Review by C.J. Bunce
In a thick 459 pages, British author Daniel Godfrey begins a new time travel series full of twists and turns in New Pompeii, his first novel from a major publisher (Titan Books). Billed as a novel in the tradition of Michael Crichton, New Pompeii is evocative of Crichton’s early novels, but more closely follows the plotting and style of the time travel science fiction novels of Connie Willis (Lincoln’s Dreams, To Say Nothing of the Dog) and the pacing of a Tom Clancy thriller. Fans of Crichton’s Timeline and Westworld, Philip K. Dick’s short stories and his novels Time Out of Joint and Man in the High Castle, Doctor Who’s “timey wimey” stories and films like TimeCop will appreciate this new entry in the time travel and parallel universe sub-genres.
Despite a daunting 75 chapters, New Pompeii is a quick read. Godfrey follows Nick Houghton, a history scholar who has yet to earn his doctorate as he is inexplicably courted into joining a venture with a corporation that promises the impossible–Novus Particles plucks people from just before the point of death and brings them into the present, cheating the timeline manipulation restrictions like the field trips in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” Think Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck meets Final Destination. The company is not a secret–it is well documented that it saved a flight of passengers from a plane crash. But why are all the survivors now committing suicide? Who is the ghost student that has been emerging from a bathtub at a college campus over the course of thirty years? And how do you hide an ancient civilization in the modern world?
Told in short, alternating chapters from the perspective of Nick as he walks among ancient Romans in a secluded Eastern European town in the present day, and college student Kirsten Chapman as she appears unstuck in time across a span of time periods like Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie or Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse Five, the truth behind the corporation’s purpose is slowly revealed. You won’t find a lot of complexity in the time travel elements here, which makes this appealing for the most casual sci-fi reader. Fans of any Star Trek or Doctor Who time travel story will be familiar with the rules here.
The late science fiction writer Philip K. Dick wrote so many short stories and more than 40 novels that included so many creative and futuristic elements that a television series based on his works alone could run as long as The Twilight Zone. Best known for the novel and story that became Blade Runner and Total Recall and the award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle which recently became an Amazon series, Dick’s works are finally getting adapted in a new television anthology series.
Sony Entertainment announced this week a 10-part series is in the works, Electric Dreams–The World of Philip K. Dick, starring Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, with noted Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore producing and writing the series. Each episode will be a standalone story derived from Dick’s works. We’re expecting something like an ensemble cast like that used in the Nero Wolfe TV series, with Cranston playing different parts in each story.
Haven’t read any of Dick’s books? You’ve likely seen several of the movies based on his works: In addition to Blade Runner and Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, A Scanner Darkly, Screamers, Radio Free Albemuth. Check out our reviews of his novels, previously posted at borg.com here and our archive of hundreds of images of pulp covers created for his works we preserved here. Many have read his novels, but Dick’s real genius is in his short stories, where in only a few pages he shared ideas of a future and parallel worlds that will make your head spin.
No U.S. network has picked up the series yet, but we’re guessing it is a prime candidate for the Syfy Channel.
More than four years ago here at borg.com we asked readers which single image defined all of sci-fi for them, and the above scene from Blade Runner placed second behind David staring at audiences in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This weekend you can see Ridley Scott’s neo-noir, sci-fi masterpiece back again on the big screen, and introduce a new generation to one of the most incredible conceptions of the future ever to come out of Hollywood the way it was intended to be viewed by the director.
This Sunday, January 10, 2016, and next Wednesday, January 13, 2016, you can catch Blade Runner at Cinemark Theaters nationwide. Check out the Cinemark website here for local screenings. The theater chain offers three screenings, the first Sunday at 2 p.m. and two on Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. All start times are local time.
The future is almost here–Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? reveals a world of life-like borgs called Replicants hiding among us in the year 2019. The battle to create the vision that director Ridley Scott intended for you to see is the stuff of sci-fi legend and makes George Lucas’s re-cuts of the original Star Wars trilogy pale in comparison.
Good news for you fans of Philip K. Dick novel film adaptations, or those who, like me, thought the pilot was not too shabby, as reviewed previously here at borg.com. Amazon Studio’s The Man in the High Castle got picked up for a season–at least ten episodes–and it’s coming your way next month.
