About the Author
More than 30 years after his untimely death at age 53, Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982) remains one of the most celebrated authors of the last century and a looming and illuminating presence in this one. He was the winner of both the prestigious Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, which honor excellence in science fiction. Inducted in 2007 into the Library of America, which publishes a three-volume collection of his novels, Dick has received unprecedented recognition for his contributions to modern literature, specifically in the area of science fiction. His 45 novels and over 210 short stories have been adapted into numerous films, including the blockbusters Minority Report, Total Recall, and Blade Runner, as well as Impostor, Paycheck, Scanner Darkly, Next, and The Adjustment Bureau.
Read an Excerpt
The first thought Anderton had when he saw the young man was: I'm getting bald. Bald and fat and old. But he didn't say it aloud. Instead, he pushed back his chair, got to his feet, and came resolutely around the side of his desk, his right hand rigidly extended. Smiling with forced amiability, he shook hands with the young man.
"Witwer?" he asked, managing to make this query sound gracious.
"That's right," the young man said. "But the name's Ed to you, of course. That is, if you share my dislike for needless formality." The look on his blond, overly-confident face showed that he considered the matter settled. It would be Ed and John: Everything would be agreeably cooperative right from the start.
"Did you have much trouble finding the building?" Anderton asked guardedly, ignoring the too-friendly overture. Good God, he had to hold on to something. Fear touched him and he began to sweat. Witwer was moving around the office as if he already owned itas if he were measuring it for size. Couldn't he wait a couple of daysa decent interval?
"No trouble," Witwer answered blithely, his hands in his pockets. Eagerly, he examined the voluminous files that lined the wall. "I'm not coming into your agency blind, you understand. I have quite a few ideas of my own about the way Precrime is run."
Shakily, Anderton lit his pipe. "How is it run? I should like to know."
"Not badly," Witwer said. "In fact, quite well."
Anderton regarded him steadily. "Is that your private opinion? Or is it just cant?"
Witwer met his gaze guilelessly. "Private and public. The Senate's pleased with your work. In fact, they're enthusiastic." He added, "As enthusiastic as very old men can be."
Anderton winced, but outwardly he remained impassive. It cost him an effort, though. He wondered what Witwer really thought. What was actually going on in that closecropped skull? The young man's eyes were blue, bright-and disturbingly clever. Witwer was nobody's fool. And obviously he had a great deal of ambition.
"As I understand it," Anderton said cautiously, "you're going to be my assistant until I retire."
"That's my understanding, too," the other replied, without an instant's hesitation.
"Which may be this year, or next yearor ten years from now." The pipe in Anderton's hand trembled. "I'm under no compulsion to retire. I founded Precrime and I can stay on here as long as I want. It's purely my decision."
Witwer nodded, his expression still guileless. "Of course."
With an effort, Anderton cooled down a trifle. "I merely wanted to get things straight."
"From the start," Witwer agreed. "You're the boss. What you say goes." With every evidence of sincerity, he asked: "Would you care to show me the organization? I'd like to familiarize myself with the general routine as soon as possible."
As they walked along the busy, yellow-lit tiers of offices, Anderton said: "You're acquainted with the theory of precrime, of course. I presume we can take that for granted."
"I have the information publicly available," Witwer replied. "With the aid of your precog mutants, you've boldly and successfully abolished the postcrime punitive system of jails and fines. As we all realize, punishment was never much of a deterrent, and could scarcely have afforded comfort to a victim already dead."
They had come to the descent lift. As it carried them swiftly downward, Anderton said: "You've probably grasped the basic legalistic drawback to precrime methodology. We're taking in individuals who have broken no law."
"But they surely will," Witwer affirmed with conviction.
"Happily they don'tbecause we get them first, before they can commit an act of violence. So the commission of the crime itself is absolute metaphysics. We claim they're culpable. They, on the other hand, eternally claim they're innocent. And, in a sense, they are innocent."
The lift let them out, and they again paced down a yellow corridor. "In our society we have no major crimes," Anderton went on, "but we do have a detention camp full of would-be criminals."
Doors opened and closed, and they were in the analytical wing. Ahead of them rose impressive banks of equipmentthe data-receptors, and the computing mechanisms that studied and restructured the incoming material. And beyond the machinery sat the three precogs, almost lost to view in the maze of wiring.
"There they are," Anderton said dryly. "What do you think of them?"
In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling. Every incoherent utterance, every random syllable, was analyzed, compared, reassembled in the form of visual symbols, transcribed on conventional punchcards, and ejected into various coded slots. All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs, held in one rigid position by metal bands, and bundles of wiring, clamps. Their physical needs were taken care of automatically. They had no spiritual needs. Vegetable-like, they muttered and dozed and existed. Their minds were dull, confused, lost in shadows.
