Before he prematurely died aged fifty-three, Philip K. Dick
was without doubt one of the most influential science fiction
writers of his generation. His output was prodigious ranging
from novels, short stories, radio plays and proposals for
television programs. Although highly regarded in the science
fiction community, it took the release of Bladerunner
to bring his particular take on the world to a greater audience.
Whilst, P.K. Dick covered a variety of themes the two that
he is best known for and which came to dominate his writing
was the nature of reality and what it is to be human...
Now, with the imminent release of another film based upon
a P.K. Dick novel, A Scanner Darkly, it would seem
to be an excellent time to re-examine the man and his works.
The idea obviously occurred to Brian J. Robb as he has written
the excellent Counterfeit Worlds: Philip K. Dick on Film.
If you know nothing about Dick's writings or are unaware of
his extensive body of work, you may be surprised just how
many films have been made in the last few decades based on
his novels. Dick would not live long enough to see his stories
translated to film; he only lived long enough to see some
of the rushes from Bladerunner, which he approved of.
We, however, are reaping the fruits of his paranoid amphetamine
first thing you notice about the book is that the title is
a lie. The book goes further than its remit and covers just
about everything you might want to know about Dick. The initial
sections cover his early life, including his struggles to
make a living from his writing and his string of failed relationships.
His life seems to have been as unusual as any of his literary
characters. All his early work is covered with some very nice
black and white prints of the book and magazine covers. Next,
comes an examination of his television and radio work. It
was great to see synopsis for the two scripts which he submitted
to The Invaders and Mission Impossible, neither
of which were produced.
greater part of the book is given over to an examination of
the films based on Dick's novels. There is a large section
on the history of the filming of Bladerunner, which
whilst fine for a book of this size, can't compete with a
more extensive look like Paul M Sammon's The Making of
Bladerunner. It is with the later films and series that
this book comes into its own. The next major project was Total
I was astounded to discover that this film was more successful
than Bladerunner. I'm not really sure what that says
about the viewing audience.
this Robb examines the much underrated Screamers, Confessions
d'un Barjo, a French adaptation of Confessions of a
Crap Artist, Impostor, which really didn't see
the light of day and was so unsuccessful that I got my copy
as a freebee give away on the front of a DVD magazine. The
next two films that are examined are arguably the most commercially
successful adaptations of his work, Minority
Report and Paycheck. Lastly, and to
show just how hot off the presses this book is, there is even
a section on A Scanner Darkly, which at the time of
writing hasn't even been released in the UK yet.
I know what your thinking: "Is that it then?" Well, no it
isn't. The book is so complete that it also covers television
shows based on Dick's books as well as computer games based
on his books and a whole bunch of ephemera that I wasn't even
not really sure what else Robb could have put in the book.
Okay, its true that some of the material will have been duplicated
in other books and there are better texts on Bladerunner,
but as an overall look at one man's life and his body of work
it's a great little book - both as a well researched reference
book and as a darn good read. Robb doesn't just rattle facts
and figures at you, but takes you on one madman's journey.
If you're a lover of science fiction films you're going to
want this book.
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