When asked by an interviewer "Why is there science fiction?" Phillip K. Dick responded, "There is science fiction because the human brain craves sensory and intellectual stimulation before anything else, and the eccentric view provides unlimited stimulation, the eccentric view and the invented world.... The function of SF, psychologically, is to cut the reader loose from the actual world that he inhabits…." And cut us loose he does. And never disappoints.
This collection of five stories from early in his career casts a spotlight on Dick’s incredible imagination. In "Second Variety", robot warriors appear to have given one side the advantage in a devastating war. But a small band of soldiers begins to question just what the robots’ endgame truly is. In "Beyond Lies the Wub", a member of a spaceship’s crew buys a Wub ("a huge dirty pig!") for 50 cents, thinking it might be a good source of meat for the long journey home. Then the Wub speaks. In "The Eyes Have It", a man’s imagination gets the best of him, as he takes the words in a paperback novel a bit too literally. In "Piper in the Woods", a doctor attempts to unravel the mystery of why workers on an asteroid base begin to behave as if they have become plants. In "The Variable Man", giant computers indicate earth will likely win an interstellar war that will free it from the limits imposed by an aging Centauran empire. Plans are disrupted, however, when a man from the past arrives and throws off all calculations.