At the beginning of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Maze of Death, he provides a table of contents which, other than the chapter and page numbers, appears to have no connection to the actual content of the novel.

Does anyone know of any reasonable explanation of what he was trying to do with this?

  • 7
    Ah, trying to understand every detail of a novel by good ol' Phil Dick. Good luck with that! :D – Andres F. Apr 18 '13 at 14:26
  • 2
    There are some comments on this in philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/dissertations/… but I have to say I found the article even less comprehensible than the original book. – John Rennie Apr 19 '13 at 8:10
  • @JohnRennie Yes, I actually saw that article before I posted this question, but I didn't find it useful at all. – LazerA Apr 19 '13 at 17:32
  • 2
    What do you mean "appears to have no connection to the actual content of the novel"? You need a higher dose ;) – MicroMachine Oct 4 '15 at 8:09

It's humorous. Maze of Death is, like most of PKD's work, full of black comedy. The fake table of contents is funny.

Aside that, and I'm afraid I'm going to state the obvious here: it's another layer of reality, foreshadowing the final plot twist. As PKD says:

in MAZE OF DEATH there are endless parallel realities arranged spatially.

That's the main theme of the novel, and notice how the entries in the fake table of contents form a fairly coherent single reality (which the bizarre dissertation linked by John Rennie in the comments calls a "pastoral drama"), and the story told is of a dark tone that kind of parallels the main narrative. It'd be a reasonable guess that the story of the table of contents is actually an earlier reality generated by the spaceship's computer. Or another layer of reality entirely.

The story told by the table of contents also has something to do with the actual narrative, at least links can be noticed, though the connections are pretty opaque indeed.

I do very much doubt there's any kind code or acrostic is involved. There really is no precedence in Dick's work for such things.

On an aside: the Hungarian translation of the book doesn't contain the table of contents. It was probably too much for the publisher :).

  • The complete lack of relevance to the story and the odd choice of words makes me think that it's a code. – Valorum Feb 15 '14 at 1:02
  • 2
    @Richard I'd wager the seemingly odd choice of words is a parody of novels that actually use these kind of chapter summaries. And, again, to my knowledge PKD never used such hidden messages (please correct me if I'm wrong). Also, Maze was written in a very short time, in a more drug-influenced period, which makes me doubt he'd have had the patience to carefully develop such a code. But I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong :) – SáT Feb 15 '14 at 1:15

The first thing to come to terms with is that the Mandela Effect has radiated out from this book.

To turn to the specific question, the Table of Contents is flagging that in the "real" world of the novel, the finale in the spaceship IS NOT REAL EITHER. The clue to this is the inconsistencies between the final explanations and exposition given and the failure of the logical links to actually be logical or correctly tie the final "real" versions of the characters with the earlier ones.

The key is that The Comforter appears at the end. The Comforter doesn't appear in the "real" world like that, and PKD knew this. The Comforter appears IN HELL.

And the concept of the Maze of Death is an alternate name for The Labyrinth, and all it implies about both consciousness and the illusion commonly called reality.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.