You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Minority Report and other stories

Philip K. Dick had a wonderful talent for taking a great philosophical idea and turning it into a fun story. Most of his stories that I've read deal with a single protagonist struggling against a powerful force. Nearly all have the protagonist making a discovery that makes him question the nature of reality. Along with this is a healthy dose of paranoia.

In "The Minority Report" the main character is Anderton, the creator and manager of the Precrime unit, a police unit that catches murderers before they commit their crime. He is stuck in a quandary when the system reveal his name as the next murderer. He first suspects his new assistant, then his wife. His whole worldview comes into question, since his career is founded on the accuracy of the Precrime unit, which has eradicated murder in the society. One way he can make sense of the situation is to actually kill the victim, who is the alternate manager of the Army side of Precrime. He comes to realize that the three versions of the report include three different realities, each one responding to his awareness of the previous.

"We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" has a protagonist who decides to have memories of a trip to Mars implanted instead of an actual trip. When the facility starts the process, they find that Quail already has memories of a trip to Mars. Though they try to send him away, he returns and demands his money back. Quail struggles to make sense of the two sets of memories in his mind. Is he an office clerk who fantasizes about Mars, or a secret agent who has been a spy there? The end is different from the movie, but with an interesting twist.

"Paycheck" concerns an engineer named Jennings who finishes a contract with a secretive company and has his memory of his last eighteen months erased. Unlike Quail, Jennings has no memory of his work, but when he is detained by the state's secret police, he discovers that the seven trinkets he decided to receive in lieu of his pay help him to escape and find out more about the secretive company. In "Second Variety", a long war between North America and Russia is left to the killer robots that the Americans have created. Major Hendricks discovers that the robots have evolved to a point where they can mimic humans, and are not only targeting the Russians. These two stories have interesting premises but lack the philosophical punch of the first two. The concepts drive interesting and action-filled plots. Jennings in "Paycheck" is fighting against a secretive company and a powerful state; Quail is battling for his memory and identity as part of his fight against the powerful spy agency. Dick excels and making fun stories that make the reader think. One finds oneself questioning reality along with the characters. A-

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