01/03/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: The University Of South Carolina Press. 179 page small indexed hardback. Price: GBP 35.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-57003-855-6.
check out websites: www.sc.edu/uscpress and www.eurospanbookstore.com
Any book that purports to examine the books and thoughts of Phillip K. Dick has to be significant. In his lifetime, Dick was aware of being pigeon-holed and side-lined as a cult author. He struggled with this definition, his more mainstream novels side-lined by the sometimes garish and muddled expanded views of the universe. Now eager critics fall over themselves to give him credence and academic studies abound to demonstrate his books are more than just pulp fiction.
Dick will forever be known as the author of ‘Blade Runner’ or rather ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’ and this is no bad thing as it offers an encapsulation of his musings on how to be human. His concerns about the disintegration of normality be it emotionally distant husbands and wives environmental disaster and the introduction of the ‘alien’ tech continue to form the basis of both equal and lesser works to this day.
These days, we tend towards looking at the text rather than the author but it is always tempting to focus on the man, drug fuelled, unhappy occasionally manic within every line he has ever written.
In the end what we get out of the book, whoever wrote it is partly dependent on what we are able to invest in it. We are the key applied to the engine which may or may not burst into life. The key has to fit though and some people will never approach Dick’s work even the non-Science Fiction because they associate him with that section of the bookshelf.
This book is an introduction to the author and his life, a consideration of recurring themes and finally an examination of his finest works. It is a fairly short but intense work and you may find yourself reaching for the dictionary as it employs words of many syllables. It forms a useful pocket guide to the author and may lead readers to explore his canon further. There is a good bibliography in the back and extensive notes. To anyone studying literature or interested in widening their knowledge, this is a good guide and starts to penetrate the dark world of Philip K. Dick.
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