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Now Wait for Last Year: more PKD

wait7 “Has using that time-travel drug scrambled your wits, you don’t know you’ve got only one tiny life and that lies ahead of you, not sideways or back? Are you waiting for last year to come by again or something?”

“In a town where everything is legal, he thought, and nothing achieves worth, you are wrenched back into childhood. Placed among your blocks and toys, with all your universe within grasp. The price for license is high; it consists of a forfeit of adulthood. And yet he loved it. The noise and stirrings represented authentic life… this irritable ceaseless motion had once carried life right out of the sea and onto land.”

These are the payoff of this novel.

Plot summary.

Take risks. Don’t get caught up in what might have been.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just presenting another manifestation.

Dr. Sweetscent can quite literally only move forward. Despite his best efforts. The drug referred to lets a user move one way in time, specific for each user, for as long as the drug lasts. Sweetscent is brought forward. Others are brought back in time, or sideways to other realities at the same time.

He runs into future selves repeatedly. He and his future selves consistently dislike each other. They swear that he’ll never change.

He starts to think that hey, maybe he should learn to like himself.

Maybe that means giving up some of his comfort.

His career rests on keeping others alive, at their constant call. His step up into his career was through his wife. He is not, strictly speaking, complacent, but hasn’t moved forward since then. Until his chance to leave his wife and work for a new employer. One that means political risk. His current charge is the U.N. Secretary; effectively a ruler of Earth. Who happens to be chronically fatally ill but each time manages to survive for yet another disease.

His employer dies. He replaces himself. He moves sideways; his many selves have that much drive to push forward, that they keep replacing themselves. We’re never entirely sure which is the original.

This can only go on for so long. All of his potential selves will eventually die.

But maybe they can last long enough to see them out of the war.

At every step, Sweetscent is dragged forward. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to move forward, but that he is rarely given the chance. Until the events of the novel, of course.

His wife is brain damaged, and as a result, emotionally abusive. She helped give him his job, but sees him as weak as a result. She drags at him. (I swear she’s more sympathetic than this sounds.)

Here’s a hint: she’s just as trapped, between her needs and her assumption of expectations placed on her as a woman.

She’s tragic, really. She doesn’t make it out. She has already damaged herself too much.

And so he runs from her repeatedly. But in all realities, even with a divorce, he continues to see to her care. Some things can never be left behind. They must instead be embraced head on.

You have to know where you are, and accept where you came from, to move forward.

His first employer has a recreation of Washington D.C., in the year 1935, the city of his childhood. Built on Mars. But he is a major entrepreneur, with enough drive to keep himself alive well over 150 years. His use of the past is in balance.

When you retreat into the comfort of the familiar, you are retreating into the past, and so lose out on the present.

So stop waiting, damn it, and move.

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