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The Penultimate Truth (S.F. MASTERWORKS) [Paperback]

Philip K. Dick
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Feb 2005 S.F. MASTERWORKS

World War III is raging - or so the millions of people crammed in their underground tanks believe. For fiteen years, subterranean humanity has been fed on daily broadcasts of a never-ending nuclear destruction, sustained by a belief in the all powerful Protector.

Now someone has gone to the surface and found no destruction, no war. The authorities have been telling a massive lie. Now the search begins to find out why.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (10 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575074817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575074811
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘An entertaining and disturbing read’
Sunday Times

‘As full of muscle, teeth and flashing surprises as an alligator pool’
Brian Aldiss

‘A fine parable, grippingly written’

‘A great philosophical writer’

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A masterly tale of political deception from the most significant writer of SF in the 20th century.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing read.............. 19 Sep 2006
Ok, so this is the 5th in the series of SF Masterworks I have read in as many weeks. I cannot, so far, recommend this list enough, having started on 'I am Legend', to 'Do androids dream', 'The Forever War' and 'Time out of Joint'. So far, I have been blown away by them all, but this story has really got to me.

The other review here will tell you about the story. I don't need to repeat that. But really, I was quite unsettled by this book (which is a good thing!!!).

There was no easy solution. The story was full of twists, conspiracies and points where I actually thought about what I would do if I were faced with the same choices.

For those of us growing up in the 80's with all the propaganda about what to do in the event of a nuclear war (what were those cartoons all about?) the harsh reality of what could happen, combined with the politics and greed behind it all, is all dealt with, and in a way that seems, even today, totally believable (if you can excuse all the time travel stuff!).

Not an easy read to start with, but one you will find immensely satisfying, even if all you do is remember the total insignificance of war.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous and entertaining - typical PKD 8 Jan 2006
Whilst the description may give the impression of a Matrix-style awakening and eventual hostility, The Penultimate Truth is rather a decent examination of propaganda and its methods. The book runs parallel stories of the man who discovers said truth and the political (and ethical) wrangling that the people maintaining the lie experience.
Nicholas St. James is the President of the underground tank, the Tom Mix, which manufactures components vital to the perceived war effort. However, when their chief mechanic becomes ill he is chosen (through dubious methods) to go topside to find an artificial pancreas. What he discovers is what the reader already knows - that the war is in fact over.
Of the two stories, though, the liars' is more convincing and entertaining. Memorable characters such as the ancient, overweight and artiforg-enhanced Stanton Brose as the true world dominus add an aspect of ghastliness - he can only understand people when he can see their lips move.
As the alternative protaganist, Joseph Adams is the speech-writer with whom the people underground connect to albeit through the lies of a simulacrum called Talbot Yancy - what they think is their leader. Along with the 'Yance-men', Adams preserves the lie until all is disrupted by a young, genius speech-writer called David Lantano.
It is here, in the middle third that a murder mystery is thrown in and really starts finding its feet. Unfortunately as with many Philip K. Dick books the end feels rushed (e.g. Flow My Tears..., ) and whilst a conclusion is necessary perhaps it shouldn't have needed such an ending as was written. Perhaps a little more dystopian maybe...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-Fi?? 21 Jan 2008
Not being a great reader of sci-fi Philip K Dick is an author that I do read. What he writes is so much more than mainstream sci-fi, raising both metaphysical and philosophical questions. This book is really ahead of its time as it shows us to some degree that we're going through the same predicaments currently. We are all aware of media manipulation and political spin, and that is mainly what this book is about.

The setting is after the third world war, where millions of people are living in giant town sized bunkers underground. The information they receive comes from the tv and political officers, showing them the devastation and the war raging on the surface of the earth, where the government are still and robots are fighting the war. These people are stuck underground for years whilst this war rages on. But what if the war had ended and there was peace on the surface? What if the few people on the surface lived on massive tracts of land? What would happen if people found out? Read this book and find out, and you will never view the news or statements from politicians in the same way again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book that could have been brilliant 26 Feb 2009
By Alison TOP 500 REVIEWER
A book that, for me, just didn't reach it's potential! A great story that starts really well and then gets bogged down in a conspiracy story that doesn't really add much to the overall tale. I wanted to know much more about the plight of the tankers, the feelings of the con-apt dwellers and the guilt of the elite.

