Showing posts with label Philip K Dick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philip K Dick. Show all posts

Friday, February 5, 2016

VALIS by Philip K Dick


Rating: WARTY!

I guess I'm done reading Philip Dick novels at this point. I've enjoyed movies and TV shows based on his works, but I can't seem to find much in his novels that I like, except for a graphic version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Even when I've liked the movie or TV show, I tend to find the novel uninteresting. VALIS (an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was volume one in a planned trilogy which was never completed due to the author not being smart enough to go to the ER when his doctor advised him to do so.

I could not stand this novel. It began promisingly enough, but then became bogged down under Dick's juvenile rants about religion and philosophy and there was no story being told. I quit about twenty percent in, and I cannot recommend this dreary and pretentious book of boredom based on the portion I endured. Tom Weiner's droll voice didn't help with the narration, either.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (graphic novel) by Philip K Dick


Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K Dick
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Rating: WORTHY!

Art work by Tony Parker
Colors by Blond
Letters by Richard Starkings

Back in August of 2014 I blogged a review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Dust to Dust which, when I first picked it up, I had thought was the graphic novel version of the Philip K Dick novel. It wasn't! Finally, though, I can rectify that. This actually is the GN version of the original novel. It's also book one is a series of at least half-a-dozen.

That other book I reviewed was by Chris Roberson, he of the iZombie series, and I do recommend it. The review of the actual novel which I did in 2013 is here. My review of the movie is here. I liked this graphic novel.

The story here is pretty much the same thing, of course, as the original novel, with San Francisco, where this is set, and the rest of the world is smothered under radioactivity after an appalling world war. Those who can afford it have moved off planet. The ones who are stuck behind are a sorry lot, buying expensive robotic pets because animal life, both wild and domesticated has been all but destroyed. But it's the robot humans, built ever more lifelike, which are the problem.

This novel concerns itself with six in particular, advanced versions which have escaped the colonies and arrived on earth. Rick Deckard, a well regarded android terminator is assigned the task of tracking them down, but things are not going to go as smoothly as they might, especially when he discovers problems beyond the one of merely finding and shooting them.

The creators of this took every word from the original and crammed it into this effort. It was an interesting decision, but not a wise one. The original book was not that good. I recommend the movie over the original, but if graphic is your m├ętier, then you can do worse than this one. The art work was certainly up to the task, but sometimes it fought with the words. However, overall, I think it's a worthy read.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Variable Man by Philip K Dick


Title: The Variable Man
Author: Philip K Dick
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: WORTHY!

It's the 22nd day of December, so this has to be a novel starting with a 'V'!

In 2036, Earth makes contact with a civilization in the Proxima Centauri system, but one hundred years later, Earth and Centaurus are in a war in which no shot has apparently ever been fired. Both sides are so obsessed with designing perfect weapons which can bring decisive victory that almost as soon as each design hits the drawing board, the other side has a defense which slightly betters it. Causing the original to be scrapped in favor of an improved design. Since nothing is ever stabilized, then nothing can actually be built! It’s delicious!

Dick comes up with a really entertaining concept of how faster-than-light travel works:

Hedge’s object continued to lose length and gain mass until it reached the theoretical limit of velocity, the speed of light. At that point the object, still gaining speed, simply ceased to exist. Having no length, it ceased to occupy space. It disappeared. However, the object had not been destroyed. It continued on its way, gaining momentum each moment, moving in an arc across the galaxy, away from the Sol system. Hedge’s object entered some other realm of being, beyond our powers of conception. The next phase of Hedge’s experiment consisted in a search for some way to slow the ftl object down, back to a sub-ftl speed, hence back into our universe.

Can’t argue with that! Actually I can because space is inextricably tied-in with time, but I'll let that slide!

The problem arises in this novel when humanity (or rather humanity's computers) decide that the odds are ever in its favor, and plans on launching an attack on the Centaurans within the week, using an FTL bomb which the Centaurans will not only not see coming, they will be unable to defend against.

In preparation for the end of the war, a historical research bubble is interrupted in its scan of the past and terminated manually. This causes it to bring a person back from two hundred years before. Unlike contemporary humans, this man is a generalist - he doesn’t specialize in a tightly circumscribed field of expertise as everyone else in this world does, and this results in those crucial computers being unable to calculate the odds of wining the war any more - they go blank because of this variable - this man who is an unpredictable unknown.

He arrives almost like a Messiah, right on the verge of a massive war to end all wars (as the claim goes) against the Centaurans and just like a Messiah, the powers that be, seeing him as a threat to the status quo, try to eliminate him. Unfortunately for them, it doesn't quite work out how they planned.

