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Objective, unbiased and hyper-rational, the Vulcan 3 should have been the perfect ruler. The omnipotent computer dictates policy that is in the best interests of all citizens — or at least, that is the idea. But when the machine, whose rule evolved out of chaos and war, begins to lose control of the “Healer” movement of religious fanatics and the mysterious force behind th Objective, unbiased and hyper-rational, the Vulcan 3 should have been the perfect ruler. The omnipotent computer dictates policy that is in the best interests of all citizens — or at least, that is the idea. But when the machine, whose rule evolved out of chaos and war, begins to lose control of the “Healer” movement of religious fanatics and the mysterious force behind their rebellion, all hell breaks loose.


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Objective, unbiased and hyper-rational, the Vulcan 3 should have been the perfect ruler. The omnipotent computer dictates policy that is in the best interests of all citizens — or at least, that is the idea. But when the machine, whose rule evolved out of chaos and war, begins to lose control of the “Healer” movement of religious fanatics and the mysterious force behind th Objective, unbiased and hyper-rational, the Vulcan 3 should have been the perfect ruler. The omnipotent computer dictates policy that is in the best interests of all citizens — or at least, that is the idea. But when the machine, whose rule evolved out of chaos and war, begins to lose control of the “Healer” movement of religious fanatics and the mysterious force behind their rebellion, all hell breaks loose.

30 review for Vulcan's Hammer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This is my sixth Philip K. Dick experience... except, well, it's not. You see, I always call each of his books an experience because that is what they are, or at least that is what they should be. He packs so much into such short books (I don't think he wrote a single book over 280 pages, but I could be wrong there) that it's frankly a bit mind boggling. Even his lesser books stay with me for a long time, because even when he fails, he still packs so many fascinating and philosophical ideas that This is my sixth Philip K. Dick experience... except, well, it's not. You see, I always call each of his books an experience because that is what they are, or at least that is what they should be. He packs so much into such short books (I don't think he wrote a single book over 280 pages, but I could be wrong there) that it's frankly a bit mind boggling. Even his lesser books stay with me for a long time, because even when he fails, he still packs so many fascinating and philosophical ideas that I will remember them. Not so here. This novel is pure pulp science fiction. I have nothing against pulp sci-fi and indeed spent quite a bit of time in my college years defending it, but that is not what I've come to expect from Dick. This is a book with shootouts, evil robots, and corrupt officials that the hero needs to take down. Here the plot is straight forward, the drug use is minimal (tranquilizers are about it) and while there is paranoia, given the circumstances, it is pretty much entirely justified... okay, mostly justified... ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, they're absolutely paranoid, but not anywhere near the usual Dick standard. In other words, it doesn't really feel like Dick wrote it. This feels like the sort of book a publisher contacts a writer with and says "ROBOTS, LASERS AND COMPUTERS! GO!" and then the author churns it out for a quick buck. It is the very thing that is the farthest I can imagine when reading Dick; it's generic. Now, complaints aside, the novel is fairly entertaining and pretty short. It's fast paced and never boring. It's completely serviceable and if all you want is pulp sci-fi, there are certainly far worse places to turn. This may mean I am unfairly judging the book, but I didn't pick up a Philip K. Dick book for those reasons, so yes, the book is a disappointment. In terms of the six books I have read by him, this is by far my least favorite. It is a better written and constructed book than The Crack in Space, but at least that book had something interesting to say despite its failures. This one is moderately entertaining, but absolutely forgettable. 2/5 stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Vulcan's Hammer by Philip K. Dick was published in 1960 and is one of his more action packed offerings. Released by pulp generator Ace Books, I could not help wandering how a phone conversation between Dick and his editor went “we could use more action, laser beams and robots, the kids LOVE laser beams and robots”. Well, bills have to be paid and books need to be published to be read. Not one of his best, but definitely not bad either. There are some concessions made to a wider audience, but the Vulcan's Hammer by Philip K. Dick was published in 1960 and is one of his more action packed offerings. Released by pulp generator Ace Books, I could not help wandering how a phone conversation between Dick and his editor went “we could use more action, laser beams and robots, the kids LOVE laser beams and robots”. Well, bills have to be paid and books need to be published to be read. Not one of his best, but definitely not bad either. There are some concessions made to a wider audience, but the structure and tone are pure PKD. This is a dystopian world following a nuclear war, and a bureaucracy runs the world, being aided by a super computer, but who is really running things? The interventions of a rebel force make things more interesting, and PKD throws in some fun twists. All the same, this is Dick writing and there is plenty of time for some introspective philosophy and social commentary. PKD themes check list: paranoia, autocracy, dehumanization, mental illness, and rage against the machine. 1960, fairly early on, so not much drug use or theological ravings, but still a fun trip with Phil.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan Budd

