Book Review: Minority Report and other stories by Philip K DickPosted: July 6, 2013
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.
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.