The first 106 pages of Ubik
There was once a theory put forward by cultural theorist Skadoj Capper [1871-1812], that all you needed to read of a book was the first 106 pages. What happened on page 107 was unimportant. All the other pages, including the ending, were unimportant. Most disagreed, but Capper was adamant. The only thing that annoyed him was a book less than 106 pages long. Like Automatic Assassin. Or The Brothers Karamazov. These books he would not read.
Ubik [106 pages]
1] Joe Chip is introduced in the third chapter. Why? Is he not the main character? Yes, but the world must be established first.
World > characters
2] The old Fitzgerald trick is used in Chapter Two – instead of following Runciter from the end of Chapter One into the beginning of Chapter Two, we are put into the headspace of the moratorium owner, who thinks about irrelevant things for two pages before Runciter comes into his world. Then we switch back to Runciter. Why?
– it establishes a world separate from the main characters’ world
– it gives Runciter a chance to take a break from the narrative
– it suggests time follows its own track, not the characters
– the moratorium owner has no reason to exist as an ‘investigated individual’ in the narration so, following the theme of the text, he must exist in that exact way.
3] Pat Conley’s power is confusing. It sets her up as the God of the story as she can alter anything that happens in the past. In fact, part of the story is the result of one of her alterations. Is the rest of it also her doing? It doesn’t matter. Whatever she does after page 106 is irrelevant.
4] Joe Chip has no money and no power. Not even enough to enter or exit his apartment – he must pay his door to open and close. It seems that this means something, crypto-thematically. But what? Control? Bad technology?
5] Runciter dies on Luna, killed by his enemy Ray Hollis. By page 106 he is trapped as a voice on the hotel room phone of Joe Chip. This means he is eternal and Chip can never replace him.
Death > Joe Chip
6] Wendy Wright is dead. Following Capperist theory, this suggests the good die young and are given only enough time to establish one character trait. Wendy was pretty and compassionate. She wanted to fuck Joe Chip. Joe Chip is a mess. It makes no sense, meaning Joe Chip is writing the text.
7] Joe Chip is a shambles, yet survives. He is writing the text.
Text > Joe Chip > text
9] It’s not paranoia if you’re a character in the first 106 pages of Ubik.
10] If you read Ubik a second time it is not the same as the first. And the third is not the same as the second. The text changes. Always.
Ubik > reader