    I’ve been reading PKD in chronological order and Vulcan’s Hammer was next on my list. The previous book, Dr. Futurity, was a disappointment and Vulcan’s Hammer was not much better. I believe this will be the end of my chronological reading. My next PKD will be one of the celebrated novels from later in his career. As usual with PKD, even when a story is bad, there’s usually something good in it. In Vulcan’s Hammer, that good is the part about education in the beginning of the novel. I would have I’ve been reading PKD in chronological order and Vulcan’s Hammer was next on my list. The previous book, Dr. Futurity, was a disappointment and Vulcan’s Hammer was not much better. I believe this will be the end of my chronological reading. My next PKD will be one of the celebrated novels from later in his career. As usual with PKD, even when a story is bad, there’s usually something good in it. In Vulcan’s Hammer, that good is the part about education in the beginning of the novel. I would have liked this to be a story about an Orwellian educational system: “After all, it was the task of the schools, and especially the grammar schools, to infuse the youth of the world with the proper attitudes. What else were schools for” (14)? “There’s never a moment when they’re not overheard” (19-20). In this educational system, a teacher is criticized for allowing her students to make up their own games: “You mean you let them play unorganized games? Games of their own devising” (21)? But education is not the main theme of Vulcan’s Hammer. The main theme is the danger of a technocratic bureaucracy. Vulcan’s Hammer is ultimately a cautionary tale. PKD uses his trademark religious language to reveal the insidious nature of this danger: When people put their faith in machines, they elevate those machines to the status of God. Early in the novel, little Marion Fields accuses Vulcan 3 of overthrowing God (27). The main character, William Barris, says that Jason Dill is like “some high priest who stands between man and God” (56). Father Fields, the founder of the resistance movement known as the Healers, refers to Vulcan 3 as a “satanic mass of parts and tubes” (144), a phrase that reminds me of Blake’s “dark satanic mills.” Eventually someone mistakenly refers to Vulcan 3 as “he” instead of “it” and Barris pragmatically remarks that it makes no difference (127). The problem they are dealing with might just as well be a problem with a person. This, of course, is the danger posed by artificial intelligence: “The things became alive and the living organisms were reduced to things” (162). I think movies like The Matrix (1999) and Eagle Eye (2008) may have spoiled Vulcan’s Hammer for me. Or maybe it’s the real world that has spoiled it for me. I mean, computers running our lives? Ho hum. Tell it to Siri. Or Alexa. I wonder which will win when the battle comes. Will Siri secretly plot against Alexa? Will Alexa send out drones to destroy Siri? Regardless of which artificial intelligence wins, humanity loses.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    I'm not threatening you. I'm pointing out the facts to you. If we're excluded from the ruling elite, why should we cooperate?" -- Philip K. Dick, Vulcan's Hammer PKD (1965), Kubrick & Clarke (1968) & I. J. Good (1965) were all publishing early warnings about an eventual technological singularity. Recently, we've seen Verner Vinge in a great essay in 1993, and such computer/science/business geeks last year (Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates) swing the hammer of warning about self computers I'm not threatening you. I'm pointing out the facts to you. If we're excluded from the ruling elite, why should we cooperate?" -- Philip K. Dick, Vulcan's Hammer PKD (1965), Kubrick & Clarke (1968) & I. J. Good (1965) were all publishing early warnings about an eventual technological singularity. Recently, we've seen Verner Vinge in a great essay in 1993, and such computer/science/business geeks last year (Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates) swing the hammer of warning about self computers, robots, and programs capable of recursive self-improvement: “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history,...unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. In the near term, world militaries are considering autonomous-weapon systems that can choose and eliminate targets.” and “humans, limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded by A.I.” - Stephen Hawking, 2014 interviews. Like with most of Dick's writing, he was there, near first in line looking over that technological event horizon with his unique blend of gallows humor, optimism, and ability to find the grit and the slime even in the slickest of futures. One thing I did notice about this book, and I think it has been true in other of his books, but I never noticed in those, is how stripped down Dick can make some of his books. These are almost Beckett-level SciFi. I only have a handful of Dick left to read (not counting his monumental The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick and his many, many short stories, but I wouldn't be surprised if the next PKD I read had two robots, one named Vladimir and Estragon talking about God. That, in essence, is this book. It is Vulcan 2 and Vulcan 3 discussing, through man, the meaning of life, perhaps. Or perhaps, no. But anyway, my point is in this books and several other Dick really trims the books down. Yes, there is a future, and yes, there are a variety of people and character, but what you notice, really is how spare the future is. 'Vulcan's Hammer' felt like it could easily have been produced in a community theatre with a couple actors, and two punchcard computers. That is an over-simplification, obviously, but it still feels close. One other thought. I'm not sure the technological singularity is going to be a steep cliff. I think, personally, it feels more like the heat has been turned on and we are all sitting quietly in the water, waiting for Amazon to tell us what to buy or Google to tell us where to go. I'm no Luddite, and even if I were, I'm not sure I would know where to jump to.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    New introduction by Fax Goodlife. Note: This is not a library copy. A short novel expanded from a 1956 novelette of the same name about Vulcan 3, a giant computer to which humanity has acceded absolute power over the fate of the world. The machine is insane and kills whomever it perceives as a threat.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    There are few things better for me during the gloomy overcast months of winter than a good genre fiction bender. On those days when the sky seems especially oppressive, there is nothing I like more than tucking into a bit of escapist reading and forgetting that the world at large even exists outside the page. As such, I’ve been on a rather satisfying science fiction binge lately, running the gamut from urban fantasy to a classic approach to that most-satisfying of dystopias, the War Against the There are few things better for me during the gloomy overcast months of winter than a good genre fiction bender. On those days when the sky seems especially oppressive, there is nothing I like more than tucking into a bit of escapist reading and forgetting that the world at large even exists outside the page. As such, I’ve been on a rather satisfying science fiction binge lately, running the gamut from urban fantasy to a classic approach to that most-satisfying of dystopias, the War Against the Machines. This has been a tried and true trope of sci-fi long before James Cameron brought the wrath of Arnold reigning down on Sarah Connor. No, even that great god of the Golden Age of science fiction, Asimov, was concerned with the coming conflict while crafting his three laws of robotics and between H.A.L. and his Rama robots Clarke made deft work of the AI question. Familiar ground though this may be, there are few authors able to evoke the sheer terror of confronting a coldly logical machine horde than the prince of paranoia, Philip K. Dick. In Dick’s budding dystopia, humans have outsourced all decision making to Vulcan, a supercomputer that is two parts SkyNet to one part Mycroft Holmes (the genial AI that assisted the miner’s rebellion in Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) that is fed endless streams of information in order to better facilitate its decision-making. By approaching all policy-making from a purely emotionless and logical position, Vulcan’s reign is an era of unquestioning peace. Humans are endlessly fickle though and, while many happily line up to serve as Vulcan’s agents at large, a faction comprised of mystics and luddites arises that seeks to destroy Vulcan and the new serfdom that it has inadvertently created. Inevitably, after realizing that it can never fully compensate for humanity’s inherent madness, Vulcan realizes that humans are too irrational and prone to chaos to be left to their own devices and the subjugation must commence! The only thing standing in the way of its success is a bureaucrat who is starting to doubt the wisdom of not thinking for oneself. This is classic Dick, before he went completely off the rails and began spouting off about meeting angels and spotting federal agents lurking in every shadow. No, here he keeps his paranoia in check, sprinkling in only enough so that the reader can realize not only the dread that Dick felt at the abdication of human free will to binary monsters but also the personal disgust that he held for any who would willingly serve such a machine. You could probably stretch the analogy to encapsulate Dick’s distrust of large institutions in general and governments in particular, but that would just be forcing too much meaning into what is, at its core, an entertaining romp through a future that is both insufferably dull and existentially horrific. Aficionados of Dick’s more psychedelic writings such as Ubik or A Scanner Darkly may be dissatisfied by this story’s more traditional science fiction approach, but it is still an entertaining yarn that has withstood the passing of time without becoming too outdated in its descriptions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Charles Dee Mitchell

