This is the first novel to ever win the Hugo Award, and if you’ve read The Stars My Destination, you won’t be surprised to find out that this book is kind of insane, amazingly inventive, kind of hard to read and follow, and seemingly way ahead of its time. It’s possible that this book won the Hugo because it’s ahead of its time or the publication of this novel and its winning the Hugo sort of ushered in a new time. But this belies the fact that the novel feels more “modern” than plenty of science fiction novels yet to come. It also feels entirely responsible for the career of Philip K Dick, Robert Sheckley, and others, and in the same way Velvet Underground gave birth to so many other bands, this original novel seems to both create a kind of mini-genre and perfect it in a way.
And in addition to all this, I didn’t actually particularly enjoy reading it.
So this book is a kind of unhinged, psychotic and psychotropic heist novel. In the time of precognitive crime fighting, a man decides he really wants to murder his business rival….a kind of generalized crime syndicate who thinks he’s been spurned in his attempt to merge with a rival. And now the rival must die. But there’s telepathy and precognition, so premeditated murder is very difficult.
So Reich, our protagonist, invents an elaborate scheme to bypass all the various checks and securities that this world has to protect from crime. And yet as straightforward as this maybe seems, it’s infinitely more bizarre than this.