His religions, psychoses, divorces, and drug use aside, Philip K. Dick changed the face of American science fiction with his mind-bending writing. There may be readers who have only heard of him as the mind behind Blade Runner
(based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
). But even casual PKD fans should take a look at these 24 short stories, among them, "Second Variety," from which the movie Screamers
was made, and "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," basis of the Schwarzenegger film Total Recall
. Other standouts include "The Turning Wheel," "The Last of the Masters," "Tony and the Beetles," and "The Minority Report." Readers will recognize PKD's trademark themes: capitalism and the American dream run amok, a disquieting loss of ability to distinguish friends from enemies, and humans versus machines.
Since Philip K. Dick's heyday, and thanks in large part to his influence, the contemporary science fiction short story has evolved into a form more self-reflective and psychologically complex. This is a wonderful development, to be sure. But don't regard the older stories in this collection as dated. Instead, enjoy the peppery punch: PKD's stories provide plenty of plot twists and surprise endings. --Bonnie Bouman