The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history story where Nazi Germany and Japan defeat the Allies in the second World War. The acting really carried the pilot. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (The Librarians, Heroes, Alien Nation, License to Kill, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Trouble in Little China) plays Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese official who must warn Japan that Hitler is dying and will soon be replaced with one of his even less amiable lieutenants (Goebbels, etc.) who is likely to drop an Atomic bomb or two on Japan.
Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick, Defiance) plays Juliana Crain, a judo/Aikido instructor who receives a strange movie reel (in the novel, a book) titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy from her activist sister before she is gunned down by Japanese officials. Her boyfriend in the TV series (and ex-husband in the novel) is played by Rupert Evans (Hellboy, Fingersmith). He is taken prisoner at the end of the pilot, for his association with Juliana and her sister’s apparent treasonous acts. Rufus Sewell (Zen, A Knight’s Tale, Eleventh Hour) makes an appearance as the ultimate villain–like many of his past roles–this time an unsympathetic Nazi military officer who tortures a rebel civilian without a glimmer of emotion.
Check out this preview then take a look at the first episode:
Minority Report, the Tom Cruise movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the short story by Philip K. Dick is getting its own sequel in the form of a television series this Fall. Spielberg’s adaptation was very rich in cutting edge special effects, effects that still stand up well 13 years after the film’s release in 2002, including a rich and dense transportation system of flying motor-vehicles and cycles, spider-robots, floating computer 3D “windows” that we now use on our smartphones every day.
Based on the first preview released by Fox, shown below, the new TV series doesn’t appear to have the budget for all that, instead showing only sporadic bits of a future world that reminds us of Marty McFly’s future in Back to the Future. It’s a sequel, taking place 10 years after the end of Precrime in the film. The story it follows is intriguing. Instead of following any lead character from the movie, it will focus on one of the precogs–those three telepathic humans whose minds saw the future and allowed Precrime to exist–predicting and preventing crimes before they happen.
The series stars Stark Sands (Inside Llewyn Davis) as that precog, along with Meagan Good (Deception), Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show, Awake, From Dusk Til Dawn), Laura Regan (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Burn Notice, Everwood, Mad Men), and Li Jun Li (The Following).
Check out an extended preview for Minority Report, followed by a behind the scenes look at the show:
Have you ever tried to track down a specific edition of your favorite book, or wanted to remember a great cover from a book you no longer have? If you’re a fan of the works of Philip K. Dick, you now again may be able to find any classic cover image from his short story compilations and novels. That’s when a great online archive of hundreds of covers of Philip K. Dick artwork vanished from the Internet, presumably through the cancellation of the web domain kept by the archivist.
Several Philip K. Dick fans on message boards have searched for the old links and website, and why it is gone, to no avail. We thought it was a shame that this scholarly information was not readily accessible. Thanks to the Internet’s Wayback Machine (that’s Wayback, not WABAC, Mr. Peabody fans) and a heads-up from borg.com writer Jason McClain, we were able to not only capture the links to each photo preserved in the Wayback Machine, but also clean up lost references that were not visible to viewers on the old website or via the Wayback Machine.
So after the break, here it is, for your research or art-admiring pleasure, an archive of links to hundreds of U.S. and international images of the covers of the books of Philip K. Dick, searchable by title and country. If you notice any broken links, please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to update them here (but obviously not on the source site). And if you find any of the handful of missing images noted below, let us know as well. The original archive has not been updated in two to five years (at least), so more recent covers are not included below. And one more note: If the Wayback Machine is under maintenance these links will not work.
Review by C.J. Bunce
The more I read Philip K. Dick’s novels, and I’ve read roughly half, the more I want to take a highlighter to paragraphs throughout his works that keep me coming back for more. Oddly enough, those tidbits I liked best from his Hugo Award-winning, 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle, didn’t make it into the Amazon Studios pilot released this month on their streaming service. Enough of his framework is there, however, to make science fiction fans, especially alternate history fans, want the new studio to pick up the series and show us what more they can do with this unique work.
