Saturday, April 08, 2006

Book 7 1/2

"Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick

Most of us are aware of some of the stories of Philip K. Dick, even if we don't know it. His works have been adapted into numerous films, including Total Recall, Minority Report and Paycheck. In fact, given the first and last entries on that list, and some of the other films made from his stories, there is an unfortunate trend for dodgy, fun sci-fi to be made, which is a shame cause Dick's writing - while maybe not the most polished in the world - is certainly fascinating and his ideas in SF were usually ahead of their time.

This one is, as you've probably guessed by now, not an entire novel, but rather a collection of short stories (among them, obviously, "Minority Report") and now that I've finished this book, I've finally caught up on all the Philip K. Dick short stories that films I've seen are based on (I still have Paycheckand Scanner Darkly to go, but I've heard that the film of the former is barely worth it). "Minorit Report" was pretty cool, with a significantly different plot to the film (less action, more temporal theory...), and the other stories were pretty good too. Not always clear in his description, Dick nonetheless has great ideas and interesting concepts in his work. There's "Second Variety", which was made into Screamers (continuing the theme of fun, crap sci-fi), about self-replicating, self-evolving killing robots and "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" (see Total Recall, above), which - like "Minority Report" - was less action-packed than the film adpation and more quirk.

That's the word I've been searching for.

Even by usual sci-fi standards, Dick's stories have a weird vein running through them, and that for me is half the fun. Whether it's about a human who keeps turning into a giant amoeba ("Oh, to be a Blobel!") or a man who suddenly finds out he's a cyborg ("The Electric Ant") Dick manages to fuse high-end SF concepts with believable characters and just a little nudge left of centre.

It didn't exaclty grip me and flow as smoothly as Gaiman, but I did enjoy this one.

Three and a half false memories out of five.


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