(1965 / 2006 reprint) Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, £6.99, trd pbk, 252 pp, ISBN 0-575-07672-0
It is the early 21st century and the East - West arms race is going full tilt. To fuel the need for evermore devastating weapons, precogs and psychics are required to help with weapon invention. Meanwhile recent old weapons are plough-sheared back into common utensils. However the new weapons are never used. So do they really work?
Then one day alien satellites appear in the skies. They are the vanguard of a hostile force that is out to enslave the human population. So the East and West have to come together to develop a real weapon to negate the alien threat. Can they do it?
This dead-pan story explores another ludicrous world of the SF grandmaster Philip K. Dick. A dry black comedy was at the cutting edge of literary SF back in the 1960s. Then it all seemed so relevant: a pastiche on the then nuclear race. Today, though, we are almost living in Dick's world and it now really is the 21st century. We have lived through the US 'Star Wars' space defence initiative. We see push-button wars on the evening news riding missiles as they are laser guided to their targets. Now it is not so science fictional. Dick, as he oft did, was exploring not an SF trope but the human condition albeit using tropes to do it. Once again he unerringly hits a nerve. Once again Gollancz is to be congratulated in enabling a new generation of readers enjoy Dick's original work and find out why, for example, film makers find it a rich vein to mine.
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