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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Penultimate Truth

Copyright 1964 by Philip K. Dick

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

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 servants. 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 overcomplicated, (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.
Cover of The Penultimate Truth