Review by C.J. Bunce
Now Wait for Last Year suffers from those chronic problems that plagued many of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novels: Dick’s obsession with drug-induced fantasies and his misogyny that begins to grate on modern readers after only a few of his novels, despite a clever idea that could net a solid read if only Dick wasn’t his own worst enemy.
Now Wait for Last Year follows a doctor on future Earth who specializes in organ transplants that allow people to live for decades past their historic life expectancy. He hates his wife and she hates him. She stumbles into taking a drug that prompts an incurable addiction and then slips the drug to her husband as revenge. And then they discover that drug has a side-effect: the right dose will make you travel back or forward–or even sideways–through time. A new spin on time travel is the classic Dick sci-fi hook for this story. The trouble is that Dick mishandles it–too many deus ex machina rescues, including more than one by a talking cab familiar to fans of Total Recall, as well as too many references to then-recent history, an ugly future and no redeeming characters. The writer of some of the best science fiction stories of all time produced far better novels than this entry.
Still, Now Wait for Next Year has the potential to be something better. A protagonist flipping across time to repair his past is the stuff of good sci-fi fare. In the right hands and with some significant editing, the novel could be adapted into a decent film. Who doesn’t like the idea of a character encountering himself in another time?
The sci-fi viewpoint from the world in 1966 is also a bit clunky–elements don’t follow rules of time travel accepted by most fans of the sub-genre these days. If you meet someone in the past that impacted your life and you change them after a travel back in time, shouldn’t that meeting have an immediate effect on you?
How much of Dick’s writing from this period was the result of his own drug issues? Is that to blame for his frenetic style and lack of cohesion? Is his dismissive presentation of women his own personal catharsis to deal with his failed relationships? Thankfully we have far more of his works to enjoy than this passable story. Those completists who still want to give this one a try can pick up a copy here at Amazon.com.