This story, while still dealing with the usual Philip K Dick topic of the effects of chemicals on people, is more along the lines of what we have grown to love in movies like Total Recall. An unsuspecting man is suddenly thrown into a situation that is not of his making and which he must desperately try to escape. To explain how this happens and how he gets out of the situation would be to ruin the story. However, the message that one takes away from the book is that love conquers all. The survivalist instincts built into us since the dawn of time can only help temporarily. Whether by virus, war, or short telomeres, looking out for only oneself will only get you so far and cannot stave off the final outcome – only love will survive you as the vase in the story represents, love of neighbor is the only thing worth pursuing because anything else is lost to time. The lead character learns this as he must come to rely on people on the story that are not the sort of people he normally deals with in his high Hollywood lifestyle. He finds there is more to this existence than money and possessions and in the end is at the mercy of the society that once held him in high regard.
The title of the book is a reference to the piece by 16th century composer John Dowland who set music to the following poem by an anonymous author. Dowland was featured in other Philip K Dick stories such as The Divine Invasion of the VALIS trilogy.
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs,
Exiled for ever, let me mourn
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.
The story is not on the level of The Man in the High Castle, which combined alternate history and science fiction, and which I consider his best work ever. It is more along the lines of Ubik,
which had basically the same story flow of people trying to desperately escape a strange situation they have been thrown into.
For a non-fiction book that looks into this topic, check out Bill O’Reilly’s Who’s Looking Out for You?, which actually deals more with the idea that you should look out for the people around you so that you in turn will also be looked out for and in this way build the group of people that love you.