Monday, June 6, 2011

The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike by P.K. Dick

The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly AlikeThe Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike by Philip K. Dick

I follow all the Tor Books Facebook feeds and one Sunday, they posted a giveaway where if you were the first person to comment, you got three P.K. Dick novels. I was that first person and that is how I got this book.

I knew P.K. Dick primarily for his science fiction work, particularly Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and it's movie adaptation, Blade Runner. None of the three books I got were science fiction, but I knew I liked his writing, so decided they were worth a try.

The book was written in the early sixties in CA and is set in that time period in Marin County. It is bascially the story of Leo Runcible, a middle class Jew living in a typical '60's WASP neighborhood near San Francisco. Leo is a real estate agent, the "new guy" in a town full of old timers, who have lived there all their lives. He dreams of being the one to bring development to the town, and turning it into a suburban mecca for San Franciscans looking to escape the city. And turning a nice profit for himself. He is set to close a deal on a house, when it is noticed that a nieghbor of his has a Negro as a guest at his house. The ensuing discussion turns racial, losing Leo both the deal and a friendship. In a fit of retailiation, he reports the neighbor, Walt Dombrosio, for drunken driving, causing Walt to lose his driver's license. All of this sets up a sort of fued between the two, and their wives.

Walt decides to have some work done on his septic field and uses the opportunity to set up, with some other townsmen, an elaborate practical joke on Leo. They plant what looks like the remains of a Neanderthal man on Leo's property and lead Leo to discover it after picking up some Indian artifacts at the leach field diggings. Leo believes he has a real archaeological find and calls in experts from universities to verify the finds. They, of course, identify them as faked. In tracking down the source of the actual skeletons used to make the fakes, it comes to light that there is a problem with the local water supply. What started as a neighbor's fued ends up affecting a whole town.

This was an interesting book. It was well outside what I normally read, but the characterizations are quite well drawn and have depth. The setting is very much a late '50's- early '60's lifestyle, with the morals and conventions of those time periods. Women were expected to stay home and raise children, or be active in local clubs and organizations. When one of the wives gets a job, it affects her relationships with her husband and the community. The racial prejudices of the day are present, though not a main theme in the story. They do drive some of the plot, and give insight into Leo's character.

All in all, it was an interesting read. Not an easy one and you will have to think a bit while reading. For those who only know Dick for his science fiction, this early work shows a different side of the author and his talents.

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