Philip K. Dick - Solar Lottery

1955, Ace
aka "World of Chance" (Panther, U.K.)
originally titled "Quizmaster Take All"

In 2203, Earth is governed by a lottery where chance determines who rules and which of them are to be assassinated. Ted Benteley works for the Solar Lottery. To his horror, he finds himself a pawn in a power struggle which will change his life and the course of history. However, he must take up the challenge issued by a diabolical power broker in a duel of psychic trickery.

Summary: The setting in which the story of Solar Lottery takes place is a world dominated by logic and numbers. Loosely based on a numerical military strategy employed by U.S. and Soviet intelligence called Minimax (or Games Theory), the head of world government is chosen through a sophisticated lottery. In theory, each person is supposed to have an equal chance of becoming the Quizmaster, the head of the lottery system and the most powerful person in the world. This element of randomization in the society serves as a form of social control since each person is stripped of their individuality.

Meanwhile, the world is entertained by a savage game in which an assassin attempts to murder the Quizmaster. By countering and putting down these threats to his life (using telepathic bodyguards as defense), the leader gains the respect of the people. If he loses his life a new Quizmaster is randomly selected.

Against this disturbing futuristic setting, the plot of Solar Lottery is played out. It follows the life of Ted Benteley, an idealisitic young worker unhappy with his position in life. Benteley attempts to get a job in the prestigious office of Quizmaster Reese Verrick. Unbeknownst to Ted, Verrick is leaving office and he gets tricked into accepting a job with the departing organization. Verrick then makes it clear that his organization's mission is to assassinate the new Quizmaster, Leon Cartwright in the world's most anticipated "competition".

In order to break the telepathic web protecting Cartwright, Verrick and his team invent an android named Keith Pellig into which different people (and minds) alternate controlling the actions remotely. An action sequence centered on Pellig's assassination attempt proves to be the novel's most exciting and clever element.

Meanwhile, a second plot is unwinding in which a team of Leon Cartwright's clients travel to the far reaches of the known galaxy in search of a mysterious cult figure named John Preston. The story of Solar Lottery unfolds in an atmosphere of deceit, intrigue and competition. A mind-blowing climax swiftly and neatly ties up the loose ends.

"SOLAR LOTTERY, a first novel by one of the most striking young magazine writers, creates a strange and fascinating civilization for the year 2203, a culture based upon Heisenberg's ideas of randomness and Von Neumann's Games Theory, with such logical developments as public office by lottery and formal overt assassination.
"Against this background two plots develop, one of intricately deadly and suspenceful palace politics, one of an ambitious effort to rediscover our sun's once-glimpsed tenth planet... The body of the book is as elaborately exciting as vintage Van Vogt - with an added touch of C.M. Kornbluth's social satire."
--New York Herald Tribune

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