick, published only two years after his Hugo Award-winning The Man in the High Castle (1962). One of the wildest imaginations of the twentieth century explodes into full flower here, with no sign of the occasional loss of control that sometimes subverted its full effects. The thread of the plot unwinds intricately through the lives of more than a dozen characters. Their hopes, dreams, torments, and insanities are always well ordered against the backdrop of the basic conflict over land development.

As usual, the characters in this Dick novel are ordinary folks who attain noble stature in their struggles with extraordinary circumstances. Even the antagonist, Kott, earns some sympathy in his ability to accept the terms of life on Mars and his unabashed dedication to making the best of things. The amoral contagion of his energy sweeps the other characters, the plot, and the reader through the story from start to finish. The inner struggles and strength of Bohlen, the protagonist, contrast effectively with Kott. Jack’s profoundly human sensibility is emphasized at the end of the book, when he actually mourns Kott’s death.

The minor characters are drawn with a fine distinction. Kott’s estranged wife, Anne Esterhazy, is seen through his eyes as a stereotypical idealist until she pulls a Machiavellian political coup against Dr. Glaub. Later, it seems appropriate that Anne and the...

(The entire section is 459 words.)