Book Review: Now Wait for Last Year

15_br_nowwaitforlastyearRead for: It was mentioned in a James Tiptree Jr. biography as the book that motivated Alice Sheldon (as her pen name JTJ) to contact Dick.
Rating: 4/5
Whaaaat why I am so late to the PKD game? I’ve read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Man in the High Castle, but neither made the impact on me that Now Wait for Last Year did. I picked up this particular title (he has quite a few to choose from) because, as noted in her biography written by Julie Phillips, Alice Sheldon read it in a night and was so moved that she sent a piece of fan mail to PKD under her alter-ego James Tiptree Jr., which began a pen-pal type relationship between the two authors. I’m a big fan of Alice Sheldon, so I thought I would give this book a spin. And whoosh! Loved it. Dr. Eric Sweetscent is an artificial organ transplant surgeon in the year 2055 who leaves his wife and moves away from home to take on a new patient; U.N. Secretary General Gino Molinari, who is perhaps an even bigger hypochondriac than me. While treating his repeatedly psychosomatically ill patient, his wife Kathy becomes addicted to a secret new drug, JJ-180, that enables the user to travel through time but then, without a cure, is essentially a death sentence. In an effort to manipulate her estranged husband and secure the as-yet-unknown cure for herself, she travels to his new location to vindictively addict him to the same drug. I enjoyed the development of all the characters, though PKD’s quite obviously got some misogynistic tendencies that I’m struggling to overlook. His portrayal of Kathy left nothing for the reader to like; she had literally no redeeming qualities and acted like a total beast throughout the whole story. I’ve read that PKD went through a number of bitter divorce battles, and I can’t help but feel his experience was reflected in his characterization of Kathy. I also thought Phyllis was similarly unpleasant during her brief appearance. PKD’s habit of writing unlikeable female characters will probably prevent me from ever becoming a huge fan of his. Regardless of my beef surrounding his portrayal of women characters, I did enjoy this book immensely. Near the end Eric makes a statement about the ease of committing suicide in the future via over the counter pharmaceuticals, and wonders if mankind will eventually invent a streetside booth for the ultimate convenience in suicide, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the inspiration for the Suicide Booths depicted in my favourite sci-fi cartoon Futurama. Reading the books that inspired others is always a neat experience.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Now Wait for Last Year

  1. If I had to compare one to the other I liked this one better, but Electric Sheep is obviously better known because of Bladerunner – even though the movie is very different from the book. I think that’s maybe why I didn’t like it as much, I was expecting it to be like the movie, but the movie made a lot of changes from the original writing. In no way am I super familiar with PKD though (my ex had ALL his books and could talk about him for ages) I only recently started reading his stuff and it’s pretty great, but so far I’ve experienced a lot of the pitfalls of male sci-fi writing that I’ve tried to avoid to this point (ie blatant misogyny).

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