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I might as well admit this at the beginning of the review: I am not generally a fan of short stories. I'm not making any sort of universal statement here so much as saying that I think the form tends to elevate shallow writing that is built around some sort of twist or reveal at the end. Bradbury is a bete noire of mine because of this very tendency, but he shares with many science fiction writers that genre's tendency toward writing about ideas instead of emotions or relationships, which has tended to turn a lot of people off of this particular genre as it can be difficult for a lot of people to connect with that approach. The genre does have its natural strengths: people are always interested in progress and the future, and moreso than many genres, sci-fi lends naturally to the exploration of social, political, and moral issues in its stories. I'm admittedly a huge sci-fi nut for those reasons, though I can understand why a lot of people are scared away.
It's those people, though, who would get the most out of Philip K. Dick. Dick falls into almost none of the pitfalls that I mentioned previously. His short stories are excellent examples of the form, with strong ideas and surprisingly rich themes to boot. Dick's work has obviously been adapted to the screen many times, and a good handful of stories from the book are recognizable from their film adaptations, but the original stories are frequently more interesting and more substantive than the feature films they inspired! So, the average-ish Ben Affleck thriller Paycheck turns out to have been inspired by a story not only about seeing the future, but also about commercial-government tensions and its character turns out to be an anti-hero, motivated by corporate greed. Minority Report was a more successful (and much better) film than Paycheck, and it too is vastly different from its film. The basic ideas (precogs, arresting murderers before they commit their crimes) but in the story, the protagonist has to stop a military coup in Washington (and it lacks the film's sappy ending, too, which is a plus). There are, of course, lots of cool stories here that have not been made into movies, like the post-apocalyptic "Second Variety", in which a few remnants of humanity have to fight against an army of rebellious androids that come in three varieties, as well as some of Dick's more trippy writing, like a story in which an elderly man is asked to become the "king of the dwarves" in their battle against the gnomes, in which it certainly seems like he's going crazy, but the story is told from his perspective and it leaves some ambiguity. It's scary, fascinating, sad, and brainy, but also a little funny in a darkly comic way: that's the Dick trademark, I suppose.
Most science fiction writers who become successful are good at coming up with nifty concepts and cool ideas, and Dick obviously has those, but even more impressive to me is the emotional component that Dick brings to his writing. This is a lot harder for me to deconstruct, but suffice it to say that Dick has that little extra something that turns a good story into a great one. When a story is supposed to be tragic, it almost always is. When the writing is supposed to be exciting, Dick pulls it off. His ability to define characters briefly and thoroughly certainly helps here, but Dick simply just knows how to engage the heart as well as the head, which is likely what has won him such an exalted place among science fiction writers over the years. That place is well-merited. I highly recommend this book to everyone.