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The Penultimate Truth

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  5,414 Ratings  ·  282 Reviews
One of the greatest American science fiction writers, Philip K. Dick here imagines a society forced underground after a battery of nuclear strikes and counter-strikes have turned the United States into a burned-out landscape. The finest American novelist of our time.--Hartford Advocate.
Paperback, 220 pages
Published June 1st 1989 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1964)
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Feb 21, 2017 Apatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, pre-80s-sf
“The masses had egged their leaders on to war in both Wes-Dem and Pac-Peop. But once the masses were out of the way, stuffed down below into antiseptic tanks, the ruling elite of both East and West were free to conclude a deal . . .”

Unfortunately, that does not sound too farfetched. Those neologisms, though. If you noticed the “Wes-Dem and Pac-Peop” in the first sentence and “East and West” in the second you will have probably figured them out. The Penultimate Truth is not one of PKD’s most acce
Kate Sherrod
Dec 18, 2012 Kate Sherrod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 25, 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)
Aug 27, 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
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
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
Jun 17, 2012 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
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 25, 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
Mar 16, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Apr 18, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, future
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
Jose Moa
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
Sof 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
Buck Ward
Somehow this novel seemed not particularly typical of Dick. There were some oddball situations, but it lacked his signature weirdness. It wasn't as Dickian as some. It's kind of a quest/who-done-it with lots of deception and political treachery in a completely fictional society in our (then) near future, after World War III, with references to secret political alliances in World War II.
For some reason it seemed to take me forever to finish it. I enjoyed it but not wildly.
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
Stephen Curran
Interesting to see that The Penultimate Truth draws on three of Dick's earlier short stories, because the plot is very much comprised of three converging threads: that of the escapee Nicholas St. James; the lonely speech-writer for the dummy President Talbot Yancy; and the private detective Wesbter Foote. There's a lot of double-crossing, a lot of “wagering, striving, lying, faking and haggling” as the main players attempt to take control of the land above ground, or seek to free the bulk of hum ...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
Felix Zilich
Nov 19, 2011 Felix Zilich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocal, dystopia
После начала Третьей Мировой выжившее человечество ушло под землю и стало жить в специально построенных подземных термитниках. Жизнь “новых термитов” была непохожа на сахар. Изо дня в день подземные работяги строили боевые машины для продолжения войны Востока и Запада, не подозревая о том, что в реальности военные действия закончились уже много лет назад. Выжившие не могли даже предположить, что американские и советские олигархи давно помирились, поделили землю и правят теперь на поверхности пла ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sci fi fans, Dickians, paranoids
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
This is, to me, one of PKD’s more underrated works. It builds on a kind of totalitarian metaphor for the Cold War and extends into increasingly paranoid territory as it goes. At the outset of the story, the majority of humankind – divided into two great power-blocs (Wes-Dem and Pac-Peop) – are living in vast underground shelters to survive the nuclear apocalypse which has obliterated the cities and rendered the surface of the Earth a radioactive wasteland. These survivors toil to produce sophist ...more
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
Jun 30, 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
Dec 09, 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.
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
Dec 21, 2014 Philipp rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, post-apoc
This must be my least favorite PKD novel - he shines best in craziness, in distrust of one's mind and perception of the world, when reality is moved just a tiny little bit to the side (the German word for crazy, "verrückt", literally means "a little bit moved to the side", like a piece of furniture).

This one's a bit of a more "conservative" SF novel born out of the Cold War, we have most of mankind living underground after World War 3, (minor spoiler which is revealed in the second chapter or so
Ethan Roeder
Jan 17, 2016 Ethan Roeder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Philip K Dick novel. Excellent mechanics - keeps the story moving, fun cliff-hangers along the way, quirky and authentic characters some of whom evolve over the course of the book. He does an excellent job of creating an immersive world but not larding it down too much with unneeded details.

This is an interesting plot choice he's made- almost something I'd expect out of East Germany. A bunch of proles shut up underground under the yoke of a privileged class. Of course the rewriting of h
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
Oct 11, 2016 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Parts of this were really good. I enjoyed the world and the general plot and I liked the sci-fi aspects of it. What let is down for me is the waffle in-between. Polotics and messages in science fiction is great, but when there are whole chapters that feel pointless because they focus on getting the political commentary through... its just a tad draining.

Basically, you had two 'plot threads' to follow, you have a tanker (people who live underground after WW3) and the people on top who have been
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
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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.” 2 likes
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