The Man in the High Castle generally is considered Dick’s best work. The TV pilot and novel follow a small cast of characters living their average lives in a world where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II. The superpowers have divided America, leaving a neutral zone of sorts in between, and this arrangement is the key political focus of the story. In the novel, life is more mundane and the vile realities more subtle. In the TV series the theme is more like Red Dawn–the studio must think modern audiences need that over-arching theme of American rebellion for the show to take hold. A key element missing from the pilot is the Japanese desire for American nostalgia. A key character in the novel, an antique salesman named Robert Childan, is absent from the TV version. It’s this character I was most fascinated with in the novel, so it was a strange watching the story progress without his contribution.
Review by C.J. Bunce
Now Wait for Last Year suffers from those chronic problems that plagued many of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novels: Dick’s obsession with drug-induced fantasies and his misogyny that begins to grate on modern readers after only a few of his novels, despite a clever idea that could net a solid read if only Dick wasn’t his own worst enemy.
Now Wait for Last Year follows a doctor on future Earth who specializes in organ transplants that allow people to live for decades past their historic life expectancy. He hates his wife and she hates him. She stumbles into taking a drug that prompts an incurable addiction and then slips the drug to her husband as revenge. And then they discover that drug has a side-effect: the right dose will make you travel back or forward–or even sideways–through time. A new spin on time travel is the classic Dick sci-fi hook for this story. The trouble is that Dick mishandles it–too many deus ex machina rescues, including more than one by a talking cab familiar to fans of Total Recall, as well as too many references to then-recent history, an ugly future and no redeeming characters. The writer of some of the best science fiction stories of all time produced far better novels than this entry.
Finally the Australian film Predestination will be making it to the States. The Aussie Spierig Brothers direct this loose adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies.” Bringing some genre street cred to this independent film is Gattaca’s Ethan Hawke as the lead. Hawke is a time travel agent in the business of preventing crimes before they happen, and in good film noir fashion he is on his final case to hunt down that one criminal who got away.
If the plot sounds familiar, it should. Predestination is just the latest entry in the sci-fi time travel trope, in the vein of the Philip K. Dick inspired films The Adjustment Bureau, Paycheck, and Minority Report, and the Bruce Willis/Emily Blunt rollercoaster ride Looper.
Predestination was filmed in Melbourne, and comes from that same stylized sci-fi tradition that brought us the cool post-apocalypse film The Quiet Earth. Released in Australia back on August 28, 2014, it finally has a U.S. release date.
After the break, check out the trailer for Predestination:
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Live. Die. Repeat.
One of these lines is in the 2004 Japanese military science fiction novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The other line gives away some of the surprise of what the novel–soon to become a major motion picture–is about. The movie, renamed the far less interesting title Edge of Tomorrow, stars Tom Cruise as a foot soldier (Kaiji Kiriya in the novel, Lt. Col. Bill Cage in the movie)and Emily Blunt as powerhouse super soldier Rita Vrataski in a future battle with an alien incursion that takes place on Earth not too far from now. Based on the brief previews we’ve seen, the film appears to be different enough from the novel so that reading the novel will not entirely give away the movie, and it’s full of enough classic sci-fi riffs that you may want to read it first as a separate experience.
Sakuraska’s novel will likely conjure elements from some of the best of classic science fiction. It’s a great look at day-to-day military encounters, with real world elements from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Richard Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. It has its own thought-provoking “warning-sign” messages found in classics like Logan’s Run and THX-1138, that adversity in the face of certain doom as in Pacific Rim, and the “what the heck is going on” feel from any number of Philip K. Dick short stories (“Paycheck” and “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” come to mind). It also borrows a lot from the endless onslaught of future military video games—it helps to know the author’s background is in information technology and he’s an avid gamer.
As the movie’s tagline reveals, the now iconic Groundhog Day time-loop plays a part in the story. Searching for what role the time-loop plays is the real quest Sakurazaka takes us through. Each new year seems to bring a new take on that sci-fi device, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect” best illustrates the physics “causality loop” if you’re not familiar with it and we discussed several other examples here at borg.com back in 2011. If you’re stuck repeating the events of a single period of time, can you ever hope to break free from it? What do you do in the meantime? The time-loop element is pervasive even in the future world of the novel—Keiji loosely recounts once watching Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s time-loop comedy 50 First Dates, which finds Barrymore’s character with amnesia every morning so she must start each day all over again.