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Confessions of a Crap Artist by Philip K. Dick

Confessions of a Crap Artist by Philip K. Dick: Jack Isidore is a “crap artist” who collects crackpot theories and lives his life as though a scientific observer instead of an active player. Fay and Charley (Jack’s sister and brother-in-law) decide he is not capable of supporting himself in normal society, so take him in to live with them in their giant house in the country. Fay and Charley have problems of their own. While no single character in genuinely sympathetic, Jack’s naive observations of dramatic events entertained me in a way similar to Star Trek’s Data and his confusion when humans react differently than he expects.

It’s an initially confusing book, and takes a little while to get into its groove. It swaps point of view nearly every chapter, alternating between first-person Jack, first-person Fay, third-person Charley, or third-person Nat Anteil (their neighbor). (The fact that the back of the book incorrectly refers to Charley and Fay as Charlie and Judy didn’t help matters either.) Once you pick up on this it’s fairly easy to distinguish narrators and becomes an interesting study in different people’s opinions on the same events, and the effect these differences have on the outcome. You can see the tragedy coming a mile away but still can’t believe it when it actually happens, which is a feeling I hadn’t encountered in a book for a long time. The ending was somewhat abrupt but generally satisfying.

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