The Philip K. Dick Megapack – Philip K. Dick

It has been a long time between drinks, so to speak – my apologies on the delays in posting reviews! A month or so of either being very busy, or being sick, left me with little motivation to write reviews. The reading continued unabated, of course (except for one week of ‘ick’).

So, without further ado, let us resume our perusals of high and low literature.

Yours sincerely,

K.L.

 

MegapackDick

Philip K. Dick was the creator of science fiction short stories and novels which have been adapted into some of the great classics (and flops, let’s admit) of science fiction cinema. Bladerunner; Total Recall; Minority Report; The Adjustment Bureau; Paycheck; A Scanner Darkly and even the Terminator series of android assassins was inspired by the humanoid killing machines portrayed in the short story ‘Second Variety’.

This so-called megapack (the first in a series of about # megapacks; Dick was a prolific author) features a collection of fifteen of Dick’s short stories.

Dystopian futures, alien invasions, machine-rebellions, interspecies cultural conflict and robotic evolution are all featured. The range is broad, and there is even a brief touch of classical mythology in one story, ‘Strange Eden’.

A feature of Dick’s short stories is that nearly all of them seem to possess a ‘sting in the tail’, upon which the entire story turns, like a fish just realising it has been hooked. They are largely brilliantly imaginative and original.

Some favourites from this collection:

‘The Defenders’ – in which humanity has fled underground, leaving robots to fight for the mastery of Earth, with unexpected results. Possibly my favourite, possibly because it has a happy ending.

‘Second Variety’ – a chilling account of robotic evolution, with the machines following the same patterns of competition and conflict as the masters.

‘The Hanging Stranger’ – an almost 1984 flavour to the story, as though an intelligent, omniscient virus has infected your family and friends, and is using society to trap you.

Dick’s style is spare and almost journalistic; the stories mirror the Cold War preoccupations of the time, each story thrumming with an ominous sense that someone had started the countdown to annihilation.

 

If you read only one of these stories, let it be ‘Second Variety’.

 

K.L gives The Philip K. Dick Megapack 5 out of 5 nuclear apocalypses.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey

I have never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey. So when my favourite pop culture website (http://www.cracked.com/article_19138_7-hotly-debated-movie-questions-that-totally-have-answers_p2.html)mentioned the movie in one of their articles, I decided to take the book for a spin.

 

The first thing one should know, is that the book 2001: A Space Odyssey, was written and published in 1969, subsequent to the movie, which was released in 1968. In past experience, this is nearly always a warning sign as to the quality of the novel (the novel Gladiator, for instance, was simply the movie with a few deleted scenes added in, and some fairly pedestrian descriptions tacked on. Ditto for The Ghost and The Darkness).

Unfortunately, 2001: A Space Odyssey was no exception to the rule (if you can recommend any books which are, please let me know). I am still keen to see the movie, because I think that some of the pacing and events were probably framed with the visual medium in mind, but I cannot recommend the book at all. Which makes me feel a little bad, seeing as it was written by Arthur C. Clarke, a renowned Sci-Fi author, amongst other things. The writing felt not only formulaic (possibly due to many post-2001 imitations which I encountered in advance of the original), but also dense, the narrative failing to flow.

 

One interesting idea expressed was that HAL malfunctioned in the violent way that it did, because its construction and intelligence development had left it unable to practice deception. The burden of knowing the ship’s true mission, and knowing that its human companions were completely ignorant, caused HAL to experience a cascading series of malfunctions in its programming, culminating in its’ attempt to sever all contact with Earth and kill the crew-members.

 

K.L gives 2001: A Space Odyssey 0 out of 5 homicidal robots unable to deal with deception.