Book Review: The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick

I am slowly working my way through the PKD books on my shelf. I picked this one up because it is short and I was using it as a breather between a series I am trying to get through!
The premise is simple, WW3 is raging and millions of people are forced underground for their own protection. Fifteen years on and as far as the people crammed underground know, the war is still unfolding. They are completely unaware that on the Earth’s surface, there is a world at peace…mostly. A utopia above and a dystopia below…what could go wrong?!

I said this is a short read however, that doesn’t mean that it is an easy one. As is common with PKD you have to make sure your brain is engaged while reading! The novel is science fiction and is plot heavy, I wouldn’t advise reading it if you’re looking for a lot of character development. That is one of the things that I enjoy about PKD’s books, I don’t always have to get so emotionally involved. It is fast paced, also common for PKD. There isn’t room for flowery prose and over emotional segments, the plot unfolds quickly and efficiently.

A common aspect of PKD’s writing and, of science fiction in general, is the way the future raises questions about the present. The deceptive activities going on above ground speak loudly about politics and a common distrust of the government which is rife in the world we live in at the moment!

Something that has come to annoy me about PKD books however is the blatant sexism. In this one, he makes the whole female gender pretty irrelevant. I think there are maybe four or five females in the whole book and they are in no way integral to the plot. On top of this, there is a certain amount of infertility in the men, meaning most of the women are insignificant in these circumstances. If you’re looking for a heroine…you won’t find one here.

The novel asks more questions than it answers, and offers more than one perspective for the reader to align themselves with. Right and wrong become blurred within its pages, leaving it open to your own interpretation. Although not as good as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I enjoyed it far more than The Cosmic Puppets which I am still in two minds about. I would recommend it as a quick but insightful read.

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