In 1982, Ridley Scott released Blade Runner, a science fiction movie that quickly became a cult classic. The film, loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, brought the genre into the spotlight and paved the way for other stories that give life to dystopian futures. It also introduced Philip K. Dick to a new generation of bookworms who may have not had the pleasure of reading his remarkable novels.
More than 30 years after the movie’s release, Philip K. Dick became prominent in pop culture once again when Blade Runner 2049 hit the theaters. The sequel was an instant success and everyone wanted to get a taste of bioengineered humans and replicant-retiring blade runners. And they got exactly that thanks to the great imagination of Philip K. Dick.
Given the amount of adaptations of his work, it’s clear that we are still captivated by Dick’s vision of the future. Almost 40 years after his death, his dystopian worlds and analyses of human nature still intrigue us.
During the course of his prolific career, Dick created an extensive body of work that included mind-bending plots no one could have predicted. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, his novels are an absolute must-read.
Here are five essential Philip K. Dick books that will transport you into new and uncharted territories.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The novel that inspired Blade Runner and its sequel is a great way to start your introduction to Philip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a masterful commentary on where our lifestyle might lead us and what it actually means to be human. All that is wrapped inside an extraordinary sci-fi detective fiction!
The plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department, as he struggles between his private and professional life. Deckard is assigned to hunt down and retire (kill) six androids who managed to escape from Mars and reach Earth.
But don’t expect to only read about some futuristic bounty hunter chasing a group of replicants. The book is deeply philosophical as well, considering people’s capacity for empathy in a dystopian future.
Philip K. Dick books can teach you a thing or two about humanity and yourself!
As you will see, Philip K. Dick books are equal parts brilliant and enthralling. Ubik especially shows Dick at his best. This novel is brimming with his signature ideas that have made him one of the best sci-fi writers of all time.
Set in 1992, Ubik introduces us to a world where psychic powers are common. They are so frequent, in fact, that corporations use them to spy on each other. These companies employ anti-psychic “inertials” to protect secrets and secure the privacy of their clients.
The book focuses on a group of inertials as they travel to the Moon on a mission. However, their journey doesn’t go smoothly when a bomb goes off and kills the president of their company. This event triggers strange alterations in reality. Intertials aren’t sure anymore who they are or what they’re doing.
Ubik will make you question your own reality together with the protagonists.
Let’s examine other Philip K. Dick books that you shouldn’t miss.
A Scanner Darkly
A Scanner Darkly is one of Dick’s most popular works and it was even adapted into a movie by Richard Linklater. You won’t have an easy ride reading this book, but you will feel a certain sense of pride once you finish it.
In this complex story, the protagonist is Bob Arctor who goes by the name of “Fred” in order to infiltrate into a household of drug users. Unbeknownst to his roommates, Arctor is an undercover policeman whose mission is to source and stop the flow of Substance D, a powerful psychoactive drug. However, he becomes addicted to Substance D which jeopardizes his assignment.
According to Dick, A Scanner Darkly is somewhat autobiographical. It draws on his experiences in the drug culture of the 1970s.
If you aren’t in the mood to read A Scanner Darkly, there are two other Philip K. Dick books on our list!
What is VALIS? Many would like to know, including the protagonists in this groundbreaking novel.
VALIS is the first book in Dick’s incomplete trilogy that will take you on a wild ride. Many say that he came up with the plot for VALIS after he experienced a “vision” in 1974. Dick stated that a mysterious flash of pink light awakened his consciousness to visions of unfamiliar engineering blueprints. Well, we’ll leave it to you to decide whether you believe him or not.
VALIS depicts the story of Horselover Fat (thought to be Philip K. Dick) who experiences visions of pink light. His hallucinations reveal an alternate Earth where the Roman Empire still rules. This leads him to believe that the real world is actually an illusion.
The novel combines what Dick claimed to have seen together with fiction, allowing us access to his mind.
You see, we were right to say that Philip K. Dick books would take you to new and uncharted territories!
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is quintessential Philip K. Dick. It features science fiction concepts combined with reality and philosophical ideas. These themes and Dick’s stellar writing earned him a nomination for the Nebula Award for Best Novel.
In 2016, humankind has colonized every habitable planet in the Solar system after global temperatures have made it unsafe for people to go outside without proper gear. To save humanity, the unwilling colonists move to other planets where conditions are horrific. In order to cope with their difficult circumstances, they turn to an illegal drug known as Can-D.
Merchant explorer Palmer Eldritch returns from an expedition and bears a new drug called Chew-Z. He promises that this substance will offer a more addictive experience to the poor colonists and even bring them closer to God.