But not the shadows of today. The three gibbering, fumbling creatures, with their enlarged heads and wasted bodies, were contemplating the future. The analytical machinery was recording prophecies, and as the three precog idiots talked, the machinery carefully listened.
For the first time Witwer's face lost its breezy confidence. A sick, dismayed expression crept into his eyes, a mixture of shame and moral shock. "It's notpleasant," he murmured. "I didn't realize they were so" He groped in his mind for the right word, gesticulating. "Sodeformed."
"Deformed and retarded," Anderton instantly agreed. "Especially the girl, there. Donna is forty-five years old. But she looks about ten. The talent absorbs everything; the esp-lobe shrivels the balance of the frontal area. But what do we care? We get their prophecies. They pass on what we need. They don't understand any of it, but we do."
Subdued, Witwer crossed the room to the machinery. From a slot he collected a stack of cards. "Are these names that have come up?" he asked.
"Obviously." Frowning, Anderton took the stack from him. "I haven't had a chance to examine them," he explained, impatiently concealing his annoyance.
Fascinated, Witwer watched the machinery pop a fresh card into the now empty slot. It was followed by a secondand a third. From the whirring disks came one card after another. "The precogs must see quite far into the future," Witwer exclaimed.
"They see a quite limited span," Anderton informed him. "One week or two ahead at the very most. Much of their data is worthless to ussimply not relevant to our line. We pass it on to the appropriate agencies. And they in turn trade data with us. Every important bureau has its cellar of treasured monkeys."
"Monkeys?" Witwer stared at him uneasily. "Oh, yes, I understand. See no evil, speak no evil, et cetera. Very amusing."
"Very apt." Automatically, Anderton collected the fresh cards which had been turned up by the spinning machinery. "Some of these names will be totally discarded. And most of the remainder record petty crimes: thefts, income tax evasion, assault, extortion. As I'm sure you know, Precrime has cut down felonies by ninety-nine and decimal point eight percent. We seldom get actual murder or treason. After all, the culprit knows we'll confine him in the detention camp a week before he gets a chance to commit the crime."
"When was the last time an actual murder was committed?" Witwer asked.
"Five years ago," Anderton said, pride in his voice.
"How did it happen?"
"The criminal escaped our teams. We had his name-in fact, we had all the details of the crime, including the victim's name. We knew the exact moment, the location of the planned act of violence. But in spite of us he was able to carry it out." Anderton shrugged. "After all, we can't get all of them." He riffled the cards. "But we do get most."
"One murder in five years." Witwer's confidence was returning. "Quite an impressive record . . . something to be proud of."
Quietly Anderton said: "I am proud. Thirty years ago I worked out the theory-back in the days when the self-seekers were thinking in terms of quick raids on the stock market. I saw something legitimate ahead-something of tremendous social value."
He tossed the packet of cards to Wally Page, his subordinate in charge of the monkey block. "See which ones we want," he told him. "Use your own judgment."
As Page disappeared with the cards, Witwer said thoughtfully: "It's a big responsibility."
"Yes, it is," agreed Anderton. "If we let one criminal escapeas we did five years agowe've got a human life on our conscience. We're solely responsible. If we slip up, somebody dies." Bitterly, he jerked three new cards from the slot. "It's a public trust."
"Are you ever tempted to" Witwer hesitated. "I mean, some of the men you pick up must offer you plenty."
"It wouldn't do any good. A duplicate file of cards pops out at Army GHQ. It's check and balance. They can keep their eye on us as continuously as they wish." Anderton glanced briefly at the top card. "So even if we wanted to accept a"
He broke off, his lips tightening.
"What's the matter?" Witwer asked curiously.
Carefully, Anderton folded up the top card and put it away in his pocket. "Nothing," he muttered. "Nothing at all."
The harshness in his voice brought a flush to Witwer's face. "You really don't like me," he observed.
"True," Anderton admitted. "I don't. But"
He couldn't believe he disliked the young man that much. It didn't seem possible: it wasn't possible. Something was wrong. Dazed, he tried to steady his tumbling mind.
On the card was his name. Line onean already accused future murderer! According to the coded punches, Precrime Commissioner John A. Anderton was going to kill a man-and within the next week.
With absolute, overwhelming conviction, he didn't believe it.
Table of Contents
|The Mold of Yancy||53|
|The Minority Report||71|
|The Unreconstructed M||117|
|If There Were No Benny Cemoli||173|
|What the Dead Men Say||245|
|Orpheus with Clay Feet||289|
|The Days of Perky Pat||301|
|What'll We Do with Ragland Park?||339|
|Oh, to Be a Blobel!||359|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you can see the future and predict a crime is it OK to arrest someone when they haven't done anything... yet?
