Twenty-one stories culled from Dick's (1928–82) considerable output; all have appeared in collections before, if only in the five-volume Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick (1986). Although the basis for the current selection isn't clear, the timing coincides with the release of yet another movie based on his work. Both “Beyond Lies the Wub,” Dick's first published story, and “Roog,” his first sale, appear. Most of the stories reflect Dick's dearest obsessions, “What is real?” or “What is human?,” sometimes both at once. For Dick, reality might be adjusted at any moment: by the government, drugs, psychiatrists, aliens, or god. Angels could be vampires. Memories are at best unreliable, more likely false, or lost altogether. Machines, once activated, can’t be shut off, and overthrow humanity. Changelings remain unaware of their real identity: robots assume they're human; an assassin knows nothing of the bomb he carries. Four tales here have been made into movies, if not altogether recognizably: “Second Variety” became Screamers; “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” developed, via Piers Anthony, into Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall; “Imposter,” spelled correctly, is Impostor; and the recent adaptation of “The Minority Report” stars Tom Cruise. Was Dick then a prophet, clairvoyantly writing outlines for future movie moguls? No. But it's curious how aptly today's world reflects the concepts that tormented and fascinated the author: paranoia, shifting realities, pulp culture, and machines.
These are not, for the most part, outstanding stories, but the worlds of this fevered imagination have become our luridly inescapable reality.