Book Review: Minority Report and other stories by Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick is a writer who’s probably best known for what his ideas have inspired. His novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became the Ridley Scott sci-fi classic Blade Runner, and two of the stories here have been adapted for the silver screen too, the title story was turned into a Tom Cruise vehicle by Steven Spielberg and the story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale has been turned into two films, having been given the more multiplex friendly title of Total Recall.

minority report

This collection of stories kind of proves that while Dick might have had a mind full of rather interesting and inventive science fiction ideas, but that he’s severely limited as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, a few of the stories here are rather gripping sci-fi shorts, with Dick showing a knack for dark humour and building tension, but far too often I was left with the impression of a writer who couldn’t quite take the ideas far enough to make them classics.

The title story shares some basic similarities with the film it was made into- the head of a special division that arrests people before they perform their crimes thanks to psychic mutants is named as a killer-to-be and so must go on the run and work out why he’d kill a total stranger. It’s not the conspiracy thriller that the movie was, but Dick ensures that we’re totally engrossed in the growing paranoia of the protagonist. The ending is handled well and there are nice themes of fate, duty and sacrifice throughout.

Total Recall‘s literary ancestor is hugely disappointing however, with a good idea being squandered and a ridiculous ending that’s almost laughable. This is one instance of the film surpassing the original text.

Among the other stories the best are the Cold War nightmare “Second Variety”, which tells a grim future of escalating robotic weaponry and “War Game” which has a delightfully dark and clever twist.

Dick’s characters are usually insecure everymen hamstrung by their fears and insecurities and forced into situations that push them to their limits and leave them questioning the world around them. Paranoia, what it means to be human and identity crises permeate almost all of the stories and they are rather gripping, even if at times Dick drops the ball before the finish. And his characters tend to be a little simplistic and his writing can be rather cold, which I felt kept me at a distance and prevented me from fully engaging with his stories.

Verdict: Full of good ideas and some nice touches, but Dick’s slightly cold style and a few weak endings mean that it’s largely disappointing. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


2 Comments on “Book Review: Minority Report and other stories by Philip K Dick”

  1. Julz says:

    I must admit, I haven’t read anything by Philip K. Dick, but I am a fan of the screen adaptations of Blade Runner and Minority Report. If you like animated series, I recommend Psycho-Pass. The storyline is similar to Minority Report from a crime foretelling and prevention point of view and it’s visually reminiscent of Blade Runner – and one character even mentions Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, so it’s no secret who the series has been influenced by!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s