BookBin2014: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick


Okay, let’s just get the puerile moment out of the way now. Loba loves Dick.

Go on. Giggle. I’ll wait.

All right, wrap it up! Honestly.

As I was saying, I do lurves me some Philip K. Dick. I also recently immersed myself in the joys of putting holds on books from other local libraries. I went a little crazy with that one, actually. But that’s a different story. So, thanks to book hold miracles, I was able finally to read Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick. I must have picked up this collection 20 times if I picked it up once at the Borders that used to be near my work. Sadly, though, I didn’t get a chance to get over for the store closing sales, so I never acquired this for my collection.

First, here are the stories included:

  • “Beyond Lies the Wub”
  • “Roog”
  • “Paycheck”
  • “Second Variety”
  • “Imposter”
  • “The King of the Elves”
  • “Adjustment Team”
  • “Foster, You’re Dead”
  • “Upon the Dull Earth”
  • “Autofac”
  • “The Minority Report”
  • “The Days of Perky Pat”
  • “Precious Artifact”
  • “A Game of Unchance”
  • “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”
  • “Faith of Our Fathers”
  • “The Electric Ant”
  • “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”
  • “The Exit Door Leads In”
  • “Rautavaara’s Case”
  • “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”

Quite a nice selection, indeed, including the short stories that inspired movies Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, Impostor, The Adjustment Bureau, and Screamers. I’ve not seen all of these movies, but of the ones that I have seen, I enjoyed finally seeing them in their original (always different, sometimes better) forms. I enjoyed the entire collection, but I think the caveat is that “enjoy” means something entirely different when applied to the writings of this particular author. Dick’s stories epitomize dystopic futurism. Whether bleak and chaotic or sterile and despondent, his future rarely conjures the warm fuzzies. His characters are beleaguered and all-too-often seconds away from incarceration for events either beyond their knowledge or beyond their control. Sometimes, they face alien enemies. Sometimes, their enemies come from within their own ranks. Sometimes, they come from within their own minds.

Hardly does sunshine fall upon Dick’s worlds. They are battle-damaged, time-ravaged, alien landscapes (sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally). Same with his characters. “Happy ending” sometimes computes to a character ending his own existence rather than someone else doing it for him. Dick is dark.

So why do I love him so much? I like dark. I like dystopic. I think imperfection adds complexity and chaos instigates intrigue. I don’t inherently trust people who think that everything is perfect and wonderful. Those are the people who are one day going to have a massive mental fissure and start chucking kittens into rush-hour traffic. Dick’s stories are reminders to dark-souled individuals like me that life is bleak and unforgiving and we must go about to spark our own light where we can. Also, we should expect the neighbor’s dog to be in cahoots with aliens and the grocery checker to be an android. Or alien. Or alien android.

However, Dick is a bit much to take in one consolidated collection like this one. My enjoyment definitely waned toward the end. After a while, you do kind of want a bit of the warm fuzzies. It’s kind of like how I’ve been on a horror movie kick lately, but every now and then I’ll take a break for something like WALL-E or The Blob (okay, so that last one is a horror movie, too, but it still counts as a break, dammit). Still, I’m glad that I was able to track down and finally read this collection. I actually found a nice selection of some of Dick’s novels at a used bookstore. Reading this reminded me of their presence in my library and that I really need a little more Dick in my life.

Go on, giggle away. That was a freebie.

Final Verdict: If you are looking for an entry point into the world of Philip K. Dick, then I would probably recommend you start with one of his full novels or a smaller collection of short stories. I think this one might overload the novice if they read it all at once. However, I definitely see the value of having a book like this in a sci-fi collection. It would make an excellent rainy-day diversion.