In the future, most of humanity lives in massive underground bunkers, producing weapons for the nuclear war they’ve fled. Constantly bombarded by patriotic propaganda, the citizens of these industrial anthills believe they are waiting for the day when the war will be over and they can return above ground. But when Nick St. James, president of one anthill, makes an unauthorized trip to the surface, what he finds is more shocking than anything he could imagine.
©1964 Philip K Dick (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I've read or listened to about 15 of Philip K. Dick's novels and, unfortunately, this is not one of his best. The Penultimate Truth is basically an expansion of Dick's excellent short story, "The Defenders," which involves a dystopian post-atomic war society where Wes-Dem (Western Democracy) survivors live underground, informed by their government that the war continues and that the surface of the Earth is too toxic to allow long-term human survival. Beyond that, The Penultimate Truth involves a Wes-Dem president Talbot Yancy, who is really an artificial simulacrum programmed to read speeches written by skilled propagandists, called Yance-men. The main hero of the novel, Nicholas St. James, is the president of a densely packed underground housing unit, christened the "Tom Mix," who is coerced by residents to venture to the surface in search of an artificial pancreas necessary to save the life of the Tom Mix's resident mechanic. As in most Dick novels, there are various plot threads, conspiracies and eccentrics characters, but all in all the plot and themes seem a bit too thin to sustain a full length PKD novel. Newcomers to Philip K. Dick would be better off starting out with UBIK, The Man in the High Castle or Dr. Bloodmoney, which are much better books.
I enjoy PKD more and more but this one does not work. There are some good ideas but it's rather uneven. PKD is at his best when he's got the alternate reality stuff going as in Scanner Darkly which is excellent and Androids, and Policeman, and Valis. So far those are the standouts for me and i wouldn't hesitate to recommend those. I will keep going with him but it seems in general that his early stuff isn't quite there yet, and then later on he seems to be running 50/50, excellent alternating with confused. High Castle also great.
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