It is not the news of the savior-astronaut’s return that sends the protagonist, Nick, down the path of dissent in this novel. He does not believe what he hears. Nor is it the notion that with him is a powerful alien intelligence capable of overthrowing the oppressive, ultra-intelligent, mind-hacking government that claims the humans of Earth. It is only when Eric Cordon, philosopher and author of dissident underground books, is arrested and sentenced to death that Nick becomes impassioned enough to rebel.
Even in Dick’s bleak future reality, words are still considered powerful enough to be an agent for change. Books are dangerous. Reading the wrong thoughts of another can get you black-bagged. If you look back into dystopian literature the same thing pops up again and again. Words are power and the forces of oppression will rip them right off your lips if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person.
In the reality that I perceive today, in a future more technologically dependent in many ways than Dick ever dreamed, words have lost much of their power for a majority of people. They hear the same words, everyday. They read the same shit. They watch and listen and have their hearts and brains twisted at every turn. There are so many outlets for words to pour from that most people plug them up and listen only to themselves, spinning around in their own brain.
In our new reality, writers are killed everyday. Not physically. The human that was to be the vessel of the writing is not harmed, not outwardly. Writers die everyday because everyday someone gives up on writing and gets a job at a bank. That’s how you kill a writer. That’s how you stomp out dissent. You don’t need boot-boys and secret prisons. You just have to instill ignorance, apathy, and dependence in the minds of your herd and they will never take to the hills.