The Man Who Japed

The Man Who Japed

infobox Book |
name = The Man Who Japed
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 = 1956
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 160 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Man Who Japed" is a science fiction novel written by Philip K. Dick, first published in 1956. Although one of Dick's lesser-known novels, it features several of the ideas and themes that recur throughout his later works. The term "japed" is an archaic term that refers to parody or satire, and is first used in reference to a statue's decapitation within this book.

"The Man Who Japed" was first published by Ace Books as one half of Ace Double D-193, bound dos-à-dos with "The Space Born" by E. C. Tubb.

Plot introduction

"The Man Who Japed" is set in the year 2114. After a devastating twentieth century limited nuclear war, a South African ("Afrikaans Empire) military survivor named General Streiter launched a global revolution in 1985 that ushered in a totalitarian government. As one sign of the carnage, Allen Purcell visits Japan's northern island, Hokkaidō, which is still a desolate wasteland that has not recovered from nuclear bombardment in 1972, the last year of the global war referred to within this book.

This regime - Moral Reclamation ("Morec")- rules a post-apocalyptic world under its strict ideology. Streiter's descendant, Ida Pease Hoyt, is in charge of the regime. Morec has created a conservative and puritanical future society, that is strict, oppressive and judgemental of its fellow citizens. For example, extra-marital sex, public drunkenness and neon signs are all under prohibition, although a thriving black market exists, where one can purchase the Decameron, James Joyce's "Ulysses", chablis wine, and pulp fiction detective novels from the twentieth century, albeit at vastly inflated prices.

However, humans have colonised several alien planetary systems. There are human colonies on Belletrix (Gamma Orionis), Sirius 8 and 9, and "Orionus." On these worlds, intensive labour is required to provide agricultural and industrial products for survival.

Themes & predictions

*Although originally written in 1957, Morec's ideology incorporates elements like bloc meeting "self-criticism" sections in which one's living partners subject their fellow inhabitants to scrutiny on the basis of ideological compliance (or political correctness, as some might call it today.) In many ways, these scenes prefigure those that actually occurred during China's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, although similar practices had occurred there before the novel was written.
*There is a "Pure Food and Drug League" that seems to prefigure the healthy food movement found amongst some environmentalist activists today.
*There is no reference to population control issues. However, this may be inferred from the accommodation situation of the main character, Allen Purcell, and his wife, Janet. They live in a single-room apartment within the Morgentlock Building that changes its appearance according to the time of day. Hence, at seven in the morning his "bedroom" changes into a kitchen; at night it will change back to a bedroom. This suggests living space is at a premium, perhaps due to restrictions on birth control within Morec.

Humour and subversion

"The Man Who Japed" is notable as being perhaps the first book in which Dick has used humour to great effect. This gives the book an irreverent tone in contrast to the dark themes prominent within the storyline. We learn, for instance, that the highly moral people of 2114 consider "damn" and "hell" to be bad swear words, and hereafter the writer censors them so that they become "d__m", and "h__l".

Humour is also a key theme in the book. Allen Purcell is found to have a sense of humour, thereby making him one of the rarest individuals in 2114's strict, humourless society. In discovering that he has such a gift, Purcell discovers that humour could help him in changing the face of society for the better.

At the conclusion of the book, Purcell engineers a public discussion on "active assimilation" that Morec fails to censor in time. "Active assimilation" is a reference to the early post-apocalyptic environment, where the loss of cattle, wheat and dairy products created a situation where Major Streiter and his revolutionaries (allegedly?) condoned cannibalism. This is reminiscent of a similar suggestion from eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swift related to the consumption of "surplus" Irish infants as food- ("A Modest Proposal", 1729).

Other works

"Morec" appears to be the antithesis of the socially libertarian despotism of "Relativism" with Dick's contemporary novel, The World Jones Made (1956).

External links

* [ Digressions on "The Man Who Japed"] , by Frank C. Bertrand.
* [ A Summary of "The Man Who Japed"] , at the official Philip K. Dick website.
* [ "The Man Who Japed" cover art gallery]

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