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If I Had a Hammer...,
This review is from: Vulcan's Hammer: A Novel (Paperback)
VULCAN'S HAMMER (1960) is a story about a future in which a giant all-powerful computer makes humanity's decisions for us. Desperate rebels are determined to overthrow their inhuman overlord. Government bureaucrats struggle with the outlaws and with their own inner demons. Individual citizens fear government psychological correction labs, which force sanity onto people at the end of a gun. Even the giant computer -- the Vulcan 3 -- has its own fears and enemies, requiring secretive plotting and scheming. As one might gather from plot summaries, there are a lot of stock science fiction concepts behind Philip K. Dick's story, but the way those pieces are put together is classic PKD.
This is perhaps the most paranoid book I've ever read, certainly the most paranoid book I've read in a good long time. Seemingly every time a character is introduced, within mere paragraphs the reader is overwhelmed with this new person's inner monologue which consists mostly of who this person thinks is out to get him, why these people are out to get him and how long he thinks he can hold out until they get him.
Without these authorial flourishes, it's likely that VULCAN'S HAMMER would have been lost to time. And even considering how decent the book is, it's probably only due to the author's name that the novel is still in print today. It's good, it's interesting, it's diverting, but it's much more straightforward than PKD's later works. It's not groundbreaking science fiction, but it is enjoyable and entertaining. There are some very fun twists that make this a little better than the standard run-of-the-mill speculative fiction story set in a fascist-like future. If you're looking for something representative of this era of science fiction, this actually isn't a bad choice. But if you're looking for something that shows PKD firing on all cylinders, there are other novels you could try.