Recently, I wrote a little bit about my obsession with the mail. It’s literally the first thing I ask about when I get home from work, “Did we get anything interesting in the mail?”
I think my wife thought this was a passing fad, something I was asking only because there actually was something coming in the mail. But no, I want to know what came in the mail, regardless of what it is. I often spend time looking through worthless catalogs (OMG, not too long ago I got Oriental Trading Company and ULINE catalogs on the same day...HEAVEN!) that do not sell anything I would buy.
Sometimes, I get things in the mail that are actually useful and cool. The other day, I received copies of the Library of America Philip K. Dick books: Four Novels of the 1960s and Five Novels of the 1960s and 70s. Jonathan Lethem selected the books to be collected and wrote notes on the text.
I will admit that I’d read only a a little Philip K. Dick before I got these books. My big experience has been with movies based on his work, like Bladerunner, Total Recall, and A Scanner Darkly (I’ve missed out on Screamers so far), all of which I’ve liked with varying success (Total Recall is completely a guilty pleasure that I find hard to watch today, but the other two I really enjoyed). I liked what I read, and wanted to read more, but wasn’t sure what to get next. These books solve that conundrum nicely.
The first book collects the novels The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Ubik. The second book collects Martian Time-Slip, Dr. Bloodmoney, Now Wait for Last Year, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, and A Scanner Darkly. With these two books you get all the major novels that Dick wrote.
On top of that, you get a comprehensive timeline of Dick’s life, and notes based on the text, which speaks to the English/Philosophy degree that I earned in college. The books from Library of America are archival quality, so they’ll last a long time.
Now, I will admit, these books aren’t cheap, running $35 for the first book and $40 for the second, and Amazon typically doesn’t offer any discount on them (although you might be able to get a discount through other means like a Borders or Barnes & Noble card).
But think about it, if you bought the four novels new in the first book separately, you’d pay anywhere from $25 - $30 for them. And they’d likely be paperback. With these books, you’re getting superior quality hardcover editions of all these books. I’m very impressed with these editions, and I’m excited that they’re now part of my collection.
Even more important, these are the first science fiction works collected by the Library of America other than Lovecraft. Which makes them the first modern science fiction work collected. My hope is that they bring out more science fiction works in Library of America editions. Some Asimov, or Leiber, or Silverberg would be very cool.