The Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Preserving Machine is a pretty good collection of short stories by Philip K Dick from the early 1950s through the mid-1960s. Some of his best work is here. I had already read several of these in other collections, but there were many new ones and I definitely enjoyed this book. Among the stories that stood out for me were “War Veteran,” about an old man who is a war veteran from a future war yet to be fought by Earth — and lost. The authorities move quickly to try and change the future and it’s really interesting to see how things work out. Another is the famous “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” which of course was the basis for the movie Total Recall. For the life of me, I don’t see where they got that movie from this story, but it’s a good story about a man who yearns to go to Mars and his only way is through a VR-type experience where he goes as a secret agent. However, while the men performing this service for him are engaged, they discovered he actually has done this and just doesn’t remember. It turns into a real mind f*ck. Great story. Yet another story I enjoyed was “Oh To Be a Blobel!”. A war has been fought between humans and blobels, great amoeba-like beings, and on both sides, spies were used who had to undergo changing into the form of the other. When we read this story, our hero changes from being human to being a blobel throughout the day and is miserable. A coin operated psychiatrist introduces him to a female blobel who changes to human at certain times of day, thinking they would have something in common. And they get married and have kids. Hybrids. Then divorced. Then the unthinkable. At the end of the story, Vivian resorts to blobelian world class science to be converted into a 100% human so she can get back together with George — who has converted into a blobel, so he can start a business on their planet. Wacky and sad. I do have a complaint, however. PKD wasn’t always kind to his female characters, probably cause he had constant problems with his five wives and women in general. In “Retreat Syndrome,” John states, “So you doomed our cause, out of petty, domestic spite. Out of mere female bitterness, because you were angry at your husband; you doomed an entire moon to three years of losing, hateful war.” Later, in “What the Dead Men Say,” Johnny thinks “He did not like the idea of working for a woman….” So, PKD misogyny is present in full force. Take it or leave it — it’s up to you. Even with the flaws, this is still a good book with some really good stories, so I definitely recommend it, not only to Dick fans, but to anyone who wants to become acquainted with his writing.