Following the end of World War Terminus, humans who have not emigrated to Mars or other planets, remain on an Earth that has changed vastly. Radioactive "dust" covers the entire planet and has killed most of the animal species. Most humans congregate in urban areas "where they [can] physically see one another [and] take heart at their mutual presence" (Dick, 17). However, some like John live in the suburbs which are virtually devoid of life. The apartment building in which John (or J.R.) lives, contains hundreds of empty rooms with the furniture and belongings of the previous inhabitants. In the absence of human interaction, the noise of the TV is used to fill the empty space and to overcome the impending and frightening silence. When the TV is suddenly turned off, silence echoes from the walls of the empty rooms, overwhelming humans. Thus, humans have become dependent on technology in order to avoid loneliness in this sparsely populated space.
John first introduces the idea of kipple when he meets Pris Stratton. As John explains, "kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homepage" (Dick, 65). Kipple constantly reproduces itself, and thus "the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization" (Dick, 65). Humans can only temporarily create a balance with kipple, but eventually it will succeed and expand. When humans eventually die, kipple will take over, and "everything within the building [will] merge, [will] be faceless and identical, mere pudding-like kipple piled to the ceiling of each apartment. And, after that, the uncared-for building itself would settle into shapelessness buried under the ubiquity of the dust" (Dick, 20).
Kipple portrays a world moving continously towards complete chaos and total disintegration. Kippleization may represent the omenous future of technology. Technology cannot die, and thus wil still be present when humans die. Technology is also faceless and is constantly expanding and improving. Humans and technology are therefore in a constant battle for space and control, but according to Dick, technology will eventually take over.
The landscape associated with Mercer drastically contrasts the present state of Earth and the continual fight with kipple. The only part of the universe that is not moving toward complete kippleization is "the upward climb of Wilbur Mercer" (Dick, 65). Mercer's landscape comprises a desert containing an "old, brown, barren ascent," up which Mercer incessantly climbs (Dick, 178).
Mercer's landscape is completely devoid of technology, and consequently is presented as a safe haven from the technology-ridden real world. Interestingly, though, this landscape is actually artificial, a product of technology. Even in this virtual world, humans cannot escape from their reliance on technology.