Dr. Bloodmoney: A Story of Reversals

I must admit: I enjoyed Dr. Bloodmoney more than I thought I would. After some temporal disorientation in the first few chapters, I acclimated to the ever-changing points of view, and found the book to be a real page-turner.

If I had to describe what the story was about, in a birds-eye sense, I’d say it was about reversibility. After the war, we find that those people who were worth the least in society (both in terms of financial compensation and prestige) suddenly have the most to offer. I’m thinking in particular of handymen and farmers. Also, we find that coin money, once relegated to the level of almost a nusance (indeed, some people don’t even bother to pick up change if they drop it, or think nothing of leaving coinage in tip at coffee shops), now becomes more valuable than paper money since the it is made of metal. Moreover, and perhaps most strikingly, those who were deemed “freaks” in the pre-world society are now “a dime a dozen.” This is not only owing to the scrappiness of peopele like Hoppy, but also to the physiological damages otherwise normal people suffered as a result of the bombs and subsequent radiation poisoning. Also, there seems to be an attempt to rehabilitate the image of the city as a menacing place, especially at the end of the book when all seems warm and bustling–in sharp contrast to the country, where ALL of the mentally ill and REALLY dangerous characters settled. So the contry is no longer pastoral. And, while Stuart’s horse is eaten by some unsavory folks in the middle of the book, the city is nevertheless set up at the end as the place from which civilization will (apparently) proceed.

Interestingly, black people remain discriminated against. No reversal seems to have occured on that front. Likewise is it with those who are mentally ill. Here, there’s an interesting binary drawn between those who are severely deranged and, literally, dangerous, and those who are passively traumatized. In the latter category I’d place Dangerfield and Bonny. Dangerfield because of the somewhat humorous tales he tells about his childhood loves, and Bonny because of her almost manic desire to “keep moving” and not to think about the parts of her life that disturb her (i.e. Bluthgeld’s schizophrenia and her daughter’s strange relationship with the growth inside her). The representatives of the former are, of course, Bluthgeld and Hoppy.

Actually, given that point regarding Hoppy, I wonder what Dick was REALLY saying about people who’re physically different. Possibly nothing since it wasn’t as though ALL of the phoces rose up in a coup: it was only one. So perhaps the only point is this horribly depressing one that it’s possible for a person to be both physically and mentally deranged. What a shame, too, because for a while, Hoppy was actually challenging the notion of what it means to be “disabled” to a fascinating degree. Of course, he wanted to be more human than human (so to speak), which is perhaps to say that he wanted to be brain + machine. He did, in fact, consider himself to be a thing apart from humans, which is evident when he considers them AS humans, and as such DISTINCT from himself. Perhaps for a while–given Hoppy’s abilities and his proven worth to the struggling community–we might be tempted to think that his is the better deal: that we shouldn’t work toward the automation and disembodied intellect Hoppy so clearly represents. But, then, what are we to make of the fact that he’s litterally killed/overtaken by a homunculus: a tiny human–the ESSENCE of physicality? And the fact that the homunculus, Bill, takes over Hoppy’s apparatus? AND this (moral) notion that the homunculus–the savior of mankind–was the product of an illicit affair between Bonny and Gill?

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