Books, June 2010

**** Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
** Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey
*** Dashiell Hammett – The Glass Key

The similarities between “Do Androids Dream…” and “Bladerunner” are enough to recognize one as an adaptation of the other, but otherwise they are so different as to make the comparison meaningless, I think. Androids is a good book; Bladerunner is a good movie. But even though the basics of the story are the same, the details are so different and the overall emphasis is so different that it seems meaningless to consider them together and ask, for example, which one is better. I’ll leave it at that.

On the other hand, I was under the impression that 2001 was adapted from the book, but it turns out, I guess, to be the other way around, or at least that they were developed together. The book therefore follows the movie pretty closely, but elaborates on some things that are easy to do in books but not in movies (i.e. the inner thoughts of pre-homo-sapiens apes). It made for an interesting read, and made some aspects of the story clearer and more explicit, but I’m not sure it added much to the story overall. For example, in the movie I think it’s unclear how much affect the monolith actually has on human evolution; I’d always interpreted it as giving a nudge. In the book, however, the thing basically creates the human race, rather than giving a nudge. The entire mythos that involves the hyper-intelligent race of pan-dimensional beings or whatever is a little too explicit and leaves humanity with not enough self-development to be very satisfying. A bit of mystery was better.

I had thought I’d read every Dashiell Hammett, and I’ve actually owned The Glass Key for a while. But either I never got around to reading it, or I did and then forgot it entirely, because it did not ring a bell. I think I’d never read it, but it’s not impossible I just forgot, because I didn’t find it that memorable as Hammett stories go. But then, I think the continental op is his best stuff, and most of the rest pales in comparison.