This anthology of short stories is a little variable on quality. About half the stories are outstanding. Roughly half are mediocre, and at least one was so poor I couldn't bare to finish it.Worth reading for the good ones though.
This is a collection of 9 short science fiction stories 4 of which have been adapted into movies so I feel okay about including this title in this category.The first of these is the titular story. I was surprised how much was crammed into so few pages (about 40 iirc). It's quite different from the movie with just the idea of Precrime and the three precogs being pretty much the same. Will the head of Precrime try and kill a man he's never heard of or is the system not quite so fallible as it seemed. Commissioner John Anderton goes on the run to try and prove his innocence But if he does then that will mean an end to a system he's believed in for thirty years.Imposter is a quirky tale where an alien species has sent a machine that doesn't realise it's a machine to replace a human. Or is it the machine that was destroyed when its spacecraft was destroyed on landing? Second Variety is a Terminator style tale where war and machines have all but wiped out the human race on Earth with only small pockets of soldiers left. What's left of the Russian and Americans decide to call a truce and see if they can get together before the infiltrating machines get to them. Both of these tales have been made into movies and I'd not even heard of Impostor though I had of Screamers but didn't realise the original story was by PKD.War Game has a testing facility checking on imported games from Ganymede. With a threat of military action in the air trust is in short supply especially as the main toy in question is a war game where the consequences are not completely known. What the Dead Men Say is the longest of the stories in this collection (a meaty 60 pages) but has been my least favourite so far. Tycoon dies but has left instructions for his body to be preserved in a half-life state which allows his descendants to communicate with him at specified times in the future. Something goes wrong with the process however and he can't be revived. Then a voice comes over the airwaves from out beyond the solar system. Could this somehow be a communication from beyond? Oh to be a Blobel features an inter-species relationship where both partners spend time in each others natural form. One is a human and the other an amoeba-like alien. Can this possibly work out for all concerned and what about the kids?The Electric Ant once again returns to the question of identity when after an accident a man finds out he's not a human but a machine designed for the purpose of running a large company. Can he continue on with this existence knowing what he does or can he find a way to be free?Faith of Our Fathers sees a Chinese communist way of life with a Party member rising through the ranks. He's given an anti-hallucinogenic drug and sees The Leader for what he is. Is it an alien or is it God?We Can Remember it for You Wholesale was adapted into the movie and subsequent TV series Total Recall. Those familiar with the movie version will be surprised that while the start of the story remains the same there is no actual trip to Mars or mutant revolution in the short story. After discovering the memory he wants implanted is actually true, Quail escapes from the government agents sent to kill him but realises there is no real escape for him. He makes a deal and gives himself up in return for having his greatest wish fulfilled by memory implant. Once more something goes wrong with the procedure and what have the technicians discovered this time around?Overall this is a decent set of stories which explore the notions of identity and reality. Favourites of the nine were Second Variety and The Electric Ant.
Not only does the movie differ from the book, the moral's of the stories are exact opposites!
With the hardback edition clocking in at just 103 pages, Philip K. Dick's 'Minority Report' is a well written, quick read. Like his own 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' and much of sci-fi literature in general, it hints at a dystopian future in which technology may yet get the best of mankind. In 'Minority Report,' mutant humans with the ability to see into the future drive police computers used to prevent future crimes. But the potential for abuse of this technology raises interesting moral questions with social and political dimensions. Part sci-fi and part 'who-done-it' (or rather 'who-might-do-it')of crime fiction, 'Minority Report' captures some of the best elements of both genres. And while it's true that Dick packs plenty of possibilities into 103 short pages, this reviewer strongly disagrees with previous claims that the book is difficult to follow.
A little confusing but definitley worth watching, this movie is very suspensful and will keep your mind going throughtout the entire showing. I really liked it and Tom Cruise is magnificant as usual.
This book is a fantastic but confusing narrative in which a cop whose crime-fighting system, designed to psychically catch criminals before they commit their crimes, is accused by his own system of intending to murder a complete stranger. John Anderton has no one to trust, and has to stay one step ahead of his own men, who are frantically trying to catch him, as he learns why his system made a mistake. Both the story and the ending are full of surprises and, not surprisingly, neither the bulk of the story nor the nature of its ending have much in common with Spielberg's film.
The book is hard to follow at first because the movie storyline and characters are a little Different.(the whole reason I read this was because I saw the Steven Spielberg Film and It was awesome.)But towards the end I really liked It. But the ending is horrible.
amazing book, if you enjoyed the movie, you will love this book!