THE ZAP GUN
Philip K. Dick
A hardworking but meandering and mercilessly padded yam, with previous appearances as a serial (1965-66) and a mass-market paperback (1967). In Dick's 21st century, the arms race still continues: weapons designers (Lava Powderdry of the West, Lilo Topchev of the East) drug themselves into trance states, wherein they produce designs for fantastic small-scale weapons--which are built but then "plowshared," turned into innocuous consumer items of dubious utility. Only when several alien satellites arrive to hover menacingly over the Earth are Lars and Lilo revealed as frauds: the "weapons" they supposedly designed are actually comic book material stolen from the brain of the creator of The Blue Cephalopod Man from Titan! And when it turns out that the aliens are slavers, the only way to defeat them is to tempt them with a child's toy that develops the player's empathy. . . and thus renders slave-taking notions untenable. The ironic tone helps a little--but all in all this is a thin, sluggish, and chat-heavy nonentity: for fans only.