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Human Is? 
A Philip K. Dick Reader

Philip K. Dick

Of course, the way they put it, the idea was if we had to buy our gas masks and bomb shelters we’d take better care of them."

Reviewed by Mark Dalligan

Philip K. Dick’s dark and gritty worlds are awesome, but would be too depressing to contemplate were it not for his compassion for his characters and brittle sense of humour. The twenty short pieces in this collection were originally published between 1952 and 1973. They are flavoured by those authoritarian times and largely pre-date his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (filmed as Blade Runner). 

A mixed handful would be: Beyond Lies the Wub: too "pulpy" for me, overly blending an "aliens aren't what they seem" premise with a "humans are boneheads" theme, all bound in a futuristic mayonnaise.

Second Variety: After the sky has become a permanent cloud of ash, Cold War survivors continue to battle. The end-of-time culmination of Henry Ford's drive for labour efficiency means people and machine-generated weapons may not be all they seem.

The Variable Man: a dark cousin to Twain's Connecticut Yankee. A horse cart driving odd- jobber is accidentally catapulted forward in time to a military dominated future. Man is corralled within his own solar system by superior alien technology. What is the effect of a random element from the past in such a mix? 

The Father Thing: no prizes for guessing, is a bad ass alien. It supplants the head of a young family. More than a rogue ET tale with strong with Ray Bradburyish "coming of age" overtones. 

Human Is?: gives its name to the title of the collection. In my view not the best story but one that clearly examines what being human actually means. 

Oh, To Be a Blobel!: has aliens become humans and humans become aliens. All overwritten by love, loneliness, anger and avarice. 

If you have only the time or inclination to sample one story in this collection, it should be The Days of Perky Pat. Armageddon survivors have formed isolated communities. Guilt-consumed aliens drop food and technology parcels, but people seem more interested in a proxy life lived through plastic dolls.

Mark Dalligan’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications including Static Movement, MicroHorror, Bewildering Stories, Boston Literary Magazine, Ranfurly Review, Twisted Tongue and Every Day Fiction.

Mark's other Short Reviews: Kim Newman "The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club"   

Robert Shearman "Tiny Deaths"   


PublisherGollancz Fiction

Publication Date: March 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?No

Author bio:  In his early 20’s, Hugo winner Philip K. Dick (1928 -1982) began writing SF full-time, contributing massively to 50’s pulps before turning to novel writing. In 1974 a (possibly) mystical experience added further depth to his world perception. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is probably his most famous work.

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If you liked this book you might also like....

Philip K. Dick "Minority Report" and "The Variable Man"

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