Me: SNAGGED THE AFTERPARTY TICKETS!!
Here, Rob, have my tax refund, make an awesome movie, please.
Rob: As if I weren't already feeling the pressure!
But I'm so happy you got them.
I never would have predicted this when it started.
I've been meaning to actually read Philip K. Dick for a while, and I am pretty sure I read "The Minority Report" and "Paycheck" a long time ago, so when I saw the movie cash-in Minority Report and Other Stories (read by Keir Dullea), I figured it was a perfect chance to become more acquainted with Dick.
"The Minority Report" (a.k.a. Minority Report) plays with predetermination and precognition in a fun way by exploring the world of precrime, where murders are stopped before they happen on the basis that they were going to happen. It's a fairly exciting mystery thriller in which our protagonist, the head of precrime, discovers that apparently he is going to kill someone. Except he doesn't even know this guy! There's got to be something wrong with the system, or he's being framed, or something, right?
"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (a.k.a. Total Recall) plays with memories and our innermost desires in a fun way by exploring the idea of implanting false memories to recreate the experiences you most desire to have but never can have. But what if your innermost desires are actually real memories underneath your false ones? Can you even trust who you are? It's very different from the movie; in fact, it's pretty funny in the end.
"Paycheck" (a.k.a. Paycheck) plays with identity in a fun way by drawing a clear distinction between the protagonist—who has had the last two years of his memory wiped—and his previous self, who worked for a major corporation that does...no one knows what. And so He leaves himself some trinkets to help piece together whatever master plan He set up before He had His memory wiped. It's a little gimmicky but fun to wait for each new trinket to be used, and there are some nice twists.
"Second Variety" (a.k.a. Screamers) plays with robots in a fun way by envisioning a war in which the robots initially designed as weapons against enemies develop humanoid versions to Kill All Humans. What follows is a typical Who's the Cylon plot, but, like every Dick story, there's more to it than meets the eye.
"The Eyes Have It" (a.k.a. There's No Movie to Be Made Here) is a short, cute story about taking idiomatic expressions way too seriously.
Because I had seen all the movies made from the stories, I was not particularly blown away by the concepts themselves, but it's clear why Hollywood keeps going to Philip K. Dick for ideas. Because the man had a lot of great ideas. The prose is utilitarian, and he overuses "presently" like J.K. Rowling overuses semicolons. Characterization is not particularly strong. But every story draws you into its world and the technology and ideas that it explores.
Richard Matheson is an author whose name I've heard a lot because his work has been adapted into many movies and Twilight Zone episodes, so when I saw an audiobook of the movie cash-in The Box: Uncanny Stories, I figured it would be a good introduction.
The Box is based on the classic story "Button, Button," in which a couple must decide whether to press a button to kill someone they don't know in exchange for a whopping $50,000 (which must have been worth a lot more at the time). It's a wickedly clever setup, and it has a nice, if slightly predictable twist.
The rest of the stories are a very mixed bag, with very few standouts. Although "Girl of My Dreams" has a really great idea—a husband who exploits his wife's precognitive dreams for money—it's marred by making the male character uncomfortably misogynistic for no good reason. "A Flourish of Strumpets" is a fairly cute story of door-to-door prostitution. "The Creeping Terror" is probably the strongest story apart from the title track, as it's a clever, satirical tale of Los Angeles literally taking over America, but even though it does develop its premise, it's still essentially one joke that goes on way too long.
Most of the other eight stories are unengaging and forgettable, and none of the stories are helped by Grover Gardner, whose old-timey nasal voice is not pleasant to listen to.
As a showcase of Matheson's apparent talent and influence, this collection does not impress me.