The World that Jones Made is a short book running in at only 200 pages, but one of his most entertaining and well-plotted novels full of interesting invention and ideas. Floyd Jones is a man who can see a year into the future which he uses in a quest for power as a quasi-religious figure in a 2002 post-apocalyptic world where religion is outlawed as having no base in reality.
The World Jones Made was first published by Ace Books in 1956 as half of an ‘Ace Double’ with Agent of the Unknown by Margaret St. Clair – one of four novels she had published by Ace in a time where female science fiction authors were generally considered a rare breed.
The secret service of the incumbent government, FedGov, try all sorts of things to stop Jones’s rise to power, but because he has seen every twist and turn of a year ahead he thwarts all attempts at stopping him, at one point literally dodging a bullet.
However, as usual with Dick, there’s more than this one man versus the establishment story going on. We also have the appearance of massive single-celled blobs from outer space causing much consternation. Could it be an invasion? What do the blobs want? The population turns to Jones for answers and his call for a crusade could ultimately be his undoing.
There are also a group of genetic mutants housed inside a sealed refuge in a mysterious lab with an artificial climate, and a secret service policeman called Cussick whose marriage is on the rocks (Dick writes about broken marital relationships and divorce quite often – a reflection on his own repeatedly troubled home life no doubt) especially when his wife joins Jones’s burgeoning cult.
Each element on its own would make an interesting tale (indeed Jones reminds me of Nicholas Cage’s character in the film Next) and it is to Dick’s credit that he ties all these elements together to deliver a greater whole.
At times I thought that perhaps he is telling an allegorical tale, perhaps about communism, but Dick would probably just write about communism up front if he wanted to, not dick (‘scuse the pun!) about with metaphors. That said there are elements of this book that mirror the post-911 environment of government propaganda in the US and the willingness of a desperate administration and their followers latching on to the idea of a perhaps misguided crusade. There is also a palpable feeling of despair shared across all the main characters including Jones himself who has foreseen his own death.
There was talk a while back of Terry Gilliam making a movie adaptation of this story about the ambiguous nature of precognition, which to some extent was touched upon in his brilliant 1995 movie Twelve Monkeys, but like a lot of his projects, this seems to now have evaporated.