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The Penultimate Truth

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,501 Ratings  ·  224 Reviews

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.

But up on Earth's surface, a different kind of reality reigns. East and West are at peace. Acro

Mass Market Paperback, 207 pages
Published November 23rd 1978 by Triad/Panther Books (first published 1964)
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Ben Loory
if they were to teach pkd in school, this is probably the one they'd pick, cuz it's dreary and realistic and blatantly political and they'd get to use the word "dystopian" which means it has literary value. this is sci-fi the way normal people write it, where everything makes sense and "valuable human truths" are discovered... is that what you're looking for in your philip k. dick? if so, help yourself... personally, i'll be sticking with UBIK and THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, where the ...more
Kate Sherrod
Dec 19, 2012 Kate Sherrod rated it it was amazing
Holy Mother Lug Nuts, how did this one escape my notice for so long? And I such a Dickhead that I've even enjoyed Clans of the Alphane Moon? But so it goes: of the handful of Philip K. Dick novels that are/were still on the eternal to-be-read pile, The Penultimate Truth was one for a long, long time. I guess this was partly because I'd assumed I'd read all of his A material and most of his B and all that was left was, well, not either of these.

Shows what I know. Thank goodness for my pal EssJay
Sep 02, 2014 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
There's something loose and floppy about PKD's writing that makes it off-kilter and unbalancing to read. Within the first paragraph you feel that the rug is already rippling underneath you, ready to be yanked out without warning.

(view spoiler)
Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann

Another fantastic book by Philip K. Dick, but then again he is my favorite author so I might be a little biased. This book however didn't have as much of the "mind-blowing" aspects to it as some of his other books. None the less it was a great read. It still had a somewhat "Dickian" storyline, however, just not that wow factor I was talking about. If it had a little more of that than the book would have been easily a 5 star book, but instead I am going with 4. Another reason is because I wish it
Oct 18, 2015 Denis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: softcover
It took awhile to get into this somewhat flawed novel by PKD. I'll get to the problems right off: Unlike most PKD novels, the style for this one is more tell than show. It seemed as though this one was a bit rushed as though I was reading expanded notes rather than the brilliant dialogue he is known and loved for. There were many seeds of characters and situations planted that, in the end came to very little – as it was pointed out by Thomas M. Disch in the afterword, and I wholeheartedly agreed ...more
May 16, 2009 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of 12 Monkeys or The Island
A thunderous return back to the frenzied paranoia of Philip K. Dick. This is a toss-off novella that takes little time at all to read, but which bears all the hallmarks of Dick's style: tyrannical governmental entities perpetrating vast lies upon the public, misanthropic moralizing and just enough time travel and other-wordly madness to make sure that the reader is never quite sure whether the book is actually occurring or just another figment of Dick's endless paranoid mindfuck.

This time the st
Aug 31, 2007 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is running out of dystopian novels to read.
Shelves: read-sci-fi
Having read quite a few books by Philip K Dick – more than I have listed on this site so far – I knew pretty much what to expect from a novel written in this frenzied period of activity in the sixties (he published another three novels in the same year, 1964) and I wasn’t disappointed. The premise is an excellent one and I was a little bothered that the back cover gave it away but it comes to the surface – literally and metaphorically – very early on in the book.

The tempting thing for some reade
Apr 10, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This book does not have one of PKD's most inspired beginnings, but if you can slog through the first chapter and learn the vocabulary of the world, the story really takes off. I found it engrossing and terrifying - this is something I could see happening. It really raises the question of belief for me: what do you believe? why do you believe? who do you believe? Politics, as most other things in life, really boils down to trust. And what PKD is saying, I think, is that you can't trust anyone. Ev ...more
Sophie Barker
La Penúltima Verdad no tiene mucho que ver con otros libros más conocidos de P. K. Dick y sí con libros clásicos de la ciencia ficción de los 60. Las dudas sobre si lo que estás leyendo está pasando de verdad o es una alucinación de los personajes, tan prevalente en los libros de Dick, brillan por su ausencia aquí. En este sentido, es una buena elección para lectores a los que les gusta el género pero no les apetece tener que pensar mucho para entender una trama o unos acontecimientos. Las doble ...more
Christopher Roberts
When I first read the premise of this Philip K. Dick novel I found it irresistible. What I expected was that this would be Dick's big statement about the "cold war" and would examine it much the same way as he had World War 2 in The Man In The High Castle. But the pulpy PDK showed up for this book, and while there are elements that are similar to the book I had expected, they sometimes clash with the potboiler that they are wrapped in.