This is a really good story. I highly recommend it. It’s short so it’s a fast read, and while Dick wasn't really much on world-building or poetic conversation, he does just enough to get you engaged and keep you in his world - and in the end, maybe a lot of other writers could learn from that!

You can get this book on your reading device for 99 cents (it's free on Amazon as of the posting date of this review), but you can also read it for free online at the Gutenberg project:. Since Philip Dick has been dead for thirty years, trust me, he's not going to miss the income; only Big Publishing™ will benefit.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Adjustment Team by Philip K Dick


Title: Adjustment Team
Author: Philip K Dick
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Rating: WORTHY!

Audio book very competently read by Phil Gigante.

This is very different from the movie which was taken from this short story first published in 1954 in a magazine. It appears in The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick. Unlike the movie, the main male character is married, and he isn't running for congress, but he is running!

When an adjustment is scheduled for Sector T137, a dog is requested to ensure that Ed Fletcher, a salesman at Douglas and Blake Real Estate, is inside the sector. The dog fails and Ed isn't. He actually sees an adjustment in progress which no one outside the bureau is supposed to see. He doesn't know what to think.

He finds the whole region, people and buildings, turned into piles and pillars of ash. Soon he notes white-clad men coming after him and he runs, knocking into things and seeing them turn to dust as he flees in a panic, and manages to make it beyond Sector T137. Once he's out, everything seems normal - except him. He thinks he's had some sort of psychotic break.

Meanwhile, the clerk in charge of setting-up the adjustment is called in to see 'The Old Man'. He's so dissatisfied with what happened that The Old Man decides to take personal charge of this problem.

Ed meets his wife, Ruth, on her way out of work. They go to eat together and he tells her everything. In order to try and resolve what happened, he returns to work with Ruth, and they both see that everything seems normal, but after Ruth leaves, Ed notices that there are changes. Ed runs to a public phone to call the cops, but the phone booth rises up into the sky!

The Old Man patiently explains to Ed that the adjustment was an elaborate scheme ultimately involving land in Canada and the discovery of anthropological remains, leading to an international scientific friendship which would in turn head off nuclear war.

Ed goes home and tries to explain his behavior to his wife without telling her the actual truth, but she freaks out. Ed begins to panic and needs more time to come up with an explanation, and right at that crucial minute, a dog barks and the doorbell rings. It's a vacuum cleaner salesman, and his intervention is just on time. Ed retreats to the bedroom and privately gives thanks for the break.

This story bears no relationship at all to the one told in the movie The Adjustment Bureau, also reviewed on my blog, but I found both very entertaining.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick





Title: Bladerunner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
Author: Philip K Dick
Publisher: Books On Tape
Rating: WARTY!

This "Book on Tape" (which is actually on 8 CDs!) is read by Scott Brick, who I believe is the same guy who reads the 'Harry Dresden' novels in which I have zero interest, and I have to say up front that I do not like Brick's reading at all. His attitude is completely wrong for this novel, and the boring parts (mostly those concerning John Isidore) are boring to begin with, but are exacerbated dismally by Brick's delivery. He even makes Isidore's initial interaction with Priss (which is somewhat different from the movie version) uninteresting.

Of course when I say the novel differs from the movie, I really mean it the other way around. The novel came first, and never was published as Blade Runner until after the movie of the same name, and the novel is significantly different from the subsequent movie, as I shall highlight. For example, and this hits you right at the start, Rick Deckard is married to Iran, whereas he isn't married at all in the movie. Audio novels have the severe problem that there is no way to tell what spelling the writer is using, particularly for made-up words or for people's names, so I'm using the wikipedia spelling for his wife's name, although Brick's reading makes it sound like 'Irin' or 'Erin'.

The opening section was really amusing as Rick and Iran wake up and argue over what mood to dial in for each of them that day. Unlike in the movie, Rick has a pet electric sheep which he keeps up on the roof. Does his neighbor keep an electric horse? Nay! a real one which bore him a foal - apparently. Deckard is obsessed with animals in the novel which I found to be off-putting, and indeed pointless. You can argue that it;s relevant at the end of the novel, but Dick puts far too much tedium into this animal obsession to make the last portion worth any of it.

After two disks I had to conclude that if I'd read the novel first, I never would have been tempted to go see the movie! Note that when I reference the movie, it's to the original theatrical version, my personal favorite, with the Deckard narration overlaid, although according to wikipedia, there exist several varieties. The one I reviewed for my movie review is actually the director's cut, which I didn't like quite as well as I did the original.

