Second Variety (Collected Stories: Vol 2)

Second Variety (Collected Stories: Vol 2) - Philip K. Dick Because this is a book containing over 25 short stories - some related, some not; some great, and some not - I think the only way I can review this is story by story: 25 (even shorter) reviews. So, here goes:

The Cookie Lady
and
Beyond The Door
***
Roald Dahl-esque, only with less of the intricacy and finesse of Dahl's work. Nonetheless, these two stories were enjoyable, if more predictable than I would like. The dark humour that comes through in later works is readily apparent here.

Second Variety
***.5
This is where P.K.D is really in his element - war, and robots. The implications of this story still ring true, though the war in question has been over for some time now, and the double-twist at the end was both well-wrought and genuinely unexpected (for me, anyway). I will confess to finding the story a little dull in parts, but after reading later stories set in the future of this world, I appreciated the background given in Second Variety.

Jon's World
****
This really sums up many of my feelings towards the mental health industry. OH, it made me angry! This really was the intended reaction, I believe. Really deals with human selfishness and refusal to accept anything outside of our meagre understanding. Very good.

The Cosmic Poachers
****
Plot twist was a little obvious but darkly funny. Plays on humanity's greed, and that insistence that anything we don't understand or agree with is inherently "dumber" than us. This is definitely a recurring theme - Martians Come in Clouds is very similar, although far more heartbreaking (and dealing a little more strongly with racism).

Progeny
***.5
Really relevant to today, I think - kids don't get to be kids anymore, which is something I could rant about for the entirety of this review! I won't, other than to say that a world where games like bulrush are banned from school in case of injury, and climbing trees is forbidden, is not a world that will raise strong individuals and I cannot agree with that. Nether could P.K.D, apparently. This was written in response to his own upbringing, where doctors made parents feel guilty for showing their children affection. The "progeny" in this is the result of such a sterile upbringing. Not my favourite, but very good.

Some Kinds of Life
*****
THIS
Honestly, this should be compulsory reading in schools. No less relevant now than when it was written - possibly even more so. The futility of war and commercialism and everything is here - perfection. I can't stop raving about this story to everyone I know, I really can't!

The Commuter
****.5
Hilarious.

The World She Wanted
***
Not as strong as a lot of his other stories, although the premise is interesting. Again, nice little plot twist but a little bland for me. I could actually see this as a really interesting film though...

A Surface Raid
***.5
Same as above, only better plot twist and slightly stronger storyline. Also, this wouldn't work as a film!

Project: Earth
***.5

The Trouble With Bubbles
****
Very interesting, great twist at end (though I did see it coming), interesting visuals and plot.

Breakfast At Twilight
****
In the author's own words: There you are in your home, and the soldiers smash down the door and tell you you're in the middle of World War III. Something's gone wrong with time. I like to fiddle with the idea of basic categories of reality, such as space and time, breaking down. It's my love of chaos, I suppose. (1976)

A Present for Pat
**.5
A unique concept, very funny but turned a little silly at the end. Neither loved nor hated this, worth the read if you you want something more light and fluffy.

The Hood Maker
***

Of Withered Apples
***
The closest to a typical horror I've ever seen by P.K.D, interesting concept but I didn't think the story was up to his usual standard - there was something lacking.

Human Is
*****
By far my favourite - opens the debate of what makes a human, and in the end (here anyway) it comes down to kindness. Simply written, moving and the ending is really lovely.

Adjustment Team
****
Though the title isn't quite as "schnazzy" as "The Adjustment Bureau"(the Matt Damon film based on the story), Adjustment Team is a great little story, and you can definitely see why a film version was made. Creepy cool premise - the kind that has you looking twice around the place to make sure that everything seems as you left it.

The Impossible Planet
***
This one was interesting but I think it went over my head, just a little. I got the implications, but... No, didn't love it.

Impostor
***

James P. Crow
****.5
The anti-racist overtones are less overtones and more like clashing cymbals of obviousness, but the lack of subtlety in this respect doesn't detract in any way from the story. Subtlety isn't always needed in every aspect of writing, and the impact of the story is quite strong. The ending was nicely sinister too.

Planet for Transients
****

Small Town
****
Again, similar to Roald Dahl in tone and subject, nicely eerie.

Souvenir
***
Good concept (as usual) but I completely failed to understand the ending, or at least was unsure I understood it. Three stars only because I didn't quite get it. Judge for yourself.

Survey Team
*****
AND again, he writes another perfect story of human greed and wastefulness that is all the more terrifying for its future possible accuracy.


(Yes, I calculated the average of each of those ratings because I am a perfectionist and weird about numbers. Four stars is close enough to that average.)