Saturday, May 15, 2010

Philip K. Dick

In Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth (1964), the outbreak of World War III prompts governments to bunker entire populations in huge underground shelters known as ‘ant tanks.’ As the war rages overhead, the subterranean masses are put to work manufacturing the robots that have replaced human combatants in the toxic conflict. Years pass, and the bunkered survivors watch on television as cities are incinerated and the president delivers morale-boosting messages that stress the need for increased productivity to meet the needs of the war effort. When a tank man burrows to the surface, however, he discovers that the war is long over and the robot armies his people have been building are in fact used as servants for a powerful conspiratorial elite that live in vast demesnes that have recovered from what was in fact a brief nuclear conflict. The destruction of cities and official bulletins are part of a global hoax, staged by those above ground to keep the earth free from its troglodyte hordes.