Now Dick can write a great pulp science fiction novel as w
Aug 17, 2011 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Philip K. Dick's 11th sci-fi novel, "The Penultimate Truth," was originally released in 1964 as a Belmont paperback (no. 92-603, for all you collectors out there) with a staggering cover price of...50 cents. Written during one of Dick's most furiously prolific periods, it was the first of four novels that he saw published that year alone! One of his more cynical depictions of a duplicitous U.S. government, the story involves yet another one of the author's post-atomic holocaust futures. Here, it ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nobody does dystopia like PKD.

We start the book in underground warrens where the population has been living since the start of the war, which still rages up on the surface after 15 years. We know exactly what to expect from about page two; we're going to get a book full of underground crises with a huge plot twist at the end when it turns out the war's been over for years.

Except this is PKD, so we find out the war's been over in chapter 2; up above (where the rest of the book takes place), there
Dec 11, 2014 Pasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Scott
The Penultimate Truth is a classic early (pre-1970s) Philip K. Dick: a dystopian novel that combines sci-fi (the society of the 2020s, after a devastating World War III, lives either underground or helped by a vast number of robots), thriller (two powerful characters caught in a political fight, while a third is looming, unbeknownst to them), and surreal (precogs, time-travel).

Overall, this PKD book is intriguing and characteristically fast-paced, but less polished than his later or better-know
Peter G. Romano
Dec 19, 2015 Peter G. Romano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve recently read Valis, Ubik, and The Penultimate Truth in succession. All three are riveting, mind boggling experiences; works of genius as far as I’m concerned. I rated Valis four, which is usually as high as I go. But I rated the other two five, and for one reason: the uncanny relevance that Ubik (1969) and The Penultimate Truth (1964) have to events happening today. In Ubik, the relevance is brief but clobbers you. In The Penultimate Truth, it is prevalent throughout, and it’s eerie how cl ...more
Jose lana
This is a postapocallyptic distopian novel based on a great lie.During a global nuclear war millions of humans must to live in underground cities making robots to form the armies fighting in the radioactive surface;along 15 years this is what they are told by his faction líder Tom Yancey by means of a televisión screen.But the real truth is that after two years of war the elites of the two factions in conflict reached an agreement and now live in a garden earth in mansions served by the robots a ...more
Sandra O'donovan
There were times when this got so over-complicated that I was torn between giving up or labouring on to see what didn't happen in the end....and then the plot would pick up, the pace would quicken and so on I'd go.

The basic premise of the story is excellent and the last two sentences hit between the eyes like a mallet. It's just a shame that it felt like such hard work. That said, I didn't get a clear run at the book, only reading it in fits and starts so that can't have helped.

I'll re-read it
Scott Holstad
Jan 22, 2015 Scott Holstad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another dystopian, post-atomic war world Dick writes about and he does so pretty well and in a fairly (and surprisingly) linear fashion. During the war, most of humanity was forced underground to live in "ant tanks," self contained living units with their own presidents, etc. The year is 2025 and everyone has been living underground for 15 years, nightly watching news bulletins about the horrible war taking place on the surface of the earth. They spend their time creating robots called " ...more
Brian Ross
Dick has a fertile, brilliant SF imagination, creating a thought-scape that one can get immersed in.
This story, written in 1964, is set post-WW III (which in his timeline is a US-USSR nuclear confrontation happening right about NOW). Ironically ten years ago we could laugh that off as obsolete - not quite so funny now.

The story is compelling and I found it hard to put down. He can offer up piercing insights, and an interesting commentary mouthed through his protagonist on the ethics and morality
May 04, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I just didn't get it. The world building was confusing and illogical and I have no idea what happened in the end. There was far too much buildup and not enough time explaining and resolving, which was also my problem with the only other PKD book I've read.

A lot of what went on didn't make sense. We could have used a little more info on the state of the world and the motives of those living above ground.


