Sunday, August 5, 2018

Philip K. Dick's Electric DreamsPhilip K. Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you sat down to read this collection of ten stories, you could probably read it in a day. But you probably wouldn't want to do that. The point of short stories is to spread them out. So maybe it would take a week. It took me a long time to finish this book, but not because of the stories, because of the TV series. Each episode of Electric Dreams is based on one of these stories... and the stories are better.

Not that they are great. This is Philip K. Dick at his earliest, when he's still growing as a writer. But they're mostly fun; short stories he probably dashed off quickly to sell to the magazines. A few are quite dated (one story deals with a kid envious of the other families with a bomb shelter when he has none, and most of them have a male protagonist in a 50s America), but that's to be expected.

I would imagine that some of these stories might have been good TV adaptations for a half hour format (such as The Twilight Zone), but an hour is a long time and trying to adapt a short 10-20 page story into fifty minutes of television is rarely going to work well. Which is why the episodes borrow very lightly from the stories. For the most part, they're completely made up and yes, modernized. There were a few that I really enjoyed (I'm talking about the episodes here) such as Autofac and Human Is. But many were rather dull and boring. And then there's the adaptation of "Sales Pitch" which makes no sense to me. In the original story, Ed Morris complains about the increasing frequency of ads only to come home to find a robot in his living room who's trying to sell -- itself. And it won't leave until it's purchased. It's an incredibly imaginative and funny premise and it's completely ignored in the adaptation. It felt like a completely missed opportunity.

Each story has a brief introduction by the writer who adapted it, but they really add nothing other than some necessary padding to the book which would otherwise be even shorter than it already is.

Do I recommend the stories? Absolutely. Again, not P.K. Dick's best, but they're fun enough and some nice mostly light reading before bed. Would I recommend the series? Not so much. It was an absolute chore to get through and if there's a season two, I'll miss it. But I'll still read the stories they're based on.

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