Vulcan's Hammer

Philip K. Dick
Vulcan's Hammer Cover

Vulcan's Hammer


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.