This is a fairly representative sample of Philip K Dick’s paranoia-fueled alternate universes at its best. The Crack in Space was published in 1966 and is an expanded version of the novella Cantata 140, which was published in 1964. Both are based on the short story Prominent Author.
The novel is set on Earth in the year 2080. The planet struggles with overpopulation when a portal to a parallel version of Earth is discovered, hidden within a vehicle known as a Jiffi-scuttler. There are a lot of moving parts to the story, and it can be a bit difficult to keep them all in mind while reading.
For one, it is an election year (how appropriate for me to read this in 2016), and one of the candidates believes that the alter-Earth can be utilized for moving 70 million people known as "bibs", who have been cryogenically frozen until the overpopulation problem has been resolved, to colonize the planet. However, it is later discovered that this alter-Earth is not uninhabited.
Since I don’t want to give to much of the plot away, I will leave the description of the novel at that.
I found the book to be extremely enjoyable to read. I hesitate to say that it’s one of Dick’s finest works, because there are some truly amazing pieces that I have read along with even more that I have yet to get to. But when it comes down to it, this particular novel really nails the paranoid explanation of alternate realities that Dick was excellent at creating and expressing in some of his novels. It verges on the line of being classified as a horror novel, rather than just a science fiction novel, because a lot of the book strikes a chord similar to that of HP Lovecraft—something utterly wrong and horrible has happened, but it isn’t clearly defined.
At any rate, I’d highly suggest giving this one a read. I’m not sure if I’d rate this in my “Top Ten” Philip K Dick novel’s list yet, but it seems to be a worthy contender at this point.
4/5 stars. 188 pages.