Read in individual issues. Took a long time to get around to reading Mazer in Prison, because I wanted to read the short story first. So, the duration...moreRead in individual issues. Took a long time to get around to reading Mazer in Prison, because I wanted to read the short story first. So, the duration over which I read this book is off. Its just that one story in it took me a while to read.
Finished everything except for the excerpt from Crumb's Genesis about a month ago. Because I had already read Genesis, I let the book sit around for a...moreFinished everything except for the excerpt from Crumb's Genesis about a month ago. Because I had already read Genesis, I let the book sit around for awhile before finishing it.(less)
The Bigend Trilogy really sums up the *feel* of the first decade of the 21st century. In so many ways, in his early work like Neuromancer, William Gib...moreThe Bigend Trilogy really sums up the *feel* of the first decade of the 21st century. In so many ways, in his early work like Neuromancer, William Gibson acurately portrayed how the future feels, considering that future is now. And while this probably isn't apparent to the average middle class American. The sprawl, of the eponymous trilogy, is a pretty damn good approximation of modern day Mexico City (modulo the neural user interface to computers.) As well as, no doubt other large cities in the developing world that I haven't had the opportunity to travel to. I often find myself wondering if Gibson predicted or made our present. The truth is probably that he created some of it, or more accurately influenced the technopolists to create what they have. But the mixture of "low-life and high tech" was an accurate prediction, based on history and how human nature has always tended towards slums, even in the presence of rapidly advancing technology. So, as William Gibson now writes about our present, I wonder if he is very accurately representing our present, writing with a keen eye the world that we are now inhabiting, or if reality has just caught up to his imagination.
I recently traveled to Europe on business, and while I was there I was struck by the extent and feel of globalization. While in Germany, I was able to easily eat vegetarian by eating at a plethora of Asian restaurants. I had Matar Paneer at the Kama Sutra Tandoori restaurant, a hole in the wall restaurant on the edge of the red light district in Frankfurt. In Aachen, I read my Kindle while eating vege rolls and tempura at a tastefully austere Japanese restaurant; the owner, commenting on my gadget told me proudly that his son is a hardware engineer in silicon valley. When I told him I was a software engineer on the west coast as well, he replied by asking "Bay Area or Seattle?" I had a business lunch at a Thai restaurant; from the food and decor alone I could have been in Redmond or any other place in America. The only european restaurant I ate at while in Germany was a high end Pizza place. In the UK, I had the best Indian food I've ever had (Indian has, thankfully, become the national food of Britain.) These memories, and why the experiences felt peculiar, despite their familiarity will almost certainly be lost to time. The precise way in which it felt odd is even now fading to memory. However, I know that in 20 years from now, when my children are growing up in a world that will have always felt flat to them, I will be able to remember how the flattening felt by picking up Pattern Recognition, Spook Country or Zero History. (less)
This book is a fairly comprehensive collection of PKD stories, included are:
Beyond Lies the Wub: The story of the "wub" a pig like alien native to mar...moreThis book is a fairly comprehensive collection of PKD stories, included are:
Beyond Lies the Wub: The story of the "wub" a pig like alien native to mars. This story has strong vegetarian themes. Roog: A story about what your dog is really barking at in the wee hours of the morning. Paycheck: The story of a man who has his mind erased after a contract job, and instead of the paycheck he originally thought he was getting he only has a bag of tchotchkies. The basis for the Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman movie of the same name. Second Variety: The story of earth after a devastating war between the Soviet Union and the West where the Americans let loose "blades" autonomous self replicating robots programmed to kill humans. The basis for the 90s movie Screamers. Imposter: The story of a man, accused of being a robot imposter sent from an alien race from the beyond the solar system. The King of the Elves: The story of a man who shows kindness to a lost group of elves, and ends up becoming their king. Adjustment Team: In this story, god and the angels are members of a vast overworked bureaucracy busting their humps to make everything feel seamless for people. This is the story of what happens when they fail, just once. Foster, Your Dead: A story of consumerism and cold war paranoia taken to their extreme. An America where people feverishly spend to keep up with the Joneses bomb shelter. This is the Story of a boy, Mike Foster, whose father isn't buying into the new society. Upon the Dull Earth: The story of a girl with the magical ability to call angels to feed on fresh blood. Similar in many ideas to teh story "Adjustment Team." Autofac: The Minority Report: A story of a police force that uses psychics to catch criminals before they commit their crimes. The basis for the Tom Cruise movie of the same name. The Days of Perky Pat: In a post apocalyptic America, where the human survivors are looked after by benevolent martians, the people occupy themselves by playing "Perky Pat". Precious Artifact: In this story a Terraforming engineer on Mars has doubts about how Earth has fared in an interstellar war. Possibly a complimentary story to "Imposter" and "A Game of Unchance". A Game of Unchance: In this story, settlers on Mars find aren't sure if they cheated or were cheated when they try to use psychic abilities to cheat some interplanetary carnies. We Can Remember it for your Wholesale: A man wants to go on vacation to Mars, but can't afford it. So he pays to have memories of the trip implanted so that he thinks he went. The basis for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall. Faith of Our Fathers: This short story is what 1984 would have been like if it was written by Hunter S Thompson. The Electric Ant: The story of a man who finds out he is actually an Android, and a fairly unadvanced one at that. Possibly takes place in the same universe as Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep (There is a throwaway line that Electric Ants are forerunners of the Replicants. A Little Something for us Tempunauts: A group of time travelers goes a few days in the future, and finds that they were killed when they returned to their present (a few days in the past.) They have to solve the mystery of what killed them, before they go back to the past, and their deaths, in a few days. The Exit Door Leads In: In this story a man wins admission to college from a fast food competition. Rautavaara's Case: Told as court transcripts of an interstellar law suit. Alien's revive the brain of a recently deceased human scientist, and perform experiments on altering her perception of the afterlife. I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon: In this story a man's mind comes out of suspended animation, while his body remains frozen for transport on a long interstellar voyage. He lives through all his old memories for 10 years.