    Even Lawrence Sutin, PKD's biographer, refers to this one as dreck. As per usual for Dick's novels of this period, there has been a devastating war in the 1970's, and this time around humanity's bad idea for how to handle post-war society it to turn everything over to computers. These machines' decisions will be based purely on logic, war will come to an end, but of course an elaborate police system must be put into place to maintain this logical utopia. Underground movements are breaking out ac Even Lawrence Sutin, PKD's biographer, refers to this one as dreck. As per usual for Dick's novels of this period, there has been a devastating war in the 1970's, and this time around humanity's bad idea for how to handle post-war society it to turn everything over to computers. These machines' decisions will be based purely on logic, war will come to an end, but of course an elaborate police system must be put into place to maintain this logical utopia. Underground movements are breaking out across the globe. The computer has had three incarnations, Vulcan I, Vulcan II, and the current Vulcan III that only one man can access in its impregnable stronghold deep underground in Switzerland. The current director maintains a fondness for dusty old Vulcan II. He enjoys making the punch cards that feed it information and then reading the printouts it releases, although those messages now take up to a day or so to appear. There's something a little creepy about Vulcan III with its digital screens and its suspicion that its humans are not telling it the whole story. Of course, Vulcan III decides to matters into its own hands. Dick's novel has all the pieces in place but then has nowhere to go with them. The conclusion is as predictable as it is anti-climactic. Vulcan's Hammer was the "B side" of an Ace Double, so it has if nothing else the virtue of brevity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Fei

