With the sequel “Screamers: The Hunting” (2009), we get further away from the Philip K. Dick source material adapted into 1995’s “Screamers”: the 1953 short story “Second Variety.” But not as far away as you might think. “The Hunting” is that old-school type of cheap horror sequel that repeats the story from the original, starting with a narrative excuse to return the same territory.
In “The Divine Invasion” (written in 1980, published in 1981), Philip K. Dick is done apologizing for being obsessed with religion, his search for God, and his quest to cogently spell out the nature of the supernatural as beamed to him via a pink laser in 1974. Both drafts of “VALIS” – “Radio Free Albemuth” and “VALIS” itself – tiptoe into the subject, but in “The Divine Invasion,” things really start to happen.
The “Total Recall” novelization (1990) by Piers Anthony is the only instance of a Philip K. Dick story being adapted into a movie and then back into book form. Dick famously declined to write a novelization for “Blade Runner,” instead insisting that “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” be reissued. And other than this one, no PKD film adaptations have been novelized; instead, Dick’s novel or short story collection is often reissued with a tie-in cover.
With many shows releasing entire seasons at once nowadays, I haven’t had time to watch full seasons yet, but I have checked out some first episodes and wanted to weigh in on them. Even with the pandemic limiting the number of new fall shows, there are still more than any one TV geek can watch, so here are my first-episode impressions of four September launches:
The last time we saw Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder), in 1993’s “Jason Goes to Hell,” he is dead and buried at the end of a story centered on the notion of killing him for good, using the requisite magical dagger. So when he’s alive and in government custody in the 2008 of “Jason X” (2002), one might assume an explanation is forthcoming. It isn’t, and that will understandably take many people out of this movie from the get-go.
The Fall TV season gets off to both an early and an inauspicious start with “Raised by Wolves” (HBO Max), which at first blush has the traits director Ridley Scott also brought to his recent films such as “Prometheus” and “The Martian” – more polished than his early work, but still with verve. But the first episode doesn’t build in intrigue or surprises; it stays pat, offering little to admire beyond how it looks. There’s not enough story or character here from the pen of Aaron Guzikowski, who is also the series’ creator. “Raised by Wolves” did not hook me at all.
Our Friends from Frolix 8” (written in 1969, published in 1970) kicks off Philip K. Dick’s thematic police state/drug war trilogy, and although “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” and “A Scanner Darkly” won more awards, this one is nearly as great. PKD satirizes and/or paints the likely progression of an all-seeing state, but for the first time the author finds an answer to why the masses don’t openly rebel.
The story of “The Martian’s” publication is as good as the book itself, maybe even better. Computer programmer and amateur author Andy Weir published it on his website as a serial novel starting in 2009, then as an e-book in 2011, and then – when a traditional publisher saw its success – as a printed novel in 2014. The Ridley Scott-directed film (more on that below) came out one year later.
After leaning into the Western side of sci-fi/Western in his first two “Firefly” novels, James Lovegrove uses sci-fi to good effect in “The Ghost Machine” (March). His first effort, “Big Damn Hero,” includes cargo that could blow up if handled improperly, but “Ghost Machine” features a more thematically interesting crate: the titular Blue Sun sonic weapon that makes people passive. The way it does so is by sending them into dreamland; first, their dreams are pleasant, but then they turn dark.
As comic companies are wont to do, Boom! Studios has accompanied its regular “Firefly” series with a handful of one-shots throughout the early part of the run, focusing on specific characters and their backstories. Here’s a look at three such books, from 2019-20: