The Penultimate Truth — Philip K. Dick (1964)


Publisher: Dell SF

First Dell Edition, 1980

Cover Art: Richard Corben

Plot Synopsis (of cover): If you had an engineering problem in the late 21st century and needed someone resourceful, adaptable, and professional to take care of it with discretion, it was well-known in corporate circles that Blake Backlash was your man. Your mainframe AI has released deadly biotoxins into your facility? Call Blake Backlash. Your spaceship’s singularity drive is sucking everybody on board into a hell-dimension? Call Blake Backlash. You’re trying to engineer a giant space bong but can’t figure out how to light it in a vacuum? Blake Backlash, for a substantial retainer, is on the job. Blake, however, had never experienced an issue so bizarre as the challenge he faced on the Martian robot battlefields, where animate mannequins waged perpetual war upon one another, doggedly donning the yoke of senseless slaughter once solely the province of men. These soulless beings were controlled remotely, receiving commands via satellite from their respective government’s servers. A problem, however, arose during “satellite tasking” which caused “massive behavioral control issues” with the U.S.A.’s robots. This was how the report was phrased, and, though unhappy with the lack of detail, Blake figured he had handled worse than some errant robots. Upon his landing on Mars, the problem became clear. The “satellite tasking” snafu had beamed an NBC data packet out there instead of the DOD packet the robots had been expecting. The robots, limited in their discretion, did the best they could to obey orders within their operational parameters. It didn’t take long before Blake was in the thick of a life-or-death situation. A robot approached him and spoke in a loud, metallic voice. <<// NICOLE YOU LOOK AMAZING I THOUGHT YOU WOULDN’T COME //> Blake, startled, was uncertain whether he should draw his gun or open his toolkit. The robot, with startling speed, scooped Blake into its arms. <<// NICOLE PLEASE I KNOW I HAVEN’T BEEN THE PERFECT MAN BUT LET ME TRY I LOVE YOU I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED YOU //>> The robot mashed its faceplate painfully against Blake’s lips in a brutal facsimile of a kiss, nearly cracking Blake’s teeth. <<// OH NICOLE I KNEW YOU STILL FELT FOR ME THE WAY I DO FOR YOU //>> Suddenly, from behind a pile of rust-colored rocks, a second robot jumped out with its plasma pistol drawn. **~~ EJ HOW COULD YOU I KNOW I WAS WITH RAFE BUT YOU KNOW I STILL LOVE YOU~~** <<// SAMI WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE WE ARE OVER I AM WITH NICOLE NOW //>> **~~ NICOLE NO WAY IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU I’LL KILL YOU BOTH~~** Sensing his doom, Blake shot the robot identifying itself as Sami. <<// OH GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NICOLE //>> The robot identifying itself as EJ seemed visibly upset. Blake, now identifying as Nicole, put his hand on the robot’s chin. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Blake said, “but I’m kinda liking the attention.” A third robot, hiding behind yet another pile of rust-colored rocks, chimed in. %%&& FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS WITH NICOLE AND EJ NEXT WEEK ON AS THE WORLD TURNS &&%%

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: The second of three books in the Dickathalon is a fantastic introduction to those who want to get into some post-apocalyptic political Dickery. Granted, the apocalypse, in this case, was fake—humanity has been enslaved without their knowledge by a decadent ruling class of sterile PR-men who’ve tricked billions into living underground. The masses are forced to manufacture goods as they are given propagandist media coverage fabricated by the PR-people above, fooling them into thinking a battle still rages on the surface. Gee, you think there’s some kind of super subtle allegory hidden in here? This was one of the first Dick books I ever picked up (after VALIS and DADOES) (not this actual copy—I eBayed this one from this guy), and it’s fantastic. Especially fun is the primary antagonist, a bloated bureaucrat whose greed is so great that he’s tied up every artificial organ on the planet in litigation so he can use them himself. Also, there’s Radioactive Native American Jesus. Now that’s a savior with some marketing potential!

Rating: 9.7 Secret Nazi Jet Planes

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • When dancing with a robot, who should lead?
  • When did the conflict between the Rock-Em Sock-Em guys escalate into a shooting war?
  • Seriously, who doesn’t wear a shirt under a space suit?

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7 thoughts on “The Penultimate Truth — Philip K. Dick (1964)

  1. Oh man, where do you find these covers!?! the whole world was living a lie…. the lie of thinking that a shirt is always necessary! It looks like the robots are fighting over who gets to take him away for a romantic weekend. Great post- and a great cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I mostly find them at The Armadillo’s Pillow, a small used bookstore in northern Chicago. However, in this case, since I wanted to jump on a bunch of Dicks in a row, I went to an eBay store—you can check it out by clicking here. Also, for the record, when it comes to my own attitudes towards robot romance… well, remember how Radio Shack went bankrupt? It was due to the number of impregnanted toasters they sold to unknowing north-Chicagoland consumers. What can I say? You can’t spell “class-action lawsuit” without “class act”.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t think there’s any “trying” about it, amigo. There’s a bunch of robots tying cans to this guy’s spaceship and affixing a heat-proof “Just Married” sign to the aft fuselage.


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