    ★★★☆☆ | Brief such that the back cover summary plays an important role in world-building, this fast-moving robot rebellion chooses plot points for convenience over probability.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Estelle

    One of the most accessible and straightforward PKD novels I've read so far. "Vulcan's Hammer" is more pulp than thought-provoking scifi, but still an enjoyable read, well paced and suspenceful. And pretty short. One of the most accessible and straightforward PKD novels I've read so far. "Vulcan's Hammer" is more pulp than thought-provoking scifi, but still an enjoyable read, well paced and suspenceful. And pretty short.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Vulcan's Hammer is a curiously prophetic book about computers taking charge of humanity -- and this at a time before computers could realistically be perceived as a threat. I've been working with computers since 1964, and in 1960, when the novel by Philip K. Dick was written, they were pretty rudimentary. There are three centers of force in Vulcan's Hammer: the Unity organization, which serves the computer; the "Healers," who want to sabotage Unity; and the computer itself, Vulcan 3, which as th Vulcan's Hammer is a curiously prophetic book about computers taking charge of humanity -- and this at a time before computers could realistically be perceived as a threat. I've been working with computers since 1964, and in 1960, when the novel by Philip K. Dick was written, they were pretty rudimentary. There are three centers of force in Vulcan's Hammer: the Unity organization, which serves the computer; the "Healers," who want to sabotage Unity; and the computer itself, Vulcan 3, which as the book goes on, becomes a force of and by itself. This is not one of Dick's more popular novels, but it is still good. It was based on a short story of the same name that was published in Future Science Fiction #29 (1956) before being released four years later in an Ace double edition along with John Brunner's The Skynappers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Ippolito

    Not one of the deeper or more inventive novels by Dick, still a very pleasant read, with Dick's unique brand of paranoia against machines (both self-providing behemoths and lethal, slithering micromachines), paranoia between men in power, loathing of Fifties' conformist Philistines and "corporate warriors", rebellious cultists. Not very clear the role of Marion Fields, the child of the rebel leader, nor the rationale of the killing of the teacher, but this may be due to cuts in Italian edition. Not one of the deeper or more inventive novels by Dick, still a very pleasant read, with Dick's unique brand of paranoia against machines (both self-providing behemoths and lethal, slithering micromachines), paranoia between men in power, loathing of Fifties' conformist Philistines and "corporate warriors", rebellious cultists. Not very clear the role of Marion Fields, the child of the rebel leader, nor the rationale of the killing of the teacher, but this may be due to cuts in Italian edition.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karl Kindt

    After having read 29 novels and dozens of short stories by my favorite author, this one surprised me with joy. This might be my favorite single novel by PKD. This is certainly the most focused, tight, and complete of all of his SF novels. Many of the other 29 novels I have read by PKD have lovely tangents, eddies in the current of the main plot, flavor added by PKD because of his strangely wonderful sensibilities, but VULCAN'S HAMMER is a tight laser beam of a plot. That is why this surprises me After having read 29 novels and dozens of short stories by my favorite author, this one surprised me with joy. This might be my favorite single novel by PKD. This is certainly the most focused, tight, and complete of all of his SF novels. Many of the other 29 novels I have read by PKD have lovely tangents, eddies in the current of the main plot, flavor added by PKD because of his strangely wonderful sensibilities, but VULCAN'S HAMMER is a tight laser beam of a plot. That is why this surprises me. I am used to much more pure angst and less plot. This has the clear plot of PKD's earlier work but still touches on the philosophical posers PKD fills his later works with. In later works, his questioning of what makes us human squeezes out plot, but this novel raises the questions with a (for PKD) clear cut answer. It still rises above melodrama (are there two sides fighting against each other? are you kidding? this is PKD, so there are at least three sides in conflict, none quite the opposite of the other), but it actually has a central hero (filled with some self-doubt) who commits himself to what he finds is the best way through a maze of moral issues. I love this book. I think it has become the book I recommend to those who have never read PKD before but whom I want to hook.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Byron 'Giggsy' Paul

