What an odd and profoundly moving (and disturbing) little gem.
A man visits Dr. Labyrinth who, in the past, had created a machine to transform music into animals — a bach bug, a mozart bird, a beethoven beetle, a deeply colored wagner animal — after experiencing a harrowing yet uplifting vision of a music score with mole-like characteristics burrowing away from the bombs.
However, Dr. Labyrinth, in his role as Creator, forgot that animals change when released into the wild. Thus, when the metamorphosized animal scores are played back through the machine cacophony results. But, not only the sound has been transformed…
Many of the standard Philip K. Dick themes are present in this early story — grouped together succinctly, fluidly, and potently. An uncanny dread ebbs below the surface — highly highly highly recommended.
(since I tend to read volumes of short stories rather haphazardly, these short story reviews will eventually be condensed into one review when I finish the volume, The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 1 by Philip K. Dick)
6 thoughts on “A Short Story Review: ‘The Preserving Machine’ Philip K. Dick, (1953)”
I really enjoy the works of Philip K. Dick, but I think I’ve missed this story. Anyone know if it appeared in any Cheap Sci-Fi Paperback collections?
Yes, the collection ‘The Preserving Machine and other Stories’
BUT, perhaps more affordable considering the amount of short stories ‘The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford and other Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume I.’
AND, you can go in order of the volumes and get all the stories….
Thanks! I’m surprised I haven’t run into it before. Another one to keep an eye out for!
he wrote so many that a chronological edition is by far the best!
unless you are going for the cool covers — hahaha
I remember reading this one first in “The Preserving Machine”,the Pan edition,not the later Grafton one.I was impressed by nearly all of it at the time,having read only a few of his novels.
It included some other gems such as “If There was no Benny Cemoli”,”Oh to be a Blobel”,the strange “Apon the Dull Earth”,an early tale prefiguring Dick’s later fascination with multiplication,plurality and religious experience,and “We Can Remember it Wholesale”,the one they made the film from.
Prehaps though none of these are as good as two not included in that collection,”Precious Artifact” and “Faith of Our Fathers”.The first is a quaint homily of empathy and love in a torn,reconstructed Earth,which seems to anticipate “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” in it’s concerns with authentic life and replicas.The other one,is a metabolic drama of politics,drugs and theological experience,written for the then outrageous “Dangerous Visions”,in which Dick seems to pour all his angst dealing with oppressive governments,drug use and a belligerent “God”,without fear of censorship.
By the way,another Dick short story,”The Little Black Box”,was the seed for “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.