Friday, October 19, 2007

Book Review: Audio book "Minority Report and other Stories" by Philip K. Dick

In my search for more and more books by PKD, I ran across this audio book and had to give it a listen. During the reading/listening of this book I've come to discover how much I love audio books. I'll explain that in a minute, but first let me talk to you about the beauty of audio books and today's mp3 / iPod players. When I first saw this in the library it was all on CD. I didn't really want to have to lug around a CD player, after all I have an mp3 player and an iPod shuffle. So I first converted the book to mp3 format then imported to iTunes and converted to iPod's audio book format. I could have just imported it into iTunes but was at first going to play on my regular mp3 player, that is until I discovered a secret to iPods. That secret is that when you stop the audio book and then go to listen again iPod will start where you left off as if inserting a bookmark. On my mp3 player it would have taken me searching through the tracks to find where I left off. So then I converted to audio book (aac) format and I was off.

I really have found out how much I love audio books because of their versatility. I listened to this book while driving to and from work, during my mile (sometimes 2 miles) walk in the park, while showering, while doing laundry (yes I'm a 21st century man and share the housework, although it's never enough for my wife to appreciate. How did "housewives" do it all these years?) and I listened while mowing the lawn. So I was never without a book.

Okay now let's talk about this book. This is an audio book format only book; however you can get the stories in other collections, only this one has these stories together. I think it was released just after the movie "The Minority Report" because it has that movies star, Tom Cruise on the cover and that is one of the stories in the book. The book consists of 5 stories, 4 of which have been made into movies. I'll review the stories separately, so here goes.

In "The Minority Report," a special unit that employs those with the power of precognition to prevent crimes proves itself less than reliable. This story was the basis of the feature film Minority Report which starred Tom Cruise. This story covers the aspect that future crimes are prevented by a system of 3 precogs. They each file a “report” as to what will happen if 2 agree that is a “Majority Report” and the police are dispatched and arrest the would be criminal. However sometimes a “Minority Report” is filed and this is usually overlooked. Each precog has their view of an alternate future. This story brings up the concept of if we know the future can we change it. Some great twists & turns here. This story can also be found in the book (actual hardcopy book) “Minority Report” which consists of 9 short stories by PKD.

In, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," an everyman’s yearning for more exciting "memories" places him in a danger he never could have imagined. This story was the basis of the feature film Total Recall which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, I didn't see the movie because I never liked his films, I'm going to have to rent it and watch it now. Basically Douglas Quail wants to go to Mars because he has a boring life as a clerk. So he goes to Rekal, a company that can implant memories so you think you actually did something, such as take a trip to Mars as a secret agent. When the company is implanting the memory they find out that Quail actually did go to Mars as a secret agent. Interplan, the agency that sent Quail, does not want this secret to be known, and the fun begins. This story is also available in the book “The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol 2: We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”

In "Paycheck," a mechanic who has no memory of the previous two years of his life finds that a bag of seemingly worthless and unrelated objects can actually unlock the secret of his recent past, and insure that he has a future. This story was the basis of the feature film Paycheck, which starred Ben Affleck. The story involves an engineer, who, after working two years on a secret project, had those two years erased from his memory. He wakes up to find he traded away his paycheck for an envelope full of seemingly unrelated personal items. Each item serves a particular purpose or gets him through a situation that he saw in advance. The items are: A length of fine wire, A bus token , A ticket , A green strip of cloth, A code key , Half a broken poker chip and A parcel receipt. The fun is trying to figure how he will use each items to get back into the company he worked for and how he got the items in the first place. A little hint: Time Travel.

In "Second Variety," the UN's technological advances to win a global war veer out of control, threatening to destroy all of humankind. This story was the basis of the feature film Screamers which starred Peter Weller (Buckaroo Bonsai). This one gets really creepy. Basically the Russians have invaded; the UN has escaped to the moon leaving only armed forces and some factories on Earth. The factories create automated robots to destroy the Russians. Now the factory has created new varieties of killing machines and all humans are at risk. This story can also be found in “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3, The Father-Thing”

And "The Eyes Have It" is a whimsical, laugh-out-loud play on the words of the title. No movie was made of this story, and I really don't see how it could. I laughed so much listening to this one. This story is about a man who thinks aliens are invading because of something he's reading. It's never clear what he's reading but I think it's just a book. In this book simple descriptions like “All eyes were on her as she entered the room.” Create a thought in the reader’s head that aliens with removable eyes have invaded. And the plays on words get even funnier. This story can also be found in “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3, The Father-Thing”

One final note about all these stories, I think if they were to be submitted to publishers today, most would turn them down. They all feature a sneaky little twist at the end of the story, which made the TV series “The Twilight Zone” so popular.

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