Book Review: Electric Dreams (Philip K. Dick)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 224

Release Date: September 14th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Based on the stories contained in this volume, the ten-part anthology series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) and Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex), with Oscar nominated Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Breaking Bad) both executive producing and appearing in the series.

Each episode will be a sharp, thrilling standalone drama adapted and contemporised for global audiences by a creative team of British and American writers. The series will both illustrate Philip K. Dick’s prophetic vision and celebrate the enduring appeal of the prized Sci-Fi novelist’s work. Other guest stars include Janelle Morae, Anna Paquin, Timothy Spall and Benedict Wong.

The ten stories included are:

THE HANGING STANGER, THE COMMUTER, THE FATHER-THING, EXHIBIT PIECE, IMPOSSIBLE PLANET, SALES PITCH, FOSTER YOU’RE DEAD, THE HOOD MAKER, HOLY QUARREL, IF THERE WERE NO BENNY CEMOLI, AUTOFAC and HUMAN IS

Review:

I’ve not read any Philip K Dick before, but I have seen a lot of films inspired by his books and figured it’d be my kind of thing. I already had the Electric Dreams TV show set to record when Gollancz offered it for review – and we all know it’s better to read the book first, right?

This has all the stories that inspired the episodes, with an introduction to each one buy the people who adapted them.

I really enjoyed all of the stories, though some more than others, of course. It was a refreshing read as it’s not my usual kind of book and I was worried I wouldn’t get on with it, but I raced through each story.

PKD plunges straight into each story with no explanation, just immersing you straight into his new world and adding enough detail to make sure you catch up.

My favourites were The Father-Thing – there was something very creepy about seeing all of it through a child’s eyes – and The Hanging Stranger – the end of that, when everything falls into place, packs a real punch. I’d say my least favourite was Autofac – it was interesting enough but just didn’t capture me the way the others did.

If you’ve watched or are planning on watching the TV show then I’d definitely recommend getting this. Whether you’re a newbie to PKD like me, or a veteran fan, there’s guaranteed to be a story in there you’ll enjoy.

Book Review: Topics About Which I Know Nothing (Patrick Ness)

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 288

Release Date: First published 2005

Summary (from Goodreads):

Scintillating, surprising, inventive fiction from one of the most talented writers in Britain – this is a superb collection of short stories from the acclaimed author of the Chaos Walking series and ‘More Than This’. Have you heard the urban myth about Jesus’s double-jointed elbows yet? 100% true. Or seen the latest reports on the ‘groomgrabbing’ trend – the benevolent kidnapping of badly-dressed children by their well-meaning (and more dapper) elders? Heard the one about the Amazon from the Isle of Man? Or perhaps you’d like a job in telesales, offering self-defence classes over the phone? Don’t worry, as long as you meet the weekly quota, you won’t be sent to the end of the hall…Wonderfully original, fresh and funny, ‘Topics About Which I Know Nothing’ is stuffed to the gills with dizzyingly inventive writing and warming, puzzling emotions – a fictional guide to how the world might have turned out.

Review:

This is a continuation of my ‘read everything by Patrick Ness’ binge that came about from receiving all his books for my birthday.

I do prefer his young adult books (as in I love them and rave about them always) but I’ve been trying to get into his adult stuff too. I really enjoyed The Crane Wife earlier this year, and was looking forward to this one too.

I worry about reading short stories like this. It’s the kind of thing we’d read in my creative writing classes at uni and I’d always worry that I wouldn’t get it or I wouldn’t be able to say anything clever about it. And for some reason that still colours my opinion when I read things like this: even though I don’t need to impress anyone with my intellectual opinion, I still worry about it.

There were some stories I just didn’t get, or didn’t enjoy, and rather than worry about it I’ve just accepted it. I;m just going to write a couple of lines about each one rather than try and sum up the book as a whole.

Implied Violence – this was a great start to the book and just felt like everything a short story should be: a quick snapshot of life, with fleshed out characters, a good spot of humour and an interesting premise. I really enjoyed this.

The Way All Trends Do – this was in the form of a report and was a bit bizarre, but in a brilliant way. I loved the idea of ‘groom grabbing’ and the way the information unfolded was really interesting.

Ponce de Leon is a Retired Married Couple From Toronto – this story was told by several letters, between a mother and son, and the son and various authorities. The ending was a little ambiguous but I quite liked that.

Jesus’ Elbows and Other Christian Urban Myths – the style of these felt a little odd. They didn’t feel like your traditional written story: more like one that someone was telling you directly, in person, if that makes sense. They were really quirky though and very enjoyable, though they’re probably not for everyone (i.e. you may find it a little offensive if you’re Christian).

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodest – this falls half in the category of ‘I didn’t understand’ but there were some bits I really enjoyed too. I think the not understanding came mostly from the large amounts of Latin used, but I did follow the main story line. There was a reference to Flemish that I really appreciated, though most people won’t enjoy as much (my Grandma is Flemish so it’s a language I’m used to hearing).

Sydney is a City of Jaywalkers – I didn’t really enjoy this story. There was an interesting idea in there but I got a little bored, and then confused towards the end (another where I just felt maybe I wasn’t smart enough for it).

2,115 Opportunities – this story explored all the little fluctuations that can cause or not cause an event to happen: we see over 2000 different scenarios (some are grouped together as they are similar) which just show how specific every little event had to be to lead up to two people meeting.

The Motivation of Sally Rae Wentworth, Amazon – I think this is probably what spoiled my enjoyment of the book a bit. I really struggled to get through it, and it stuck in my mind more than the ones I enjoyed. I just found it dull.

The Seventh International Military War Games Dance Committee Quadrennial Competition and Jamboree – this was a newspaper article, and another of Ness’ more bizarre ideas, but it did make me chuckle: the idea of combining war and art in some kind of weird and dangerous performance was brilliant.

The Gifted – this was another one with a bit of a weird/ambiguous ending, but I really enjoyed it. There were some strong characters and a school assignment to die for (pun intended). I could easily see this as a longer story idea too.

Now That You’ve Died – the introduction said this was recorded as an immersive play, and the theatre student in me loved it. It just filled me with creative ideas and I just wanted to take it into class and workshop it with some students. It was a brilliant way to end the book.

4

Book Review: Prep for Doom (Band of Dystopian)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Details:Publisher: Your Elemental Solutions
Release Date: 18th June 2015
 
Blurb (from Goodreads):

From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths.

What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month.
An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

 

Review:

I really loved the sound of this book: a worldwide disaster told in the form of short stories just sounded perfect. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was an interesting read.
The good, first.
It was great to read the same wider story (the virus outbreak) told from so many different points of view. It made it feel realistic – instead of following one protagonist who just happens to be immune and great with a shotgun and really world-savvy, we meet a lot of different people, some who are immune, but also some who get sick, some who die, and that made the whole thing feel more real.
As a whole I enjoyed the book but when I think about individual stories its hard to pick out favourites. A lot of them had a tendency to make very dramatic statements or rely on cliches, which got annoying. I did find that, with so many stories to follow, it could get a little confusing. Sometimes characters popped up in other people’s stories later, which was great when I recognised them, but often I couldn’t remember which story they belonged to and had to flip back to check.
I also felt it was a shame that, for what is stated to be a worldwide disaster, all stories bar the prologue were set in America. I understand this is an American book, but it would have been so great to see the reaction in different countries and cultures, rather than just across a few different cities/states.
Overall, I think this was a brilliant idea that could have been a little better executed, but still worth a read if you’re ready for some doom and drama!

My Verdict:

 

I enjoyed – give it a read

If you enjoyed this, you may like The 100 by Kass Morgan