Sunday Book Reviews – 9/15/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Trump and Me by Mark Singer (2016, Tim Duggan Books)

Nobody can say we weren’t warned. At the time this book came out, it could reasonably be viewed as a cheap cash grab. At just over 100 pages, some of it reprinted from articles written in the past, it seemed like an attempt by the author to capitalize on extensive access he’d been granted in the mid-1990s to write a profile piece on Trump for the New Yorker.

What Trump had not expected was that allowing a reporter to shadow him for hours every day would result in the reporter becoming very familiar with Trump… and disliking what he found.

Far from being impressed by Trump’s ability to con people and thus maintain the image of an influential businessman – something most people in the Trump inner circle appreciated and joined with, to enrich themselves – Singer was appalled at the lack of ethics, the shallowness, the casual cruelty and particularly the utter disdain for honesty that Trump exhibited.

This book, published months before the election, explained via a series of personal anecdotes and professional study exactly what Trump’s personality flaws were. At a time when many others were saying that Trump was a serial liar, he was providing evidence that Trump had been so for at least two decades. When others were observing that Trump was concerned only with his personal wealth, Singer was explaining the timing of his divorce from Marla Mapes, pointing to the clauses in her prenuptial agreement which would have provided her with tens of millions of dollars more had they remained married for a few more months.

It’s not a comprehensive volume and it teaches nothing new about Trump’s personality. It nonetheless deserves credit for being among the earliest of the alarms, and for providing examples and details from 1990s-Trump that foreshadowed events of the Presidency.

The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. Dick (1987, Underwood Miller)

Philip K. Dick is arguably the most overexposed of all science fiction authors. It’s tempting to say “overrated”, but that would be a grossly unfair assessment. When he was at this best – and that was surprisingly often – he was nothing short of a master craftsman.

That said, he has come to dominate his field almost as much as Stephen King has dominated horror, and it is mostly due to the success of movies based (often fairly loosely based) on his stories. This has had the unfortunate result of nearly every collection including works like “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (inspiration for Total Recall), “Minority Report”, and “Paycheck”. It’s not that these are bad stories; rather, that the extensive body of work Dick produced should be made available to the readers.

The Collected Stories (available both in a very expensive original hardcover edition and a far cheaper paperback variety) accomplishes this task. It allows a reader to get a feel for the many different Dick stories, including the many which did not address one of his favorite themes, the uncertain nature of reality.

It is in the concepts behind the stories that Dick shines. Many of his works deal with the issues of recognizing truth, the nature of the Almighty, and the potential dangers of assuming the normal will remain the normal. The bulk of his short fiction was written during the post-war 1950s and the tumultuous 1960s, and those decades lurk in the shadows of his visions of the future.

As with many extensive collections of work, the author’s failings are also on display here. As a person who was paying his bills through professional writing, he can be seen to return to a common well of ideas at many points, with some stories being reminiscent of earlier works within the collection. The reworkings tend to be better iterations of the prior efforts, though, showing his growth as a writer and therefore remaining interesting.

Dick has become the necessary science fiction writer for collegiate reading, in the way that Heinlein was before him. The best introduction to him is with a collection like this, or one of the more modern extensive volumes… something that will include stories like “Captive Market” and “The Days of Perky Pat” and not simply the usual titles.

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About AlienMotives 1177 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.