THEY by Kay Dick
First published back in the late ‘70s, Kay Dick’s They is a book so thoroughly strange, so uncomfortably disengaged, that I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. I suppose it’s a dystopia of sorts, albeit one that owes as much to Shirley Jackson as it does JG Ballard or Ray Bradbury. We are never told who they are, what they look like, where they come from; only that they are everywhere, conquering all in their path, destroying any artistic and cultural artefacts along the way. We catch them in passing glimpses, their presence one more of creeping dread than immediate violence.
Much of the action happens off the page, relayed second-hand by Dick’s nameless, featureless narrator - very much their mirror-image. This peculiar remove leaves space for interesting questions, most notably about the intrinsic value of art. Many of the their surviving victims risk death and continue to create, all the while knowing that what they make will never find an audience. It is ironic, then, that They went out of print very soon after publication. Perhaps its narrative obtuseness alienated readers. Or perhaps it was the lack of moral soapboxing. In a parallel universe, it’s a classic.
They by Kay Dick
Faber Editions, 2022