I really regret having to leave A Maze of Death as it is one of my favorites. But all things must pass, or must they? The PKD work that I think is most linked with A Maze of Death in PKD's oeuvre is Counter Clock World, as it too deals with the themes of mortality and theology. I also link it with A Maze of Death because it is one of my favorites in the PKD realm.
I've been reading my beat up 1974 Berkley edition of the book. The pages are falling out, but it held together for one more read. I thought I'd share the back cover blurb with you because it neatly encapsulates the oddball nature of the book.
"THE DEAD GROW YOUNG
Now that the Hobart Phase was in effect, Officer Joseph Tinbane wasn't surprised when he heard a voice speaking to him from beneath the ground.
It wasn't that he was going out of his mind. Not at all. It was just one of the 'old-born,' giving notification that it was ready to be dug up.
You see, the year is 1998 and things have changed quite a bit. Time has reversed its flow: the dead come back to life, and people grow younger instead of older."
Neat premise, and PKD pulls it off to grand effect. The book is completely hilarious. When people light up their smokes, they light "butts" and start "blowing smoke into" them. The cig reforms and they put it back into its pack. When people greet each other they say "goodbye" and when they part, they say "hello." And when people get back to the time of birth, they jump back into a host womb. The mother has to carry the regressing baby for nine months and then has to copulate with a man to return the seed to him. The book never really tells us why the Hobart Phase came about, but who cares about that.
One unique feature of the novel is that there is never a moment where the reader questions what is real, and in this way it is quite distinct among PKD's works because it never has that "what the hell is going on" moment.
Also, in Counter Clock, we find a moment where PKD may have been influenced by pop culture rather than the other way around. The book was written in 1967, the year of the Byrds seminal classic Younger Than Yesterday, which has a cover of Dylan's 1964 classic, "My Back Pages." The Byrds version of "My Back Pages" is bar none my favorite song of all time. I have listened to it my whole life, from the coasts of California to the rooftops of New York City.
"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."
The Byrds were rocking all over California at this time, and I'd wager PKD was influenced by this classic version, just check out the cover of the LP, totally PKD'd out.
You can enter the Hobart Phase yourself by clicking on the title of this post.