Read The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick Free Online
Book Title: The Variable Man|
The author of the book: Philip K. Dick
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 392 KB
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Loaded: 2329 times
Reader ratings: 4.5
Edition: Spastic Cat Press
Date of issue: April 9th 2013
ISBN 13: 9781483701097
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This 1953 SF novella is a freebie on Project Gutenberg. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
In the year 2136, our planet Terra’s space exploration is cut short by the Centauran Empire of Proxima Centauri, which surrounds our solar system and refuses to allow humanity access to the galaxy. Faster-than-light travel exists, but always results in an explosion when the FTL device reenters normal space, so there’s no way to jump past the Centaurans. Both sides are constantly working to come up with new weapons and strategies, and spying on the other to discern their latest developments, but, curiously, there is very little actual fighting. The Terrans have an SRB computer that is constantly evaluating humanity’s odds of succeeding in an actual war with the Centaurans, and they’re waiting to fight until the computer shows that the odds have shifted in their favor.
But now it has occurred to the human researchers that they can use an FTL device as a bomb against the Centaurans, which they’ll be unable to avoid because of its FTL speed. While the scientists are working madly on ironing out the problems with delivering the bomb (which they call Icarus) accurately, another group of Terran researchers quickly pull their time machine back to the present. The time machine accidently brings back one Thomas Cole, a handyman from the year 1913. Cole takes off and escapes the government facilities … and now the SRB computer refuses to compute odds on the Centauran battle. Cole has created an unknown variable that the computer cannot deal with.
So Cole goes on the run, while Security Commissioner Reinhart angrily does his best to have his military forces kill him so that he can get his odds calculations back and start the war. Peter Sherikov, the scientific director, becomes aware of Cole’s intuitive genius at fixing machines and wants to make use of his talents, but Reinhart has no intention of changing his plans.
The Variable Man is a fast-paced novella with some old-fashioned charm, like much Golden Age science fiction, but also suffers from some of the shortcomings of many other older SF tales: women are non-existent or appear only as sex objects, the characters are stereotypical, and there is a focus on action in the plot at the expense of depth or characterization. Also, the linchpin of the plot ― that Cole is such a mechanical genius that his untrained skills are hugely useful with technology more than two hundred years later ― proved too much for my disbelief to be suspended. Still, Philip K. Dick spins a good yarn, and I enjoyed the retro vibe of this story.
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Read information about the authorPhilip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, in Santa Ana, California, of heart failure following a stroke.
In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, ten of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.
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