Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Now Wait For Last Year
Philip K. Dick
Victor Gollancz Millennium, 225 pages

Now Wait For Last Year
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928. While attending UC at Berkeley, he dropped out rather than take ROTC training. He went on to write some 36 novels and 5 short story collections. He won the 1962 Hugo for The Man in the High Castle and the 1974 John W. Campbell Award for Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. He died of heart failure caused by a stroke in 1982.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dr. Bloodmoney
SF Site Review: Beyond Lies the Wub and The Father-Thing
SF Site Review: Second Variety
SF Site Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Martian Time-Slip and A Scanner Darkly
SF Site Reading List: Philip K. Dick

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Berlyne

I read somewhere that Philip K. Dick wrote Now Wait For Last Year in something of a hurry. I guess this could be apocryphal, given the myths and hearsay that surround this author, but there is no doubt that this novel is pure vintage Dick -- stuffed as it is with all the multi-layered realities and paranoiac twists that were the trademarks of this giant of the genre.

Orion/Millennium have chosen to reissue Now Wait For Last Year as part of their SF Masterworks series -- a hugely impressive list of titles, many long overdue for re-release. Other PKD novels have appeared earlier in the series and truth to tell, if you are new to the works of this very particular author you might be better off starting with one of the others before tackling this one. A purely subjective judgement this, but I certainly found Martian Time-Slip, for example, to be an easier and more accessible read. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the fact that Now Wait For Last Year has a large cast of richly drawn characters (some of which seems sadly under-used) and a plot that flips ands twists like a snared snake.

Set in a fairly standard space war near-future, our protagonist, Dr Eric Sweetscent, an artiforg surgeon, is employed by Virgil Ackerman, an elderly tycoon he keeps alive by replacing various essential organs as they give out. Ackerman is a wealthy eccentric with powerful connections and he invites Sweetscent and his other senior staff along with him to Mars to visit Wash-35, a reproduction of the nation's capital as remembered from Ackerman's childhood. Sweetscent's bitter and rather unpleasant wife is also in Ackerman's employ as an antiques collector always on the look-out for authentic items that will decorate the rich man's folly.

This trip, though, is not all it seems. Ackerman has invited Sweetscent along in order to introduce him to another guest, one in need of his particular medical expertise. This turns out to be none other than Gino Molinari (a.k.a. "The Mole") the "supreme elected leader of Terra's unified planetary culture." The Mole is orchestrating Terra's involvement in an intergalactic war -- one fought between the Reegs, an insect race, and the 'Starmen, a closely-related but rather sinister humanoid race clearly out to exploit Terran resources. The situation is tense and the Mole's health is suffering.

Sweetscent's wife, Kathy, having not been invited along on the trip, spends her time rebelling against her unhappy marriage by experimenting with whatever drugs she can lay her hands on. She finds herself handed a tab of JJ-180, something new on the market and she gulps it down not even caring what it might do to her. Big mistake!  JJ-180 is far from recreational. Instead it has been designed by the 'Starmen as a tool of warfare. One capsule is enough to make the recipient hopelessly addicted and the next dose causes irrevocable damage. Added to this is a side-effect that causes the subject to move through time, backwards, forwards and even, depending on the individual, sideways!

Meanwhile, Sweetscent becomes the Mole's physician but discovers that his patient suffers a psychosomatic mirroring of any illness or condition currently being suffered by anyone near him. The Mole's symptoms are no less real it seems, but how is it that this ailing politician is still seen on TV, as robust and vital as ever, giving rousing speeches? Is that the Mole or some robant simalcrum? With war matters pressing on Terra, the Mole proves to be a master political strategist and Sweetscent and the drug JJ-180 join him as imperative parts of Dick's jigsaw plot.

As the story comes together, PKD constantly wrong-foots the reader, deftly transmitting the worries and paranoiac feelings of the characters (and undoubtedly the author himself). It is hard to know who to trust in this novel -- or who to like for that matter. All the characters seem flawed to the point of unpleasantness. The artistry in the writing, though, shines through with Dick's deft handling of the effect of the time-travelling drug. Characters meet themselves in the future or the past, interact, give advice and in one extraordinary moment Sweetscent contemplates the effect his suicide might have on the various futures he has already witnessed.

Many of Dick's favourite themes are explored in Now Wait For Last Year. His suspicions about political machinations are treated with a cynical and witty and very science fictional slant. He toys with the various drug-induced alternate realities and takes a swipe at dysfunctional marriages (both of which he allegedly had some experience with) and all the time he keeps us looking over our shoulders and doubting the truth as much as the characters themselves do. This is heady, hard-core stuff, alienating and often disconcerting. But at the same time Now Wait For Last Year is a classic example of Dick's unique world (or rather universe) view and it thoroughly deserves this reissue.

Copyright © 2001 John Berlyne

John Berlyne is a book junkie with a serious habit. He is the long time UK editor of and is widely acknowledged to be the leading expert on the works of Tim Powers. John's extensive Powers Bibliography "Secret Histories" will be published in April 2009 by PS Publishing. When not consuming genre fiction, John owns and runs North Star Delicatessen, a gourmet food outlet in Chorlton, Manchester.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide