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The Skull

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,404 ratings  ·  198 reviews

Conger agreed to kill a stranger he had never seen. He wasn't concerned about getting the wrong man. He knew what the man looked like. There was no way he could make a mistake about his target's identity -- he had the man's skull under his shoulder.

Kindle Edition, 24 pages
Published (first published September 1952)
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Bill  Kerwin

One of the pleasures of early Dick is that, because of his unusual treatment of otherwise hackneyed plot devices, even the oldest stories seldom strike the reader as old. I have to admit, though, that “The Skull” (first published in the magazine If in 1952)—is the lamentable exception. After all, at least on the surface, it’s just another of those “let’s go jump in the time machine and kill Hitler” yarns, only this time it’s not Hitler or someone like him, but a cult leader whose pacifism and Lu
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

In a distant future, a council of powerful men has lost patience with a pacifist movement (now embodied in a religion called the First Church), which they view as having led to the non-violent but - they say - stagnant society of their time. The Council decides that the way to solve their problem is to use their handy-dandy time travel machine and send someone back to assassinate the founder of this movement before he makes his world-changing speech in the 1960s.

They find a prisoner named Conge
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Coincidentally I read it two weeks before Christmas.

The title is rather misleading for me. I assumed a rather grim tale, but I was wrong. The conclusion of the story is heartwarming, and as other reviews had revealed, The Founder in the story is obviously based on Jesus Christ.

This review is my early Christmas Greetings. Merry Christmas!
The Problem About Time Travel

Philip K. Dick’s short story The Skull (1952) is probably less original and surprising today than it was at the time it was written because unlike Dick, we had to go through a phase of “Back to the Future” movies, starting in the middle of the eighties, which explored any possible paradox connected with time travel, and then there was “12 Monkeys”, which also had the motif of a time traveller sent back into the past to set things right and create what his employers c
Andreea Daia
Review subtitle: There is so much more than meets the eye...

One reads this short-story and tells himself/herself: "I guessed the ending after reading only seven pages." And "The Skull has a blunt anti-war message, but so have a thousand other short-stories."

True and true, but that's not the (ultimate) point of the story. Yes, there is strong criticism of ignorance, intolerance, sadism, and even macabre curiosity, which all encourage violence and ultimately war. Yes, the ending is obvious, but
Sci-fy/time travel short story from the 1950's. A little on the creepy side also.
Abdul Kareem
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dick just killed it! Planning to read some of his other short stories too.
David Albee
Apr 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I think Looper was heavily influenced by this book? Maybe.

Saw the “twist” coming miles away..
This is a short story, not a novel, first published in 1952. What if Jesus was a modern day prophet, and someone in the future wanted to kill him in order to make the world a better place for the warmakers? Ok, the story doesn't call the prophet Jesus, but it's clear that's who this tale is modeled after. Being seen alive after death, the call to non-violence, beard, etc.

This isn't too cute by half, but it was obvious early on what the big denouement was going to be. OBVIOUS. I suppose it was or
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
P.K.Dick writes the kind of stuff that keeps science fiction going.
Ravindra Pai
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
My first Philip K. Dick story. Nice one indeed. I should read few more of his story and before determining who is better, Asimov or Philip?
Jales ☾
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-read
It's a short story, so expect a short review.
I've read books by Philip K. Dick before and they've been pretty awesome. Of course I read his most famous work (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Minority Report), both classics which have found their way onto the big screen.

The Skull is a little different, but you find that edge that Dick delivers in his novels. I don't like to read short stories, I avoid the collections if I can and only make exceptions for a few authors I really like.
Risa Efp
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
E' un racconto di poche pagine che ho letto ieri e che non mi esce dalla testa.
Ancora mi chiedo come abbia potuto pensare Dick ad una cosa del genere, perchè è talmente geniale, ma al contempo chiara e semplice, che non si può non rimanere estasiati davanti ad un lavoro del genere.
Il lettore si ritrova a riflettere su di sè, su ciò in cui crede, sulle caratteristiche della religione e via dicendo. Il protagonista è profondamente umano e lo si intuisce soprattutto alla fine. Nel momento in cui st
Nik Kane
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, books-i-own
Of course the twist is completely predictable, but I wonder if that would have been the case in 1952, or if it's predictable to modern readers because Dick was so successful that we now expect the Dickian twist and take pains to discover its foreshadowing?

Also, I wonder if Moorcock had read this when he wrote Behold The Man.
Christina Dawn
“What if he could see this, his own skull, yellow and eroded? Two centuries old. Would he still speak? Would he speak, if he could see it, the grinning, aged skull? What would there be for him to say, to tell the people? What message could he bring?

What action would not be futile, when a man could look upon his own aged, yellowed skull?”
Marts  (Thinker)
May 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Way into the future the government wants to get rid of the First Church and the only way to accomplish that is by sending someone back in time to 1960 to assassinate its founder. Well, in steps this man called Conger, he does the time travel stuff, has a series of adventures, and stumbles upon a strange discovery...
Some nice touches, in the observations and details, and the hint of paranoia at both ends. The ending wasn't a surprise - I figured it out in the first 10 minutes - and generally this just wasn't one of his best. I wasn't overly sold on the narrator either; his voice just didn't have enough variance for me.
Austin Wright
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
More 1950's religious time travel. These short stories honestly reenforce my belief that the 1950's are my favorite decade!
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have to say that my two-star rating for this story is unfair. Namely, if I had either read it as a kid or if I had lived closer to the time of the first publication, I probably would have been blown away. However, I am a member of a generation that has grown up on sci-fi, time travel paradox stories etc., and reading The Skull in 2016 for the first time (at age 31), just made it seem antiquated. So I stress, the two-star rating (rather than a higher rating) is not directly a comment on the qua ...more
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this short story.Conger is on a quest to find the original man.Al Kessel did a fine job narrating.“I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.”
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would guess that this book established the trope that movies like 12 Monkeys built on later. I knew almost immediately what the ending would be, which is why I think it's probably the trope originator. Newer works obfuscate the old trope a bit more. Still, good nonetheless.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by this book, because I had forgotten the genre, and did not place the author's name.
I think I have a few more by this author in my library, I'll have to check. Delightful short sci-fi story.
Edwin Lowe
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Excellently Crafted Time Travel Yarn!

Phillip K Dick is a master of the science fiction genre. Fans of Science Fiction are bound to love this time travel short story! Prepare yourself for a surprise!
Ethan Dahlsad

Interesting short story in the vein of Neil Gaiman, but somewhat less entertaining. Would be better as an illustrated novella.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely tickled by the story even though I saw the climax coming. Read, re-read, then re-read the final several paragraphs. One of my favorite short stories now.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Not one of Philip K. Dicks best stories but it keeps your attention and manages to seem fresh rather than old.
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
if you like time travel stories this one is interesting
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fast read but interesting!! Definitely worth the money😎

I love Philip K Dick stories. This one was typical with a cool twist at the end. Give it a try.
Grant Johnson
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite PKD short story so far. Wow. Just. WOW.
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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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“You're an unusual person," she said.

"Bill didn't like you, but he never likes anything different. He's so—so prosaic. Don't you think that when a person gets older he should become—broadened in his outlook?”
“What if he could see this, his own skull, yellow and eroded? Two centuries old. Would he still speak? Would he speak, if he could see it, the grinning, aged skull? What would there be for him to say, to tell the people? What message could he bring?

What action would not be futile, when a man could look upon his own aged, yellowed skull?”
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