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Vulcan's Hammer: Battle of the Brain…
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Vulcan's Hammer: Battle of the Brain Machines (edition 1960)

by Philip K. Dick (Author)

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5201035,367 (3.33)6
After the twentieth century's devastating series of wars, the world's governments banded together into one globe-spanning entity, committed to peace at all costs. Ensuring that peace is the Vulcan supercomputer, responsible for all major decisions. But some people don't like being taken out of the equation. And others resent the idea that the Vulcan is taking the place of God. As the world grows ever closer to all-out war, one functionary frantically tries to prevent it. But the Vulcan computer has its own plans, plans that might not include humanity at all.… (more)
Member:tsmarsden
Title:Vulcan's Hammer: Battle of the Brain Machines
Authors:Philip K. Dick (Author)
Info:Ace Books, Inc., (1960), Edition: Unknown, 154 pages
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Vulcan's Hammer by Philip K. Dick

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English (9)  French (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Paranoia, machines, science fiction, and action. The novel is stacked with all of these. While this is not Dick at his finest, he still manages to weave a cloak of himself around the novel and permeate into the reader's consciousness. This is well worth the read. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Apr 3, 2019 |
Paranoid as ever, but felt a bit thin. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Nov 23, 2018 |
For hardcore PKD fans only and even then you really have to squint to make it seem like passable read. ( )
  MartinEdasi | Apr 21, 2018 |
Great story about the challenges that may come about from working with artificial intelligence in government. ( )
  brakketh | Oct 26, 2016 |
Here’s the great sci-fi formula of the 60s: Humanity builds a big computer to prevent war; i.e. humans build a computer to protect themselves from themselves. Computer makes unauthorized but allowed “enhancements” to itself. Computer decides that humanity’s very existence is a threat to humanity and its own circuitry. The computer takes steps to eradicate large sections of the human population. Climax ensues and story ends in one of three ways: The luddites win and computers are totally destroyed or the computers win and a sequel is planned.

It would be really easy to say that Philip K. Dick adheres to this formula in his 1960 slim novel [book: Vulcan's Hammer: A Novel], except the surprises twisting the plot around are so fine and exquisite that one quickly realized Dick didn’t follow the formula, he invented it.

Seemingly forgotten by modern readers, this near perfect story examines the dichotomy of free will vs. social order against the backdrop of a crumbling government caught in a quagmire of red tape, infighting, and bottlenecks. Through the eyes of an upper level paper pusher (the director of North America), his boss, and a family of rebels the reader watches as two computers fight for dominance as they attempt to follow the now contradictory directives given to them: Keep humanity and themselves safe.

Forty-seven years old now, the story is contradictorily quaint and up-to-date. Like most 60s sci-fi writers, Dick failed to catch the miniaturization phenomena (his generations of computers get substantially larger), but he does predict the passing of punch cards (thank goodness). And he catches onto a timeless struggle in humanity’s understanding of morality. For instance, his motley crew of protagonist struggle to come to terms with government officials who side with a computer even as that computer is busy mowing down as many people as possible. These government officials cling to the hope of their party line like so many Ba’ath party members during the invasion of Iraq. Voices call for their punishment. But then, in a moment of beautiful grace, Dick reminds the reader that “this is all they know.” He calls for us to recognize the humanity of the people we so desperately want to vilify.

As far as the end of the great equation is concerned, Dick moves beyond the expected outcomes and reaches a conclusion that allows for free will, governments and machines. While that sounds simple and pat, he manages to keep the philosophical ideals that play off each other throughout the story from compromising. It’s as unsettling and as well conceptualized as the story’s initial premise.

( )
  IsotropicJoseph | Apr 28, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Della Frattina, BeataTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, KellyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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After the twentieth century's devastating series of wars, the world's governments banded together into one globe-spanning entity, committed to peace at all costs. Ensuring that peace is the Vulcan supercomputer, responsible for all major decisions. But some people don't like being taken out of the equation. And others resent the idea that the Vulcan is taking the place of God. As the world grows ever closer to all-out war, one functionary frantically tries to prevent it. But the Vulcan computer has its own plans, plans that might not include humanity at all.

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