Monday, October 21, 2013

Impulsive Book Review of The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume Four: The Minority Report

Scaling across the myriad possibilities of reality, Philip K. Dick renders the future with the foresight and creative genius of a visionary turned Nostradamus, and eighteen of his intricate tales from the early years of 1954 – 1963 are captured in this powerfully provocative edition The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume Four: The Minority Report.

This volume’s title is named after a frightening glimpse into a world without violent crime in the short story/novella “The Minority Report.” When a system is built upon the precognitive abilities of three mutant crime-prophets, murder is a thing of the past. But Dick explores the idea of imprisoning people who never actually committed crimes, but were instead “detained” by a special police division for being about to do the deeds, the “pre-crimes.” If it is possible for human beings to warp the system and frame the man who invented it and was responsible for the non-violent decades, than is it not possible that punishing people for things they have not yet done skirts and perverts the moral compass governing society? This stark glimpse into the heart of humanity and its future explores philosophy and intelligent detective lines of reasoning, while the brilliant prose thwarts the readers' guesses and moves them along a thrill ride of suspense. This is a masterpiece.

This collection contains only the best of Dick’s shorter works, and that is saying something, considering how grand his portfolio became over time. Each piece of speculative fiction gives rise to a range of emotional responses and thought provocation. While “The Minority Report” became a movie of the same name, and “Recall Mechanism” was drawn out in a sci-fi blockbuster starring Arnold Schwarzenegger titled Total Recall, these are not the only stories that warrant attention.  The entire book is full of gems that cover a vast number of topics and characters set in extremely believable and fully-dimensional worlds.

Choosing a favorite amongst a volume of favorites is by no means easy, but the first work in The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume Four: The Minority Report--“Autofac”--is truly mesmerizing and awe-inspiring, particularly in the theme of humanity’s resilience and perseverance when close to all of civilization is lost, both by its own hand and by the mechanized technology it has created.  It is similarly captivating in the way it portrays the sad state of affairs that lead to what could be an inevitability: humanity is hell-bent on self-destruction. The ending in “Autofac” is truly remarkable and there is nothing like it.

By R.J. Huneke

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