No one on the planet could match Philip K. Dick before his arrival or after his departure: Not his musings, not his paranoia, not his vision of the future. He called himself "a fictionalizing philosopher."
Dick, who died in 1982 at the age of 53, is still way ahead of us all. Hollywood figured that out: "A Scanner Darkly" opened in July. Dick's writings also became the movies "Blade Runner" and "Paycheck." Movies based on his work include "Total Recall," "Imposter," "Screamers" and "Minority Report."
"Vintage PKD" (Vintage Books, $11.95) offers samples: extracts from three of his 44 novels, including "A Scanner Darkly"; a few short stories, drawn from his 14 collections; a biographical essay; and selected letters.
In "The Lucky Dog Pet Store," Dick explains: "That's me: paralyzed by imagination. For me a flat tire on my car is (a) The End of the World; and (b) An Indication of Monsters (although I forget why). ...
"The science-fiction writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just 'What if - .' It's 'My God; what if - .' In frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming."
Actually, for Dick, the Martians aren't coming; they're here. And they live next door - and don't like you.
While most of the acclaim and popularity arrived after his death, Dick was awarded the 1963 Hugo Award for "The Man in the High Castle," in which Japan and Germany won World War II and divided the United States. This collection provides an excerpt.
This is not a book for fans; it's an introduction for the uninitiated and curious. You might be better served going to the library, thumbing through the collections and novels to pick something, then plunging in. Or looking for Vintage's trade paperbacks of his novels.
You won't come out the same.