Sunday, June 10, 2007

Book review - Philip K. Dick

Book review from The Movie Snob

Four Novels of the 1960s, by Philip K. Dick. You may never have heard of science-fiction author Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982), but chances are you have encountered his work. His trippy novels and short stories have been the basis for lots of movies, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. I read and liked several of his novels during my teen years, but I was quite surprised when I read that the prestigious Library of America was publishing this handsome edition of four of his novels (including the one that Blade Runner was based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).

The other three novels in the collection are The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Ubik, and the only one of the four that I have read is Ubik. (It’s also the only one I read back in my sci-fi heyday.) It is just as weird as I remembered. In the world of Ubik, psychics are real, and you can hire telepaths to find out what your competitors (or enemies) are thinking, or precogs so you can get a glimpse of the future. Or if you think that psychics are being used against you, you can hire “inertials,” or anti-psychics, who can block their powers. The other weird thing about the Ubik world is the phenomenon of half-life: if you’re wealthy enough, you can have your recently deceased loved ones frozen and hooked up to electronic devices, and then communicate with them through their brains’ residual electrical activity for quite some time after they’re dead, until their brains finally give out for good. If you can accept these premises, you might just enjoy the bizarre series of events that befalls a band of inertials who are just trying to do their jobs. I don’t think it’s great writing, but it’s fun if you have a taste for the unusual.


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