In 2203 anyone can become the ruler of the solar system. There are no elections, no interviews, no prerequisites whatsoever - it all comes down to the random turns of a giant wheel. But when a new Quizmaster takes over, the old one still keeps some rights, namely the right to hire an unending stream of assassins to attempt to kill the new leader. In the wake of the most recent change in leadership, employees of the former ruler scurry to find an assassin who can get past telepathic guards. But when one employee switches sides, troubling facts about the lottery system come to light, and it just might not be possible for anyone to win.
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"I'm a sick man. And the more I see, the sicker I get. I'm so sick I think everybody else is sick and I'm the only healthy person. That's pretty bad off, isn't it?” ― Philip K. Dick, Solar Lottery
I figured Super Tuesday was an appropriate time to listen to PKD's first novel about lottery elections, random assassins, autocratic leaders, corruption, serfs, mad women, social control, telepathic security, idealism, cults, and the search for our galaxy's 10th planet.
It is hard to believe this was Dick's first novel. It seems so grown up; not quite ripe, but close enough to still be edible and enjoyable. It combines Dick's early space novels with his later, funky techno-politico-religious cynicism.
01 function minimax(node, depth, maximizingPlayer) 02 if depth = 0 or node is a terminal node 03 return the heuristic value of node
04 if maximizingPlayer 05 bestValue := −∞ 06 for each child of node 07 v := minimax(child, depth − 1, FALSE) 08 bestValue := max(bestValue, v) 09 return bestValue
10 else (* minimizing player *) 11 bestValue := +∞ 12 for each child of node 13 v := minimax(child, depth − 1, TRUE) 14 bestValue := min(bestValue, v) 15 return bestValue
Probably my favorite bit of this whole novel was Dick's bending of the idea of Minimax, a form of Nash Equilibrium and game theory. The election of a leader by random is offset by the almost simultaneous election of an assassin. In Dick's Zero-sum future, the random probability of a stupid leader is offset and minimized by the election of an average (or better than average) assassin. Thus, dumb leaders die quickly, good leaders last longer.
The climax of this novel involves both the epitome of game theory and the inevitable corruption. This might have been just a three-star novel, but for someone who loves economics, game theory, and good SF, this one needed/demanded a one-star upgrade.
some PKD seems a little slap dash and for me this is one. there are several good ideas but i didn't feel they were coherently worked out and i was left feeling like there were 2 or 3 short stories jammed together and not completed satisfactorily. And the overall structure of the future society needed fleshing out for me, bits and pieces floated about, and in the end i had no clear vision of it, which tends to negate the plot line as such. there are several nice moments, but still can't recommend it when you can get Policeman, Androids, Valis and Scanner as well as High Castle instead. Still I will continue on with PKD.