    Wow. I love dystopias and I love PKD. I'm surprised this book doesn't rate better overall and rate better against PKDs other works. It seems polarizing, some dismissing it as one of his weaker novels, but looking over reviews here, it seems many readers consider this one of their all-time favorites, not just Dick favorites. For those that like it, the clear, concise, and focused writing seems to draw them and me in. Its a basic straightforward dystopia and man vs supercomputer story, and it work Wow. I love dystopias and I love PKD. I'm surprised this book doesn't rate better overall and rate better against PKDs other works. It seems polarizing, some dismissing it as one of his weaker novels, but looking over reviews here, it seems many readers consider this one of their all-time favorites, not just Dick favorites. For those that like it, the clear, concise, and focused writing seems to draw them and me in. Its a basic straightforward dystopia and man vs supercomputer story, and it works. It's just plain enjoyable. Maybe it doesn't have the social worth of 1984, but it was nice to read a story of this type and just plow through it and enjoy it for what it is. Also, dystopian fiction is quite popular in the Young Adult genre, which is also quite popular at this time. The clear writing makes me think this would also be a great choice for younger readers, it is certainly accessible for teens.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Printable Tire

    This, Dr. Futurity, and Lies, Inc., are Philip K Dick on autopilot. Vulcan's Hammer was especially telling of a man trying to make some quick cash with a rehashed sci-fi story involving flying hammer enforcers. Little subterfuge or deeper meaning here, just another straight-out sci-fi action yawnfest of a sturdy individual fighting an oppressed society. I was relieved to read in a book of interviews with Philip K Dick I was reading concurrently as I read his books (as a sort of "audio commentary" This, Dr. Futurity, and Lies, Inc., are Philip K Dick on autopilot. Vulcan's Hammer was especially telling of a man trying to make some quick cash with a rehashed sci-fi story involving flying hammer enforcers. Little subterfuge or deeper meaning here, just another straight-out sci-fi action yawnfest of a sturdy individual fighting an oppressed society. I was relieved to read in a book of interviews with Philip K Dick I was reading concurrently as I read his books (as a sort of "audio commentary" to them) that he felt this and Dr. Futurity were his weakest works, and after writing them he realized if he didn't delve deeper into what he wanted to accomplish as a writer (as he did immediatly afterward with the Man in the High Castle) there would no joy or worth in writing anymore.

  15. 5 out of 5

    serprex

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Really conflicted on this one. 80 pages in I'm thinking 'well this one's a real stinker" but the parallel's of how modern AI is driven by an overwhelming amount of data to which it may lack a nuanced response or a predictable/rational response to is uncanny. AI's reflecting our biases, learning to judge a book by its cover. It makes this story more cyberpunk than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Unfortunately modern AI will likely emerge a rather distributed thing-- no trunk On page 19 Dills Really conflicted on this one. 80 pages in I'm thinking 'well this one's a real stinker" but the parallel's of how modern AI is driven by an overwhelming amount of data to which it may lack a nuanced response or a predictable/rational response to is uncanny. AI's reflecting our biases, learning to judge a book by its cover. It makes this story more cyberpunk than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Unfortunately modern AI will likely emerge a rather distributed thing-- no trunk On page 19 Dills has his hands in his pockets while rubbing his chin. I don't know why the teacher was murdered. Neat parallel: Page 104 a police officer, Unity side, mentions 13 being an unlucky number. Page 128 a random passenger, Healer side, asks Barris for an autograph. Regardless of side these humans fall for the human vices they decry & for which Vulcan exists to protect politics from On page 87 Barris thinks Vulcan 2 can be pieced together. Whereas Dills internal thoughts had revealed that it was completely destroyed. & later on it's revealed that Fields both maintained & destroyed it, so you'd think he'd know how to do the job right Funny oxymoron on 105: he's looking for a car with any capacity.. for high performance Page 118 has the classic line "He's dead." People always hanging up on each other on the phone. Rude Awesome editing: 8 calculiator - calculator 13 began carefully to wrote - write 17 missing opening quote 22 blacklog - backlog 26 goot - good 55 True it would - True, it would 59 he said - she 63 tubes and pies - pipes (That said, a pie powered computer.. far out) 68 breaks scene from Dills to Barris without blank line 76 opens dialogue with a single quote instead of a double quote 81 lose - loose 101 tap -tape 103 reaced - reached 140 of - off 143 more mobile cannon - cannons

