Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick

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Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth
Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth
Summary: A companion to the Channel 4 series of the same name, Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams does not do much in the way of presenting how a script is taken to screen, but it presents some true scifi gems. Painfully prescient, Dick's short stories are an eye-opening reading experience, thanks to the author's, rather than the volume's editors', genius.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
ISBN: 978-1473223288

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Philip K Dick's stories were originally published in the 50s, but they are more present than past. On the big screen Blade Runner 2049 relaunched the Dick-inspired cult classic to reviews of pure praise; and on slightly smaller screens, Channel 4 has adapted the author's short stories for TV. Startlingly, Dick's current relevance reaches beyond fiction and into the factual: his topics from intrusive advertising and loss of privacy to the increasing machination of society are all headline material in today's news. It is as if half a century after their inception, Dick's electric dreams are becoming reality.

Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams compiles the short stories that the Channel 4 series – one of this autumn's most anticipated TV releases – is based on. It is a whirlwind of dystopian scenarios: an alternative reality accessed through wormholes in space-time, totalitarian control of minds, a future where Earth is a legend of the past, totalitarian control of minds, a son whose father is taken over by a machine, and a commuter whose life is taken over by advertising. In Dick's scifi, tech fantasies meet social concerns.

The stories come across as inoccuous at first: an old lady at a train station or a man stuck in traffic on his commute are hardly the most obvious choices for scifi adventures. But the mundanity of the stories translates quickly into gripping, crushing, and even panic-inducing tales. Take the commuter man: who doesn't swear at the advertising coming their way on the radio, TV screens, and billboards lining the roads? In Dick's world, advertising can become so intrusive that it drives its targets to run away – quite literally – into outer space to find some peace.

In another scenario, certain people are sent hoods that block a government body from entering their minds and reading their thoughts. The hoods are not banned as such, but there is legislation in preparation that, if passed, would criminalize the hoods. The proposal is based on the argument that if a person has not done anything wrong, why should they want to hide anything. Exactly the same thought process underlies some of the arguments used in the debate about current privacy issues: should Apple unlock crime suspects' iPhones so that the investigating authorities can access their data? How far into people's privacy can the police go in their attempts to prevent terrorism? Seeing the parallels, the reader is treated to a bizarre and not very comfortable experience. It's this discomfort at the prescience shining through the stories that makes Dick's imagination so spectacular.

Yet the collection is not only about the stories as such. It is specifically a companion to the Channel 4 series, which is implemented in the form of brief introductions to the short stories, where screenwriters and producers discuss their thoughts about each piece. Unfortunately, this is where the collection falls flat and fails to do justice to Dick's work. The introductions offer an opportunity to shed light on how a story is taken from script to screen, and how fifty-year-old narratives are changed to fit the current climate. Sadly, all the opportunities are brushed off in the lightest of manners: the forewords unfailingly repeat how impressed, taken, or perplexed the particular screenwriter was by their chosen story, but do not go much beyond that at all. As such, this edition does not bring anything new to the original stories, as any good edited collection would.

Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams does not offer much in the way of a companion to the TV adaptation. The stories themselves, however, offer a testimony to how fiction can stand the test of time, and how scifi at its very best can be uncomfortably accurate in gazing into the crystal ball

If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick.

Buy Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick at Amazon.com.

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