I'm sorry to say that while the first half of disk one was great, the second half was really - and I mean really boring. It was very easy to see why they chose to skip this entire section for the movie. The story does pick up when Deckard gets to the Rosen building and interviews Elden Rosen's niece Rachael Rosen. This part is similar to the movie but there are some differences. The Rosens try to bribe Deckard with an owl they owned as part of a small zoo on the roof of the building (hence the appearance of an owl in the movie version). He is tempted by their offer because they prey on his thinking that his Voigt-Kampff test failed to tell that Rachael was human, but he calls her back for one more question, and he employs a trick which confirms for him that despite what Elden Rosen tells him, Rachael is indeed a Nexus 6 android.

This novel is set in a future where nuclear war has devastated both the planet and the population, The weather forecasts are really radiation forecasts. Most people who can have left for Mars. The ones remaining are largely, but not exclusively, infertile or have sub-par IQs. Why the androids are not employed to clean up this mess is left unexplained. I honestly could not buy into Dick's world. It made no sense to me and was not justified by the story or the plot.

Unlike in the movie, Rachael calls and offers to help Rick track down the Nexus 6's, but he doesn't wait for her, instead heading out to take down one and then pursue another who is, in the novel, not an exotic dancer, but an opera singer. This is where the novel starts penetrating deeply into the surreal! Luba Luft, the singer (not to be conflated with Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft, who is also a singer!) calls a cop, who doesn't believe that Deckard is a bounty hunter. She is the same make and model android as Rachael Rosen

The cop arrests Deckard and takes him to the Hall of Law, but it's a different one from the one where Deckard works. The cops don't believe his story! It's during an interview with an inspector, that Deckard finds out that pretty much the entire operation at this Hall of Law is run by androids. He's a bit of a Mary Sue here. Many of these androids honestly believe they're human. Their bounty hunter, who owns a real pet squirrel and who may himself be an android, sides with Deckard and kills the android inspector. They both head over to the museum to take down Luft, but Deckard ends up buying her a coffee table book featuring Edward Munch, the artist who is on display. No one from Deckard's Hall of Law bothers to come looking for him!

The surreal part is actually related to the questions of why there is an operatic society, why there is a museum of art with original art, why there is a Hall of Law, why the Rosen corporation, plus a corporation in Russia, are situated on Earth in the pollution and radiation producing androids which cannot be used on Earth?! Why is there a fortune being spent on shipping people to Mars, when that same fortune could have been better spent on cleaning up Earth? Surreal indeed! Dick really isn't a very good writer. He's pedantic and tiresome, and his plot is meandering and uninviting. He is also uninventive when it comes to envisioning the future. Dick's future, for example, still has "onion-skin" carbon copies of typewritten documents. There is zero imagination involved in creating this future. Admittedly times and standards have changed since he published his novels and technology has progressed in unimagined ways, but having granted that, Dick doesn't even make an effort. He adds flying cars and laser guns and thinks he's done creating a future world. How much success would he have today trying to publish this same material? The truth is that he'd have less than he originally did, which was precious little.

The novel quickly reached a point where it had nothing at all in common with the movie which was supposedly taken from it! Blade Runner is decidedly not an adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It's a completely different story! The best you can say is that it was inspired by the novel. I found some of Dick's novel interesting, but it wasn't that interesting, and soon I was jumping sections of the disk because it was quite simply too boring to keep my attention. Some of it made absolutely zero sense.

One problem is not Dick's alone. He shares it with Star Trek for example. He has Deckard "dodge" a laser beam form a gun! There are multiple issues here. Since laser is light, Rick wouldn't be able to see it until it hit his eyes, in which case it would be too late to dodge it! Light travels at, well duhh, light speed! Actually it's fractionally when traveling through a medium such as air, but that's not relevant to my point. So even if you could somehow see it before it arrived, you still would have far too little time to dodge it! The only way you can see a laser beam is if there is, for example, dust or vapor in the room and you're looking at it from the side, in which case you wouldn't need to dodge it! But let's move on.

At one point, there's a discussion about having sex with androids. Given that the word 'android' literally means man-like, wouldn't a man's having a sexual relationship with one be technically a homosexual relationship?! But seriously, what bothers me is Dick's bringing up the point of sexual relations with androids being illegal, but then having androids being created to mimic human physiology - with primary and secondary sex organs! Why? Why would such an android even be legal if sex with them was illegal? Why would any android want sex if it felt nothing? And if they did want sex why would they want it with a human? The fact that Rachael at one point insists that Rick go to bed with her makes no sense in the context of this story, especially given her overall attitude.

In conclusion I have to rate this as a warty tale. It's not very good, it has really boring portions, and the story isn't interesting to me, but at least I learned what happened to Prim's goat...!