The Minority Report
by Philip K. Dick
Cover Artist: Bill Sienkewicz
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596065987
Date: 31 August 2013
List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Publisher's Book Page / Show Official Info /
The future isn't so bright, at least not in most of Phillip K Dick's imaginings. These 18 stories show the range of Dick as he stretched his wings during the 1954 to 1963 period. The title story is the best known of the collection, but that doesn't mean it is the only one worth reading.
The first story, "Autofac", details a post-apocalyptic world where factories were set to produce the goods that humans would need to survive. The factories continued to produce no matter the exterior conditions. In order to stop the factories, the surviving humans must create a conflict over resources. The end is definitely what they intended.
"Service Call" tells of time travel and what can happen when service arrives before the product.
"Captive Market" tells of a trader that has a special ability to go forward in time to supply products to a post-apocalyptic world. What lengths will she go to maintain a trading relationship?
"The Mold of Yancy" shows a future Earth where humans are spreading out in the solar system. On one world, the population is happy with their homespun hero Yancy. Not real, but the collective mind of many, Yancy controls public perception. But some aren't happy with what Yancy is creating.
"The Minority Report", one of his best known stories tells of a crime division that stops crime before it happens. The rights of individuals and free choice are eliminated. If the accused know they are the accused, will they still commit the crime. If they won't then will the crime still be committed?
"Recall Mechanism" is a tale of phobias. A man is afraid of heights and falling. He goes to see a psychiatrist to work it out.
"The Unreconstructed M" is a tale of scheming. Companies try to gain advantage. Games within games, schemes within schemes, and the ultimate goal is control.
"Explorers We" is a tale about astronauts returning from Mars. But the earth is not what they expect. Of course the astronauts aren't who they think they are either.
"War Game" is a tale about changing how people think. The rules of the games we play influence how we think about life. Changing the rules changes how we think and go forward.
"If There Were No Benny Cemoli" is about the control of information and how it influences thoughts. This is timely for today as more news is controlled by fewer sources.
"Novelty Act" is a tale of a world where people long to escape. Freedom comes in many ways, but not always the way you think. Sometimes control and power are not centered where everyone expects.
"Waterspider" is a tale of time travel. A scientist needs an answer so looks to the past. He travels to a science fiction convention to find the author who knows the answer. What comes is a who's who of Science Fiction and scenes from a convention that congoers of today would recognize.
"What Dead Men Say" relates a world where the dead have the ability to communicate for a period of time after death. One man dies, and wants to maintain control. His will is so great that he is able to affect the whole world. Or can he?
"Orpheus of Clay Feet" is about those who inspire greatness. When a man wants to be the muse of a great writer, he travels to the appropriate place in the past. What he finds isn't what he expects, and he may end up altering history and creating a new way to fix problems.
"The Days of Perky Pat" is another post-apocalyptic tale. In this story, people's lives surround the games people play with their dolls. The scenes and layouts that they create are complex. When two communities come in contact, they agree to compete. They come to realize that the games are being played at different stages of life. The winner will have trouble reintegrating into their home.
"Stand-By" tells of an America run by a computer. But computers need a backup in case something goes wrong. What happens when the backup has to take control? Set in the same universe, "What'll We Do With Ragland Park", tells of the lengths to which Max will go to stay in power.
"Oh, To Be A Blobel!" relates the aftermath of a war. The agents that worked the other side of the line face a problem, they are no longer completely human or Blobel. "Love and Hate End" is a quandary similar to "The Gift of the Magi".
For stories that are over 50 years old, they have held up remarkably well. The main thing that is off is the amount of cigarette smoking that is going on. It makes perfect sense for the time, but as a country we have moved away from casual smoking in many areas. But beyond that, Dick never spent a lot of time describing the technology, so how it worked or didn't work does not become dated.
This is a collection that is easy to recommend. The writing is good and the stories thought-provoking. The issues that underlay many of the stories are still issues today: invasive government, thought control, and freedom.
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