In the near future, life on Martian colonies sucks. The only escape to be found is the use of the drug Can-D, which "translates" its users into the bodies of collectible dolls and accessories in a powerful shared hallucination. When Palmer Eldritch returns from Proxima Centauri with a new drug that is poised to supplant Can-D, the Perky Pat Layout company must uncover the hidden truth behind his claims of everlasting life to those who take it.
Like a good number of Phillip K. Dick's works, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch toys with ideas of realities layered under, over, and in between the "real" world and each other, in this case with the fictitious future drugs of Can-D and Chew-Z, powerful hallucinogens capable of creating shared realities. These shared hallucinations, which may be more than just that, are woven throughout the plot, to the point where it can be difficult to tell which scenes are taking place in the hallucination world, which are taking place in reality, and which are taking place in a future accessible via the hallucination world. While this may sound convoluted (and it initially kind of is), the layering and interweaving of realities lends a pleasant quality of trippiness that draws the reader into a similar experience as that of the characters on the hallucinogens. It also gives depth to perhaps the most important character in the book: reality itself.
Of the two Phillip K. Dick books that got nominated in the Nebula Awards' inaugural year, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is probably my favorite, and is certainly a head above most of the other nominees. If you enjoyed the reality bending nature of Stigmata, then another PKD novel, Ubik, comes highly recommended.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is probably a close approximation to what reading a Salvador Dali painting while on acid would be like. Ok, maybe not quite, but it's still a damn good read if you're looking for something that'll make you think about the nature of reality.
Greetings also! I'm the writer for this nebulog who is not Fern. You know, in case the abrupt change in style didn't clue you in already. I'll likely end up posting less frequently owing to laziness, so I figured I'd at least get a leg up on writing the first review.