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  1. Before reading this collection of stories, put out of your mind any memory of the Tom Cruise/Stephen Spielberg film of the same name. The Cruise/Spielberg film was very loosely based on Philip K Dick’s story, taking only a few elements out of the story. The original story is far superior to the brightly coloured adventure film that bears the same name. In his best fiction, and this collection certainly contains some of that, Philip K Dick was a visionary—a dark visionary with a downbeat but all too real take on the future. The title story, Minority Report, is set in the Bureau of Pre-Crime where three pre-cogs (people so brain damaged that they live in permanent comas and constantly mutter their predictions) predict murders not yet committed, but this is where the similarity with the Cruise/Spielberg film ends. This is a post nuclear war world, where vast swathes of the country are a burnt wasteland. The central character is a middle-aged, overweight man with a much younger wife who finds himself at the centre of a political assassination plot. This is a twisting political thriller set in a world mutated by radiation, where every piece of new information causes another change of direction. Within this story Dick asks the question, if we know what the future holds does that automatically change the future to an unknown one? A lot of these stories are set in post nuclear war worlds, a theme very popular in Philip K Dick’s fiction, but they are not the same world rehashed for different stories. Whatever worlds he sets his stories in they are dark and unforgiving worlds. His future is not bright, clean and hopeful. In this collection there are stories about robots used for assassination; automatic factories that rule the world and don’t want to give that up power; the search for a war criminal who is more or less than he seems; a government sanctioned machine that controls your thoughts; an America where the first lady is the most important person and even if the presidents come and go she remains the same; a future where they look to 1960s sci-fi to solve their technological problems; a time-travelling business woman; and much, much more. A problem that can be levelled at Phillip K Dick’s novels is that, though often with an original plot premise, he did not know how to end them. This does not apply to these stories, even the longer ones. With these stories Dick ends them perfectly, whether it is an ending to a story or a question left up in the air. Most of these stories were previously published in American sci-fi magazines of the 1950s and 1960s; whether this is the reason for their solid structures I don’t know, but these are very satisfying stories to read and have not aged the way a lot of sci-fi from that period has. Forgot the bright, clean and upbeat sci-fi of Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas and Star Trek; try the dark and all too real sci-fi of Philip K Dick. Some of the peripheral details of his stories may have aged but their central themes are still fresh and still relevant today. Find it here on Amazon
  2. Philip K Dick’s name gained notoriety with a string of Hollywood films, but none of them have done justice to the dark and paranoid worlds created in his books. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (filmed as Blade Runner in 1982) is Dick at his best, combining so many of his favourite themes—post-nuclear war, religion, identity, technology and dis-utopia. It is set in the near future, on an Earth that has suffered a nuclear war but at a high cost. This Earth is dying, everywhere is surrounded by “kibble” (rotting bomb debris), all the animals have died from radiation, people wear lead-lined underwear and anyone successful has emigrated to Mars or beyond. In this world is Dekker, a bounty hunter who is hunting down “replicants” (more artificial copies of humans then robots) who have illegally returned to Earth. Using the structure of a Private Investigator thriller, Dick asks an unsettling question: how do you cope in a world where you can’t tell the real humans from the copies? Many of Dick’s novels have good premises but the plot often doesn’t follow it through, leaving the reader disappointed. With Do Androids… there is no disappointment, the plot lives up to all of the promise of its premise. It has a dark, twisting plot with a truly unsettling ending. The characters here are dark too; the people are worn down by their dying world, they are not the bright and glamorous people of so many science fiction films. When reading this novel, don’t think of the film Blade Runner, they have so little in common. If you’ve never read any of Philip K Dick’s novels then this is an excellent entry into his dark and dis-utopian world; if you’ve encountered him before then this novel is where so many of his most unsettling themes come together.
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