I also have literally NO idea how Lantano was 600 years old. Even if he
Totoptero Bastidas
Hay momentos que nos cambian la vida. A veces no los notamos. Tengo la suerte de tener absolutamente claro uno de ellos, creo, el más importante. Tenía nueve años y me recomendaron una película. La alquilé en Beta y (sólo, los demás se fueron por aburrimiento) la vi. Me impresionó tanto que, por primera vez, esperé los créditos y anoté el nombre del libro y el autor en quien la habían basado. La película: Blade Runner. El Libro: ¿Sueñan los androides con ovejas eléctricas? El autor: Philip K. Di ...more
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For
With World War III under way, most of mankind is driven into underground bunkers to hide from the effects of nuclear and biological weapons. After fifteen years, things are getting desperate. But what most of humanity doesn't know is that the war ended thirteen years earlier—Earth has become a large playground for the elite few still living on the surface, whose primary job is to try to keep the bulk of humanity satisfied in their underground bunkers.

The Penultimate Truth captures many of the th
Jul 06, 2010 Sasluu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sci-fi and hyperbole (or sci-fi as hyperbole) as a pretext or a means or a medium for the indictment of State power and politics at its best, as is usually the case with Philip Dick. I think there's two sides to his fiction --here I mean his really good fiction (of the stuff I have read: this novel, The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, A Scanner Darkly, The Crack in Space, some of the short stories, among them Minority Report). On the one hand there are his brave and transparent attacks on the poli ...more
Jack Stovold
My Philip K. Dick Project

Entry #34 - The Penultimate Truth

After the metaphysical nightmare of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Dick calms down a bit to return to some of his older themes. While Stigmata questioned the nature of reality on a cosmic, ontological state, The Penultimate Truth also concerns reality, but on a smaller scale. Particularly, reality as mainpulated by the power-holding elite to bolster their position, e.g. The Big Lie. It belongs to the same class as other works on
This is the second novel that I have read by Philip Dick. My criticism of the first (The Man In The High Castle) was essentially that there was a distinct lack of a coherent plot. However, despite the writing style being somewhat unusual, I did manage to read through it without too much difficulty.

The problem I found with The Penultimate Truth is essentially the reverse of my thoughts relating to The Man In The High Castle. In other words, there is no doubt that there is a well defined and thou
Jack Brånfelt
Quite an enjoyable read, though Dick's prose is rather clumsy at times. The main problem is that it has a halting start, and then never really takes off; while someone like Arthur C Clarke - a mechanic by heart - knows how to effectively tell a story, Dick does not, which becomes problematic when the characters are shallow and their only mean is to progress the story. Clarke can get away with it because the plot is tighter told, Dick can not.

On the other hand, some of the ideas in Dick's dystop
Kristian Thoroughgood
Yet another high quality vintage scifi book from PKD. I found the penultimate truth a mirror to Wool by Hugh Howey- both involved underground silos or tanks of refugees from a brutal war & both involve extensive networks of lies keeping control of the oppressed populace.

This one plays out very differently though, with propaganda organisations and time paradoxes complicating the mix.

Worth your time.
Jul 04, 2015 Elar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Very actual thematic even today where false flag operations from the past and present are exposed by masses. Do you believe the cover-up or the hurtful truth depends either you are able to leave your comfort zone or hope that stagnation continues.
Dec 27, 2008 Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, pulp
Really interesting to see that this, The Zap Gun, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch were all written (or at least conceived) in the same year (along with Clans of the Alphane Moon, which I read before this). Granted, yes, the whole thing fits together like several different jigsaw puzzles all squished into one big picture, but then again, most of his novels are like that. And (at least as far as I'm concerned) it's that writing quality that the afterword compared to "downhill racing" (ju ...more
Dec 02, 2008 Sonny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now this story simply flies apart at the seams...But, still, it is completely understandable! How, I just do not know. Dick gives us a creepy, funny look at a war-weary world where humanity is forced to serve -someone- on the surface of the world. Again, I cannot give too much away, so I will end with story lines right there. Many critics have torn this one book apart with its rampant plot fraying, but the images that are introduced can be found in other, later, stories and film. You read this a ...more
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Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Di ...more
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“if men are too blind to govern themselves, how can they be trusted to govern others?” 4 likes
“What a great burden, the luxury of the way we live. Since no one makes suffer we have elected to volunteer.” 1 likes
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