Weird. Strange. These are the words that describe this book to me most. So, I had to go on the net to figure out if Philip had written about a LSD trip he’d had or whether the novel was just part of an avant-garde milieu. I can’t really say that I found a satisfactory answer, so this is what it is. While the technology in this books was dated, the book itself could have been written today by someone with the right mind-set (not mine obviously).
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was first published in 1965. In it he explores a possible future where humanity has the same questions to deal with today: what is good and what is evil, are drugs bad, how to deal with global warming, how far do we take genetic research.
Palmer Eldritch is a business man who went for a space trip ten years ago. He has now returned and is offering the world Chew-Z (a hallucinogenic). His three stigmata are: his artificial eyes, his artificial teeth and his artificial arm.
His competitor, Leo Bulero, produces the drug Can-D which enables the users to inhabit a shared illusory world.
Barney Meyerson works for Leo as a precog and ends getting involved in competition between Palmer and Leo.