The Philip K. Dick Reader - Philip K. Dick

I forget when I first started hearing about Philip K. Dick, but in the last few years he's definitely been cropping up in Hollywood on a regular basis, despite the fact that he's been dead for over twenty years now. This collection of short stories includes several that have been made into movies, including "The Minority Report" and "Paycheck" and the stories that inspired the movies "Total Recall" and "Screamers." Many of his stories have similar themes (common among other writers of the time as well): the aftermath of nuclear war, technology run amok, aliens both good and bad. It's also interesting to see far-flung visions of the future mixed with anachronisms. People in rocket ships wearing robes examine data tapes and punchcards; a high-tech "flatplate camera" uses film; vidphones in private cars are coin-operated.

What I found, reading through this collection all at once, was that I really like Dick's stories but I don't always care for his writing. The way he's able to see the world and envision scenarios is amazing, but quite often his characters are undeveloped, particularly the women. With only a few exceptions, they're just there so Dick can describe their bosoms, usually heaving due to some excitement or terror. The male characters are often just stereotypes as well. I think Dick was more interested in the premise and the plot than the people involved in it.

But what plots! It's no wonder that Hollywood is mining his stories for movies. Although the Cold War and nuclear holocaust is no longer at the top of the bogeyman list, many of the stories deal with perceptions and reality that could easily be adapted to our current fears and circumstances. "The Chromium Fence" satirizes both politics and industry; "Shell Game" is a great piece about living in fear; "Sales Pitch" is an eerie take on advertising. You wonder what Dick would have made of today's world: the Internet and spam e-mails, ubiquitous cell phones, terrorist attacks.

I haven't read too many of his novels yet, but I think I prefer his short stories. Brilliant stuff.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 22, 2005 | Comments (0)


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