• SumoMe

Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” is a short story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the terrain is nothing but feet of ash caused by nuclear warfare. Under the ash lie machine factories, originally started by the Americans to seek out and kill all life forms, but very soon the machines began to evolve and adapt by themselves and the inventors left the underground world.

Readers follow Hendricks from the American lines to the Russian lines in an attempt to bring about peace. His adventures and discoveries along the way as he tries to stay alive and find any form of human life make for a compelling story that ends as quickly as it begins.

This novella leaves the reader wanting more–which is dangerous in gaining positive appeal for some books, given that the story could easily have turned into a much longer work. However, Dick does this well, and leaves the reader up to his or her own imagination. Without wanting to give too much away, I think this is really the only way the story could end.

The work raised questions of warfare–at what point does war become absurd? Is it possible or likely that a nuclear war-created apocalypse is within the future of humans? Additionally, it questions the future of technology–at what point will machines and humans become enemies, and at what point will machines become enemies of other machines?

While this book is more science fiction than philosophic work, it makes for a very worthwhile read that an average-speed reader can knock out in less time than an episode of American Idol. I suggest it to anyone interested in post-apocalyptic work, science fiction, or distopian fiction.