Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Milton Lumky Territory-Philip K. Dick

In Milton Lumky Territory
Philip K. Dick
Tor, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765316950

Mid twenties Bruce Stevens lives in Reno working as a buyer for Consumers Buying Bureau. It is one of those new establishments: a discount place. He stops in Montario, Idaho to buy Trojans; planning to use them when he visits Peg Googer. However, Peg has company including Susan Faine, who looks familiar, but he cannot place her. Susan runs a typewriter rental service mostly used by male lawyers and has just obtained a divorce from Walt in Mexico. He leaves for Boise but forgot his coat so he returns to Peg’s house; only Susan is there as the others went out. As he leaves again, he is attracted to Susan before realizing that she was Miss Reuben, his fifth grade teacher at Garret A. Hobart Grammar School in Montario back in 1944.

Ten years his senior, Susan and Bruce marry giving him an instant family as she has a stepdaughter and her typing business to run while he is on the road a lot as he does the circuit between most of the major cities west of the Rockies. His western travels lead to his meeting older traveling paper salesman Milton Lumky whose depressing look at the American conditions haunts Bruce as the middle aged seller pontificates negatively about traveling salesmen being a dying dinosaur with the discounters on the rise. Meanwhile, Susan’s fears that Bruce will leave her for some younger female he meets on the road harm their relationship while his misperceptions about families hurt their marriage further.

Although written as a late 1950s contemporary, IN MILTON LUMKY TERRITORY has the deep feel of a well written character driven historical that feels so apropos today with the dramatic demographic shifts in employment skills. Bruce is actually the prime player with Milton and Susan providing strong support mostly insight into the lead character or his work. Philip K. Dick shows his versatility and currency with this fine tale that holds up well as both a historical and as a deep look at people struggling with radical societal changes in their lives.

Harriet Klausner

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