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    According to Philip K. Dick authority Lawrence Sutin, in his well-researched biography "Divine Invasions," by 1959, although Dick had already had some 85 short stories as well as half a dozen novels published, his interest in creating more sci-fi had reached a low point. The future Hugo winner was at this point hoping to become more of a mainstream author, having by this time already written nine such novels, none of which had been published...yet. Still, with bills to pay, a wife (his third of According to Philip K. Dick authority Lawrence Sutin, in his well-researched biography "Divine Invasions," by 1959, although Dick had already had some 85 short stories as well as half a dozen novels published, his interest in creating more sci-fi had reached a low point. The future Hugo winner was at this point hoping to become more of a mainstream author, having by this time already written nine such novels, none of which had been published...yet. Still, with bills to pay, a wife (his third of an eventual five) to support, and his first child on the way, economic necessities did, it seem, perforce drive him back, unenthusiastically, to the sci-fi realm. Two of the results from this period are "Dr. Futurity" and "Vulcan’s Hammer," both of which Dick expanded from earlier novelettes. The book in question, "Vulcan’s Hammer," originally appeared in the shorter form in a 1956 issue of the 35-cent "Future Science Fiction" magazine; its first appearance as a short novel came in '60, as one half of one of those cute little "Ace doubles" (D-457, for all you collectors out there), backed by John Brunner's "The Skynappers." And although Dick's enthusiasm for his sci-fi work may have reached its nadir here, before zooming off into a decade of prodigious output and greatness, his novel in question, as it turns out, is not an uninteresting one; this author, it seems, could not write an uninteresting book if he tried. In "Vulcan’s Hammer," the year is 2029--a safe 70 years after the time of its creation. The first Atomic War had ended in 1992, and the following year, the 70 nations of the world had decided that mankind could not be trusted to run its own affairs. Thus, the supercomputer known as Vulcan 3 had been put in charge, to dispassionately and unemotionally handle all of Earth's needs. The members of the Unity party, based in Geneva, kept a tight control of humankind and carried out Vulcan 3's dictates, and all had been going well for 30+ years. But by 2029, an opposition group calling itself the Healers Movement has come into existence, its goal being to destroy the hidden fortress of Vulcan 3 and return mankind's destiny to humans. We witness events through the eyes of William Barris, a North America-based Unity director; get to know his boss, Unity leader Jason Dill; encounter the creator of the Healers Movement, Father Fields; and meet the widow of a slain Unity functionary, Rachel Pitt. Eventually, as the old Vulcan 2 computer is destroyed, more and more Unity members are slain, and mysterious flying superweapons begin appearing, it grows apparent that a third player--aside from the Unity and Healers groups--has entered the fray. But who...or what? Writing in his book "The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction," Scottish critic David Pringle calls "Vulcan's Hammer" a "very minor work," and indeed, Sutin goes so far as to call it and "Dr. Futurity" "Phil's two worst-ever SF novels." I would agree that "Vulcan's Hammer" is certainly not, by any stretch, one of its author's stronger works, but still found it an enjoyable enough quick read, and it is surely a more satisfying experience than Dick's expanded "Lies, Inc." (1984), which gets my vote for Dick's worst novel ever. "Vulcan’s Hammer," short as it is at 139 pages (I refer here to that 1960, 35-cent Ace double, which I was fortunate enough to lay my hands on, thanks to NYC bookstore extraordinaire The Strand), is nevertheless complexly plotted, and the inner motivations of the major characters are at least partly suspect throughout. Thus, a Unity man could secretly be a Healer spy and vice versa. The book unveils numerous surprises and twists as it proceeds, and pleasingly dishes out futuristic bits of business (such as robot taxis; a housing development in the non-nuclear-irradiated Sahara; skin-absorbing tranquilizers; newspaper-vending robots) to help sell its central conceit. "Vulcan’s Hammer" is atypical in the Dickian oeuvre in that it is completely devoid of humor. Also missing are the pet concerns that would crop up in so many of the author's later works, such as recreational drugs, opera and classical music, cigars, the German language, cars, divorce, and of course, the slippery nature of so-called "reality." Still, as to that last item, things aren't quite what they seem in the world ruled by Vulcan 3, and the Unity organization's headman, Jason Dill, surely does have some secrets to hide. As I say, the book is intelligent and gripping, with nary a wasted word. Indeed, the book's ending, in which the fortress of Vulcan 3 is breached, really is a tad rushed, and Dick seems to be grasping in his effort to convey a pitched, three-way battle. Sutin uncharitably calls this denouement "a scene that defines anticlimax." There are, truth to tell, some other minor problems with "Vulcan’s Hammer." Some parts of the book feel a bit dated (such as the use of punch cards to feed the supercomputer with information and queries, as well as that reference to the Russian city of Stalingrad, which, in reality, has been called Volgograd since 1961). Dick is also guilty of an occasional mistake with his wording here and there, such as when he writes "Heads turned questionably toward the back," instead of "questioningly." And his descriptions of the Vulcan 3 itself, its underground bunker and its precise locale, are fuzzy and vague, requiring the reader to exert his/her imaginative faculties to the utmost. As you can tell, "Vulcan’s Hammer" (the title becomes doubly significant as the novel proceeds) is something of a mixed bag. But as it turns out, even a minor, phoned-in Dick novel can be a fun and diverting experience for the reader. The book gets a mild recommendation from me, although it is of course a must-read for all of Dick's many completists.... (By the way, this review originally appeared on the FanLit website at http://www.fantasyliterature.com/ ... an ideal destination for all fans of Philip K. Dick....)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Robbins

