Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Early Work of PKD

One of our frequent contributors, Tom C. Smith, offers this review of The Early Work of Philip K. Dick Volume 1: The Variable Man and Other Stories.

Picking up The Early Work of Philip K. Dick you might mistakenly think that it’s going to be light reading.  After all, it’s just a bunch of short stories, no heavy weight novels.  Hah!  Partially because the reading is easy, no prolonged descriptions, no academic vocabulary.  More likely though, the short story format makes for immediate action and dialog that leads you on.  Until you get to the end of the story and you find yourself re-reading the last several pages, making sure that you ‘get it’.  Take for instance the first story, Beyond Lies the Wub, within two or three pages your curiosity grabs hold.  You think the Wub, a giant pig in appearance, is an amusing creature whose primary interest for a spaceship crew is dinner.  But that’s before the Wub starts talking about Ulysses and his quest to get back home.   How could an alien pig know about Ulysses you ask?

Story number two, The Gun, is also a space tale of a seemingly dead planet that had been the sight of a devastating nuclear war.  A war that had left the planet bereft of life a ‘pitted, fused, slag’ with nothing to say for itself.  Or was that truly the case?  After all, museums are full of culture but with no animated movement. Nasha, Tance and Dorle (typically off beat Philip K names) must make the call on this surprisingly fruitful exploratory trip.    

The 13th story, The Adjustment Team, is the basis of the recently released movie, The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon & Emily Blunt.  The Adjustment Team is about as paranoid a tale as most writers can approach, but as we all know, Philip K was not ordinary writer.  His books were the first sci-fi books published by the Library of America.  That’s right, entertaining and literary.  In many ways, although there’s no drugs in evidence here, The Adjustment Team is a baby step towards dark internal horror sci-fi such as A Scanner Darkly, Ubik, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich.   That being said, there is a kernel of romance (Ed & Ruth) in this well-constructed short story.  Although nothing to compare to the Damon and Blunt chemistry that sustains the worthwhile movie.  But then, the twist in the Movie is small potatoes compared to the ending of The Adjustment Team.

Read On!
Tom C Smith

If you enjoy The Early Work of Philip K. Dick then stop by the library to check out some of Dick's other writings:

Confessions of a Crap Artist
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Reviewed Here)
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
The Man in High Castle
The Man Whose Teeth were all Exactly Alike
A Scanner Darkly

And check out some films based on his work:
Minority Report

As always, thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.
-Adam Delaura

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