“Second Variety” by Phillip K. Dick

Source: Librivox (Part 1 | Part 2)
Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Reader: Greg Margarite

The story: In case you haven’t noticed, I usually try to pair the stories I review with the book I’ve reviewed earlier in the week. I like the way that interesting comparisons sometimes result from the juxtaposition of two narratives. This week, the book was a science fiction novel that is no longer plausible because the basis in scientific fact has been overturned. In this science fiction story, the science aspect is still plausible, but the political situation it depicts is history.

In the story, a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the U.N. has turned Earth into a battlefield. American scientists left robots called “claws” to battle the Soviets, then fled Earth to the moonbase. When a U.N. General returns to Earth to negotiate a peace treaty, he discovers what the Russians already know — that the robots have modified themselves into a human form to better trap unsuspecting soldiers. No one can be trusted – anyone could be a robot in disguise.

If you feel you’ve heard this before, it’s because Dick’s story has become hugely influencial in science fiction. The 1995 film Screamer’s was directly based off the story. More significantly, both The Terminator and the newer version of Battlestar Galactica have elements of Dick’s paranoid thriller.
Rating: 8 /10

The reader: I’ve reviewed Margarite’s readings before on this blog, including his tendency to give a William Shatner-like delivery. The more I listen to him, though, the more I like him. It’s a good thing that I ‘ve grown to love his readings, since he has an extensive catalogue of science fiction stories that he’s narrated for LibriVox.

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