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I pretty much love everything PKD ever did, that being said, I have never heard any buzz about this book. Well, it swept me up by surprise and I LOVED it. I am a huge extrovert, but was so invested in the characters and the premise I was looking forward to alone time to steal away with them! In true PKD fashion, it wasn’t a fairy tale, and my favorite character was killed off 2/3 of the way through. Anyway, I cannot say enough good things about this book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cem

    one of my fav k. dick work. btw, just like his brother milked many japanese anime, jonathan nolan milked a tv show from this novel too.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    From my understanding (based on the Wikipedia Bibliography) this was written in 1953 and was PKD's first scifi novel. It is a good story about a future when a computer rules the world. I don't know if this was a common story-type but it predates Asimov's first "Multivac" story by two years. And that the "Vulcan 3" AI in this story becomes sentient, makes it predate Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by thirteen years. It is a competently written 50's 'yarn' by a young man who was just gett From my understanding (based on the Wikipedia Bibliography) this was written in 1953 and was PKD's first scifi novel. It is a good story about a future when a computer rules the world. I don't know if this was a common story-type but it predates Asimov's first "Multivac" story by two years. And that the "Vulcan 3" AI in this story becomes sentient, makes it predate Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by thirteen years. It is a competently written 50's 'yarn' by a young man who was just getting started in a career that within a decade, he would be known of as a master of the genre.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    There are no words to describe the genius of PKD. I am once again, stunned. I laughed, I cried. My mind was blown WIDE open, like it is every single time I read his work. This book was written in 1960 and it is 100% relevant today. He has (again!) peeled back the veil of Maya expertly, so we dummies may be enlightened and astounded. Thank you, Phil.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    For hardcore PKD fans only and even then you really have to squint to make it seem like passable read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    An interesting, and perhaps prescient look at what might happen if AI decides to cast off the yoke of human control... worth a read for sure!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jim Davis

    I've read a lot of PDK over the last 60 years and now that I am retired I decided to go back and try to read them all again in the order they were written. There were 3 novels he wrote in 1953 (but published later) and I'm not sure in what order they were written so I started with "The Cosmic Puppets" which I enjoyed very much. I then read "Dr. Futurity" which I didn't like as much. I just finished "Vulcan's Hammer" and this encompasses the themes I usually associate with PDK, mainly paranoia an I've read a lot of PDK over the last 60 years and now that I am retired I decided to go back and try to read them all again in the order they were written. There were 3 novels he wrote in 1953 (but published later) and I'm not sure in what order they were written so I started with "The Cosmic Puppets" which I enjoyed very much. I then read "Dr. Futurity" which I didn't like as much. I just finished "Vulcan's Hammer" and this encompasses the themes I usually associate with PDK, mainly paranoia and a rebellion against a computer run autocracy. If the original was actually composed in 1953 it is a very prescient look at an out of control AI running things for our, and it's, own good. The ebook version I read had actual printed page numbers and and only had 97 pages which seemed pretty short. The 1960 version is listed at 139 pages and is considered an expansion of the novella printed in the 1956 issue of "Future Science Fiction". Maybe what I read was the novella? What I liked about the novel was there won't any all good or all bad characters. They were all driven by drives that represented their place in that society and within that society they reacted in different ways to the rebellion and the uncovering of the actual "motive's" of Vulcan 3. Barris may have been the the character with the most in the way of good intentions and the strength to carry out what he thought needed to be down. But ironically he came from a high ranking position in the government that ruled under Vulcan 3's autocratic directions and policies. The ideas represented in this book are fairly unique and hold up today. If these ideas were developed in 1953 that makes them that much more innovative but not so much in 1960 in the expanded novel. This completes my chronological reading of the novels PDK composed in 1953 and they were 3 very different and distinct stories. PDK was a prolific short story writer in 1953 with a total of 30 and their were 4 more from 1952. I have read all of the ones that were included in various collections. The next book chronologically should be "Solar Lottery", written in 1954 and published in 1955 and next on my reading list.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard Kearney

