Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite writers, and one of the few from the golden age of sci-fi that I’ve read extensively. My review of one volume of his short stories is up! Check it out here.
Adjustment Team (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume Two) by Philip K. Dick
Cover Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Review by Charity J. Sand
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596063952
Date: 31 July 2011 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Book’s page / Show Official Info /
Volume Two of Dick’s short stories demonstrates the growth of his writing as he begins to explore the themes that would dominate his major works.<!–
Volume Two of the this short story collection covers the years 1952-1953 in 484 pages, two intensely productive years which followed Dick’s first short story sale in 1951. In these stories, the reader witnesses the evolution of his writing as he moves from the shorter, simpler Twilight Zone type plots of stories such as “The Cookie Lady”, “Beyond the Door”, and “Of Withered Apples” into longer stories which dive into the themes that would dominate much of his work. Through the slap-dash science and prolific prose, Dick’s reflections emerge on the nature of war, humanity, society, reality, and God.
Readers familiar with Dick know that he often sets his stories in the aftermath of a cold war gone nuclear. Frequently, in the rubble left after the nuclear bombs, mankind has forgotten all about the original ideological conflicts that led to war, forced instead to face a greater threat created by their own technology turning on them. In “Some Kinds of Life” and “Jon’s World”, Dick returns to a world in which Claws, a weapon created by mankind, have themselves evolved into intelligent machines which are threatening to end all human life.
Another theme Dick returns to often is the question of What is human? He explores this theme here most notably in “Project Earth”, “Human Is”, and “Imposter”. In his own notes on “Human Is”, Dick says “The quality of kindness, to me, distinguishes us from rocks and sticks and metal, and will forever, whatever shape we take, wherever we go, whatever we become.” (1976, p. 480)
Dick also explored our society and the question of how we treat those classified as other. In “James P. Crow”, humans have become the other in a world in which Robots have ruled and no one remembers that humans once created them. In “Martians Come in Clouds”, Dick shows humanity as destructive and fearful to the unknown.
Dick also loved playing with reality, especially breaking down space and time. For this treatment, see “The world She Wanted”, “Breakfast at Twilight”, and the “Adjustment Team”.
Even in these early stories, Dick delved into the theological themes that would become more prominent in his later writings. See “The Trouble with Bubbles”, “A Present for Pat”, and “Prominent Author”.
And finally, one of the least known and reprinted stories in the collection, “Survey Team”, deals with the problem of consumption and destruction of our natural world — perhaps one of the most prophetic stories in the bunch, as the editor notes.
This book is a worthwhile read for a long-time fan who wants to read every story Dick has written or a newcomer who wants an introduction to one of the best writers from science fiction’s golden age.