The Hanging Stranger

Sometimes, Philip Dick wrote a short story that is quite good; occasionally, he wrote one that was excellent; and rarely, he wrote one that was simply breath-taking. I can’t quite decide which category this one fits into; I think it’s floating somewhere between excellent and breath-taking, but I love small town paranoia anyway. Dick did small towns and paranoia very well, but in this story the combination is a masterpiece of storytelling. Is Noyce going bonkers or is he really seeing what he’s seeing? In fact, if everyone tells you that you’re insane, how do you know that you’re not?

In terms of plot, this very closely resembles the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where one man becomes increasingly convinced that the other occupants of his town have been taken over by strange insect-like creatures he sees descending from the sky. His reasoning is simple; none of them pay any attention to the man hanging from a lamp-post in the town square. The story is brilliantly told and although I did guess the twist at the end, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story one jot. It’s delightfully creepy.

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