Like other books in this genre that haven't quite satisfied, this book skims over some of the things that I find so interesting - the nature of human survival against terrible conditions. The lead characters are possibly too numerous to really learn about their deeper feelings and so the book never quite gets to the core of the issues.

I did enjoy the book and it was a story that kept me interested but again it was a book that just didn't quite make it to the brilliance that Dick could have achieved.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A post-apocalyptic detective story 16 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story is set in North America, which is now part of an alliance known as Wes-Dem, following a nuclear war with the USSR-based Pac-Peop group of countries. The war resulted in the vast majority of the population being forced to live underground in crowded 'ant tanks', which is where we pick up the action 15 years later, in the early 21st Century.

The chief mechanic of one of these tanks is seriously ill, so the president of the tank is forced to go to the surface and find an artificial pancreas. The tankers are under the illusion that the war is still going on, and that the surface is uninhabitable, with mechanical warriors and various plagues being the major threats. However, the president finds that this is not the case and that the war ended 13 years ago.

Simultanously, we follow the story of one of the ruling elite who live in luxury on the surface. He helps to write speeches for faked news reports that are delivered to the tankers in order to keep them under control and under the ground.

The story then progesses into a kind of detective story with this backdrop. There is a series of crosses and double crosses and plot twists that we follow in order to discover the ultimate fate of the tankers and the ruling class. This isn't a typical post-apocalyptic novel, but if you like that sort of thing, I would definitely recommend it. Many of the questions raised are resolved, but the only down side is a slightly ambiguous ending that I won't discuss as it will spoil the story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Will keep you guessing
The Penultimate Truth is a brilliant and terrifying future where the majority of Earth's population is oppressed by an Elite class of 'Yancy Men'. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Joshua J. Szweda
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story
Took me a few pages to get into it but was a great twisting story on media simulation vs reality as the rulers keep the earth inhabitants terrified in the aftermath of war. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dan Thurley
1.0 out of 5 stars I would recommend anyone else, but Amazon EU S.a.r.L.
Three times in a row I was sent the wrong edition of this book, even after explaining that both editions have the same ISBN number and asking to not send me the new one. Read more
Published 5 months ago by M. Hadzhitodorov
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond genre...
Brilliant! This reminded me why I fell in love with Philip K Dick's work as a teenager. It's sci-fi for people who don't like sci-fi. Read more
Published 14 months ago by steve tooze
4.0 out of 5 stars Great post apocalyptic stuff...
As a fan of post apocalyptic games like the Fallout series, one disappointment for me was that not more of this book was set in the underground vault. Read more
Published 15 months ago by W. Henderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Sci-Fi and chilling allegory
Philip K Dick is renowned for his ability to summon up the most paranoid and mindblowing what-if scenarios for his books, then plunge the reader into the mind of someone whose... Read more
Published 22 months ago by James Adamson
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Fine Novel by The Great PKD
"World War III is raging - or so the millions of people crammed in their underground tanks believe. For fiteen years, subterranean humanity has been fed on daily broadcasts of a... Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2011 by M Jenkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read!
This was the second book i read from sf masterworks and i chose this over others because i really liked the premise. The story doesnt dissapoint and overall its a great read. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2009 by M. Shaw
2.0 out of 5 stars A *very* hard read.
I gave up after about 30 pages, the story was getting interesting but it's very very hard work. Almost every sentence is of the form: 'Jack said, quietly, not that he meant to - he... Read more
Published on 16 April 2009 by N. Wilkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not his best
This is PK Dick treading his usual themes:
what is reality?
how can you tell what is real?
are the people around me real?
am i real?
etc etc. Read more
Published on 1 April 2008 by Johnny London
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