1/09/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Subterranean Press. 484 page deluxe hardback. Price: $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-395-2.
check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com
This is not the film ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ which takes one of the short stories from this collection as inspiration for a very different plot. This is the second collection of the series (which will have five uniform volumes) that covers all the short stories of Phillip K. Dick in chronological order. Volume 2 contains twenty-six stories and novellas published between 1952 and 1953. These are what kept the wolf from the door - very much the bread and butter for Phil Dick.
Once again we are treated to all the stories that feel like they have inspired a generation. Each one identifies an interest or obsession that Dick had in all his works. For instance, ‘The Impostor' looks at the nature of humanity. His protagonist must work out whether he really is a human or an android sent to destroy the human race. This theme is echoed in ‘Human Is’ as a woman must judge whether her husband has really returned from space travel or has been replaced by a new, more considerate android.
Other stories have a horror element to them. The opening stories of ‘The Cookie Lady’ and ‘Beyond The Door’ have a sideways, skewed look at reality and come up with some tales of the unexpected which leave them lingering in the mind. In ‘Small Town’, a man has a model of his town. He would like to re-make it to his own design but this gradually becomes a fixation and his wife wonders where it will lead.
‘Breakfast At Twilight’ deals with the horrors of armageddon and combines it with time travel to make a rather grim point about total war. 'Martians Come In Clouds’ is an odd tale about an invasion that comes with the wind. Both of these reflect the time period that Dick was living through. Invasion by the Communists was seen as entirely possible and vigilance would eliminate the reds under the bed. Because of the atomic bomb and weapons proliferation, total war leading to annihilation of all was also seen as potential. ‘Second Variety’ looks at a world where this has already happened.
These stories deal in issues that are real enough now to make them still resonate. The ideas within them are amazing and I never get tired of the stories and the images they conjure up.
There is nothing not to like here. It might be that you already have all these stories in other formats but the tales stand up well to their relative age because of the universal theme. It is hard to see why Dick sometimes struggled with this form, maybe because he felt he was pigeon-holed and could therefore be ignored by people who considered his genre not to be worthwhile. I would urge any reader of SF to get these under your belt.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA