It includes the renowned Minority Report, made famous by the film adaptation, and some other great stories, mostly, in my opinion, even better than Minority Report.
- Now, lets deal with the title story – Minority Report.
The film is better! Yes, I hate to admit it, but it is true. There are some great concepts in the film: the retinal scanning (that delivers both personalised adverts and controls access to the Precog facility) and the eye transplants (yuck, do you remember that scene?). Remember the fantastic sequence in which Anderton kidnaps the precog responsible for the minority report; and one of the key elements of the plot – the misleading recording of images and the eventual realisation you can’t cheat destiny? This is all missing from the short story. Even the main character, Anderton, appears two dimensional in comparison to the character in the film, played so compellingly by Tom Cruise.Don’t let me put you off. There are some GREAT stories in this book.
- Imposter: Man replaced by alien robot. Yes, we might be able guess how this story works out, but the ironic twist at the end is good. I believe this story was turned into a not-so-good film, Imposter, in 2002.
- Second Variety: The use of mechanical predators in war is no longer a futuristic concept. Again, you can probably see the end coming, but this story introduces some really scary concepts and the setting seems utterly realistic. I was there.
- War Game: Ah ha – the power of insidious messages, the use of subtle methods of propagating propaganda and the indoctrination of children. Loved the story. Didn’t know how it was going to end…
- What the Dead Men Say: Would it be useful to prolong the dying thoughts of people’s brains, so you could extend their period of influence and keep a connection with them for years after their bodies died? Maybe. I loved the central concept in this story, although the story itself degenerated into a tale of evil madness, that all-too-familiar cop out – somewhat disappointingly. There is a neat subplot about the control of air waves to promote politicians and win elections (hello, Mr Murdoch?). By the way, the concept of “half life” was used in a recent episode of Dr Who. Yes, it definitely was – although probably not intentionally.
- Oh to Be a Blobel!: Funny story; and with a serious subtext, all about appearances, racism and alienation.
- The Electric Ant: short, inventive and classic sci-fi. What about robots who believe they are human? Ah, yes, someone made a film about that – wasn’t it Spielberg in a flim called AI? (Although AI was actually based on Brian Aldiss’s short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long.) This concept was devleloped further in Philip K Dick’s story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (not included in this anthology), that became the great Blade Runner film. How about challenging our concept of reality; is life all a virtual reality construct? Hmm, what film used this concept – ah, of course, The Matrix.
- Faith of Our Fathers: more Stephen King horror tale, than sci-fi. Good and scary. Maybe the weakest of the bunch, in my opinion.
- We Can Remember it for You Wholesale: The story from which the film Total Recallwas based. Nice twists and turns.
In writing this review, I came to realise how much modern sci-fi flims and programme makers have borrowed from Philip K Dick. What a fantastically inventive writer he was. How modern his themes still are. What a shame he died prematurely, in 1982, and failed to see his stories turned into some of the most successful films of all time.