The Penultimate Truth
Copyright 1964 by
Philip K. Dick
I first read this in 1980 and most recently on the 11th May 2007
Nicholas St James, is president of the Tom Mix subterranean habitat, and
Nick has a disaster on his hands.
The years of desperate surface war have demanded ever high production quotas from
the remaining emergency habitats.
Nick's problem is that Maury Souza, his top engineer, is dying. Without him, there's
no way the Tom Mix hab will be able to manufacture its quote of Leadies, the robot soldiers who battle
the enemy on the ruined world above.
If they can't make their quota, the West's armies will be that little
weaker against the evil enemy. And as for the Tom Mix hab, failing in its
necessary patriotic duty, it'll be shutdown, its inhabitants cut off or worse.
Except that what all these subsurface dwellers do not know, is that there is no
surface war. That old war only lasted a couple of years and finished more than a dozen
years ago. Most of the surface is free from deadly radiation and he lethal plagues
released by their enemies never existed. The brave Yancemen who remained on
the surface are not heroes but the worst villains, betrayers of the rest of
humanity, they use the robots to farm the land the for themselves. They live in
luxury, each to his own rolling and verdant demesne.
Ruling over them all, with a paranoid mind and an iron visit, is Stanton Brose.
Above ground, Joseph Adams, Yanceman, has a conscience, but so far it's not
been active enough for him to risk his desmesne and personal army of robot
However, this new plot of Brose's is a tough one for him to swallow. Brose has
decided to frame Louis Runcible and get convicted and removed from power.
Runcible is the only Yanceman who seeks to free the vast mass of the population that live in
desperate, grinding poverty in the underground habs. Perhaps that is why Brose
has decided to bring him down.
And then there's the mysterious David Lantano. No one knows who he really is
and what he plans for their world.
Rock and roll, Philip! A classic Dick novel. with a hilariously
(almost over-engineered in the way he so despises), populated with
flawed but sympathetic characters, and laced through with moments
of genuine emotional intensity.
it's the ordinary man, and honesty, that triumphs in the end against
the terrifying might of the fascist government.
And the last two sentences of the book are excellent unexpected but apt.
Loaded on the 23rd June 2007.