the game players of titanPhilip K. Dick
Ace Books

Poor Pete Garden has just lost Berkeley. He’s also lost his wife, but he’ll get a new one as soon as he rolls a three. It’s all part of the rules of Bluff, the game that’s become a blinding obsession for the last inhabitants of the planet Earth. But the rules are about to change–drastically and terminally–because Pete Garden will be playing his next game against an opponent who isn’t even human, for stakes that are a lot higher than Berkeley.

Back when I was just starting to edge my way into checking out the works of Philip K. Dick, it was this and another novel that was lent to me by a fellow Sci-Fi geek to get a taste of what was probably one of the more interesting modern-age writers of the genre. Which is kind of like calling Mozart a music enthusiast, I know. Lack of a better word, and all that.

For those of you who are mainly familiar with the Philip K. Dick stories and novels that have been adapted into films of some sort, it would be understandable if you’ve never heard of The Game-Players of Titan. I know I didn’t at the time. Remember, I was kind of easing my way into reading the works of Dick, but also have friends that decided to start me with something less known to check out, rather than the usual suspects. I have awesome friends, is what I’m saying.

The Game-Players of Titan was one of four Philip K. Dick novels that were published in 1963. The story takes place on a post-war, post-apocalyptic, depopulated Earth, where the few humans that exist are made to play a game called Bluff to gamble all of their possessions–including land, family, and even social status–for the amusement of the aliens that have taken over caretaking of the Earth: amorphous silicon-based creatures from the moon Titan that kept imagining as a cross between that Horta creature from “The Devil in the Dark” episode of Star Trek and a ludicrously oversized amoeba. I don’t know why, that’s just how my brain works. Seems our future blobular overlords have an addiction to gambling, which is why they make us humans participate in the game. That, and also to help the repopulation process, as it seems that one of the war tactics from Red China was to sterilize a bunch of people. The future sucks, let me tell you.

As this was my actual first introduction to reading anything by Philip K. Dick, I have to tell you: this made my head swim a bit. I wasn’t yet acclimated to the standard themes that Dick wrote about, where the stories seem to be more like thinly veiled philosophical discourses on existential paranoia, with the sci-fi portion being incidental. It happens. Also, 2012 was the year where I pretty much suffered from near-pneumonia and was sickish for the majority of the time. Medicated is not the way to go into reading Philip K. Dick. Just trust me. Otherwise, interesting story, worth looking into for something completely different than your standard sci-fi fare.