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BOOK REVIEW – ANDREW BUTLER – THE POCKET ESSENTIAL PHILIP K DICK 2003 Pocket Essentials Series.

 

A slender but highly informative biography and annotated reading list on the life and principle works of one of Science Fiction’s finest authors.

 

PKD is best known for Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? through the success of the Ridley Scott film, Bladerunner (which Butler gets angry about for how many issues of the book that followed it changed the title to Bladerunner.

 

Dick’s life was as strange as many of his novels. The death of his twin sister when she was just a year old haunted him, and he would later be convinced through drugs and a nervous breakdown that he was still able to talk to her, as well as to God. Many of the themes of his life, drugs, death, religion, etc, permeate his novels, which Butler reviews in chronological order, including references to many books and stories that are now lost forever. His summaries are excellent though he has an irritating, rather smug tendency to try to write like Dick, and repeat the same jokey phrases over and over again.

 

While familiar with many of Dick’s SF works, I was less aware that he wrote a great deal of non science fiction, much of it based on his own troubled life.  The film version of Martian Time-Slip, Total Recall, bears little resemblance to the novel, but still entertains well.

 

Butler refers to the looming film versions of more of Dick’s novels, including Minority report and A Scanner Darkly, which have since been completed and released.  The book is an excellent introduction t a literary genius who is always best see through his own pages, though Butler does well in encapsulating is work in such a wider perspective.  It is the unfilmed Man In The High Castle, Dick’s Hugo Award winning story of the world if Hitler had won the war that Butler first uses to highlight Dick’s genius, though he is not averse to discrediting work on which the author falls down badly. This makes Butler’s study subjective but honest.

 

Arthur Chappell

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