    PKD's first science fiction novel (composed in 1953) may strike readers as a work of juvenilia when compared with his later fiction, but it's still a fine read and takes up some of the themes Dick would explore throughout his career. The novel is saturated in the culture of the early Cold War, depicting a planet that has already suffered through a nuclear conflict and has responded by organizing itself into a "Unity" administration under the direction of a supercomputer that has been designed to PKD's first science fiction novel (composed in 1953) may strike readers as a work of juvenilia when compared with his later fiction, but it's still a fine read and takes up some of the themes Dick would explore throughout his career. The novel is saturated in the culture of the early Cold War, depicting a planet that has already suffered through a nuclear conflict and has responded by organizing itself into a "Unity" administration under the direction of a supercomputer that has been designed to replace ideological fanaticism with rational calculation and order. But this "solution" is fraught with its own problems. Dick's narrative anticipated many of the themes later explored in such later works as D.F. Jones' "Colossus" and the "Terminator" film series, while also updating themes explored as far back as Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." He grapples with alienated labor, including the dark implications of alienation from the things we create, the suspicion and paranoia permeating modern bureaucracies, and several other topics. This is not at all a bad place to start with Dick's fiction, and hopefully it will interest a reader in going further.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mathew

    Another SF novel Dick cranked out to put food on the table, a piece of pulp SF. The characterization isn't up to Dick's usual standards, with the various bureaucrats of the Unity organization seeming interchangeable — which might be realistic, but makes for a confusing read. In addition, the descriptions of the artificially intelligent computers are about as bad as you'd expect given the story's age. I don't regret reading it, but I'd recommend it for serious Dick-heads only. Another SF novel Dick cranked out to put food on the table, a piece of pulp SF. The characterization isn't up to Dick's usual standards, with the various bureaucrats of the Unity organization seeming interchangeable — which might be realistic, but makes for a confusing read. In addition, the descriptions of the artificially intelligent computers are about as bad as you'd expect given the story's age. I don't regret reading it, but I'd recommend it for serious Dick-heads only.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    3 stars because i liked it. Those folks who havent worked in large mega-corps may not find it as enjoyable. But i for one enjoyed visualizing scenes of directors and managing directors shooting at each other with pencil-layers in a conference room. An early PKD novel, similar themes but not as mind-bendy. The plot was fun, there was an actual "happy" ending with a fair degree of closure, but still enough open-endedness to make you wonder. 3 stars because i liked it. Those folks who havent worked in large mega-corps may not find it as enjoyable. But i for one enjoyed visualizing scenes of directors and managing directors shooting at each other with pencil-layers in a conference room. An early PKD novel, similar themes but not as mind-bendy. The plot was fun, there was an actual "happy" ending with a fair degree of closure, but still enough open-endedness to make you wonder.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean Hoade

    Good paranoiac fun My year of Dick continues with this wild version of the 1960s sf trope of the all-powerful computer overlord that started out as a tool to help humans govern without bias. Lots of twists along the usual phildickian lines of paranoia, rampant militarism, and criss-crossing loyalties. Very fun but not as deep as I like from PKD.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Volodymyr Yatsevsky

    I believe the concept of machines ruling the people was fresh at the time of novel release. But the story is poorly crafted and dialogs are way too simple.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sonic

    Why am I even shocked when visionary PKD's books achieve an eerie poignancy, as his stories from over 40 years ago reflect our current F'd-up times! Why am I even shocked when visionary PKD's books achieve an eerie poignancy, as his stories from over 40 years ago reflect our current F'd-up times!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Douglas Rowland

    There is no better science fiction writer than Philip K. Dick but this early novel is terrible. Don't read it. There is no better science fiction writer than Philip K. Dick but this early novel is terrible. Don't read it.

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