Philip K. Dick's second attempt to publish a "mainstream" novel was The Broken Bubble, which he completed in 1956. His characters are edgier than those in Mary and the Giant, and the story generally has more tension. Publishers were not impressed. The book did not get into print until 1988, six years after Dick's death and long after his reputation as a science fiction writer was firmly established.
The Broken Bubble by Philip K. Dick. Arbor House (1988), 246 pp.
A San Francisco disk jockey, Jim Briskin, is suspended when he refuses to read some boorish advertising copy. With his radio career in limbo, he takes up with two of his teenage fans, Art and his pregnant wife Rachael, who are barely making a go of their marriage. As it happens, Art belongs to an outfit called The Organization, a tiny direct-action group led by a paranoid draft-dodger. Jim introduces the couple to his beautiful but lonely ex-wife, Pat. It soon becomes clear that Jim, Pat, Art and Rachael are headed for unexpected intimacy.
Despite some strange characters and plot twists, this book takes its place with Dick’s other realistic novels of the fifties. Once again he shows people trying to construct fulfilling lives within the oppressive fatuousness of American culture. Dick uses more satire here than usual and probably more metaphor as well. The teenagers, for instance, seem to represent their entire generation. The bubble of the title, which doesn't make an appearance until the end of the book, must mean something too. The writing is clean and crisp. Some of the scenes, notably Pat and Art’s second get-together, are startlingly vivid. The presence of the teenage couple may make this book more interesting to younger readers than Dick’s other realistic novels.