I read this because I wanted to read the actual short story version of "The Electric Ant" before I read the Marvel Comic Adaptation. And also, because I am a big fan of Philip K Dick.
Dick is often given the left handed complement of being "high brow" pulp fiction. He does have have amazing ideas, well thought out, but the execution, the tactical writing, his use of language, etc, is nothing spectacular. However, even in this regard he is a good deal more competent than average pulp science fiction. So, I do not totally agree with this criticism.
In my opinion the literary community does not take Dick as seriously as Kurt Vonnegut, who was ultimately a quite similar writer. Vonnegut often included Kilgore Trout, a fictionalization of his friend Theodore Sturgeon but who many take and interpret as a sort of foil to himself as the author. Trout is a down and out Pulp Sci-Fi writer whose talent and ideas went largely unrecognized because of his chosen Medium. However, Dick realized the essence of Kilgore Trout as much as any man truly could. Dick is as close as can be to the platonic form of the under appreciated, struggling science fiction writer who suffers for his art.
That said, Dick's subject material, is undoubtedly the stuff of pulp fiction: Androids, psychics, secret agents, time travel, interstellar wars and the post apocalypse all feature prominently in his work. But within each of these banal sci-fi subjects, Dick explores deep literary themes.
In this collection, like much of his work, Dick wrote about religion and God's relation with respect to humans, but not in any sort of static or dogmatic ways. He examines many angles of God: Such as a bureaucratic manager of the universe, modifying subtle coincidence to manipulate humans and our affairs. As a simultaneous benevolent and malevolent force cruelly destroying us in life, but ultimately redeeming our souls. Or as a mere spiritual engineer, who engineered our realm and then passed on from the Angelic realm, as we will eventually pass on this realm, up some infinite ladder of transcendence.
In addition to religion, Dick focuses on the more ever present probem of perception. The theme of how we can never truly trust our senses runs through our work. For example, how do we know that any thing is as we left it? After all, if I'm on Mars, perhaps Earth has been destroyed by Alien invaders. The information that we are getting is so easily manipulated by others, perhaps we are unsuspectedly walking into a trap when we think we are doing the trapping. Or as the main character of "The Minority Report" finds himself trapped by information that he previously defended and promoted, when the psychics he uses to catch precriminals accuse him of future-murder. Dick also dives into the deeper problem of how do we know who we are or what we've done? If we are given false memories we could have been on Mars or we could be a Robot unexpectedly carrying out some other's will.
Dick also laments the cruel nature of humans, in his stories about war, especially apocalyptic nuclear wars like "Second Variety, as well as Man's inhumanity to animal, in "Beyond Lies the Wub" and "Roog". I don't know if Dick was a vegetarian or not, but his sympathetic stories and take on animals communicate some of my feelings about animals, better than any sort of Vegetarian propaganda.
Despite the fact that Dick had some serious literary themes going on through his work, he doesn't come across as moralizing or overly pedantic. Rather, these themes flow from his work and seem natural within it. So, they remain entertaining. Furthermore, he has plenty of stories that are just plain fun and don't dabble in high minded literary shenanigans.
I think the best way to think of Dick is as the Pop Artist. I have no doubts of his literary value or skill, however one must accept that his medium was in fact Pop art, or in this case, pulp fiction. Dick must not be judged for his choice of medium, but rather his execution within that Medium. And for me, there is no doubt that Dick is the master of this Genre. And what's more, he has successfully demonstrated that this medium is in fact a valid literary form. Which, is of course, not an easy task given the wide spread disregard for it. (less)