1974. Take one genetically-perfected global entertainer adored by a weekly audience in the millions, then subtract every evidence of his existence. So Dick starts the tale of a man in search of himself.
Jason Taverner, 42, gives his last color 3D TV show in LA on October 11, 1988, hops in his skyfly with Heather, his beautiful genetically-perfected girlfriend, and they decompress by talking about marriage, about their home in Zurich, about their future. Then the skyfly’s phone rings.
It’s Marilyn, an old protegee turned girlfriend. The girl’s hysterical. Is she pregnant? Jason diverts the skyfly to Marilyn’s apartment to do damage control. Heather fumes, “Does she have nice boobs?” “Actually, yes,” Jason says. He enjoys millions of female admirers.
Marilyn is out of her mind. She attacks Jason with some Dickian object comprised of fifty feeding tubes that attach to Jason’s chest, sending him to a hospital ER.
Later, Jason wakes alone in a seedy hotel room, a wad of cash and his tailored silk suit his only possessions. There starts his quest to convince the world he exists beyond his physical presence, that he actually has a career, wealth, and a fan base of millions. No one has heard of him; he’s taken for just another delusional denizen of the sad part of town, and what’s worse he has no ID in a police state. Only terrorists and criminals lack IDs.
Jason goes underground and burns through his wad of cash quickly buying false ID’s from a police informant. Now he’s on the run and none of his friends have heard of him. Heather takes him for just another stalking nobody who somehow got her private number.
Dick explores identity, fame, self-worth, humanity, the individual v the state. Jason’s journey takes us through a near-future with a united world, settlements on Mars and elsewhere, a global identity data base, but oddly with phones still tethered and music still vinyl.
Dick is always spare enough in his narration that you (I do, at any rate) want to spend time in his world for how it questions you. Not many authors can consistently deliver that sort of magic.