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Counterfeit Worlds: Philip K Dick on Film review

The sci-fi visionary’s celluloid legacy

317 PAGES · £16.99

Author: Brian J Robb

Publisher: Titan Books

ISBN: 1-84023-968-9

Rating: 4/5

Philip K Dick had a rare gift for visualising the future, but even he could never have guessed there would one day be a book dedicated to film adaptations of his work.

Dick died on the verge of the critical and commercial success he had always craved – before the release of Blade Runner, the film which, as Brian J Robb said, “created the Philip K Dick industry”. Robb’s Counterfeit Worlds is, of course, a product of that industry, albeit it’s one crafted with much love and respect for its subject. It opens with a lengthy Dick biography that faithfully sticks to the title brief by demonstrating how many of the events in his turbulent life manifested themselves in print and on screen, before turning its attention to the films themselves.

Naturally, Blade Runner casts the longest shadow, but there are comprehensive chapters on, among others, Total Recall (both the over-hyped film and the under-valued TV series), Minority Report, Paycheck and, coming right up to date, Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped take on A Scanner Darkly.

Packed with photographs, production sketches and rare paperback edition covers, Counterfeit Worlds is an extensively researched, well-written account of the man, his life and his afterlife. But then, Dick was not only a dream writer – he was a writer’s dream, with a life of positively Dickensian tragedy. When his twin sister died at the age of six weeks, his parents (who Dick never forgave for her death) were so sure that he would follow the same way, they had his headstone made to sit alongside hers. He eventually died 53 years later. “All his life,” says Robb, “Philip K Dick’s name had been waiting for him on his grave.”

Paul Kirkley

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