Solar Lottery

Solar Lottery

infobox Book |
name = Solar Lottery
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
author = Philip K. Dick
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Ace Books
release_date = May 1955
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 188 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Solar Lottery" is a 1955 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. This was Dick's first published novel and contains many of the themes present in his later work.

Plot summary

"Solar Lottery" takes place in a world dominated by logic and numbers. Loosely based on a numerical military strategy employed by U.S. and Soviet intelligence called minimax (part of game theory), the head of world government is chosen through a sophisticated lottery. In theory, each person is supposed to have an equal chance of becoming the Quizmaster, the head of the lottery system and the most powerful person in the world. This element of randomization in the society serves as a form of social control since each person is stripped of their individuality.

Meanwhile, the world is entertained by a savage game in which an assassin attempts to murder the Quizmaster. By countering and putting down these threats to his life (using telepathic bodyguards as defense), the leader gains the respect of the people. If he loses his life a new Quizmaster is randomly selected.

Against this disturbing futuristic setting, the plot of Solar Lottery is played out. It follows the story of Ted Bentley, an idealistic young worker unhappy with his position in life. Bentley attempts to get a job in the prestigious office of Quizmaster Reese Verrick. Unbeknownst to Ted, Verrick is leaving office and he gets tricked into accepting a job with the departing organization. Verrick then makes it clear that his organization's mission is to assassinate the new Quizmaster, Leon Cartwright, in the world's most anticipated "competition".

In order to break the telepathic web protecting Cartwright, Verrick and his team invent an android named Keith Pellig into which different people (and minds) alternate controlling the actions remotely. An action sequence centered on Pellig's assassination attempt proves to be the novel's most exciting and clever element. Cartwright ultimately kills Verrick, and Bentley becomes the next Quizmaster.

A second plotline concerns a team of Leon Cartwright's followers travelling to the far reaches of the solar system in search of a mysterious cult figure named John Preston, who is believed to still be alive on the (unseen) tenth planet, known as "The Flame Disc". This sub-plot, however, seems to have only a marginal connection with the main story.

Publishing History

Dick originally completed the manuscript of "Solar Lottery" in March 1954; in December he completed a second draft at the request of Ace Books Editor Donald Wollheim, cutting six passages totalling as much as ten thousand words and adding perhaps seven thousand. In the meantime, however, the book was sold to a publisher in the UK, where it appeared as "World of Chance"; this version of the novel includes the cut passages. However, the entire text of this version was severely copy-edited, with wholesale eliminations of adjectives. See "What the Quizmaster Took: "Solar Lottery" and "World of Chance": A Comparison," by Gregg Rickman, in "The Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter", issues 19-22.

When "Solar Lottery" was first published as a novel by Ace Books as one half of Ace Double D-103 in May 1955, it was bound dos-à-dos with "The Big Jump" by Leigh Brackett.

External links

* [ The Solar Lottery reference page] - An extensive collection of covers, publishing info, writing history, and other related items of interest.
* [ Solar Lottery cover gallery]

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