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The Defenders

Philip K. Dick

Book Overview: 

The terrible destruction of total nuclear war between the Western and Eastern Blocks has succeeded in sterilizing the surface of the earth. No living creature can now exist there and all humans on both sides, have fled to the hives built miles below the surface where they constantly work to produce the war materials necessary to carry on the battle. For 8 years now, the actual fighting between these super powers has been conducted by robots known as Ledeys since only they can sustain the terrible levels of radiation caused by the constant bombardment. They are the Defenders, standing between the combatants far below and ultimate victory or defeat. Life is hard in the tunnels, but liveable, while it is lethal on the surface. The ledeys keep the generals informed on everything through vids and pictures; but how can this continue? what will happen? Who will win?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .s first stage, the closest undersurface level to the top! After this stage there was only rock, lead and rock, and the great tubes leading up like the burrows of earthworms. Lead and rock, and above that, where the tubes opened, the great expanse that no living being had seen for eight years, the vast, endless ruin that had once been Man's home, the place where he had lived, eight years ago.

Now the surface was a lethal desert of slag and rolling clouds. Endless clouds drifted back and forth, blotting out the red Sun. Occasionally something metallic stirred, moving through the remains of a city, threading its way across the tortured terrain of the countryside. A leady, a surface robot, immune to radiation, constructed with feverish haste in the last months before the cold war became literally hot.

Leadys, crawling along the ground, moving over the oceans or through the skies in slender, blackened craft, creatures that could exist where no. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is a short story and it's very obvious when Dick was writing because it's Russia centric. But the theme is pretty universal, thirst for blood and war. It's a cool idea which to me is all a short story has to contain, a cool idea. It's why I like writing them so much. Sci-fi short stories are...more

This short story really made me think. Both about how we humans act and how we see the different countries as “ours” and “theirs”.
I do really recommend this! ❤

Another brilliant Philip K. Dick short story, one with an entirely different twist on the theme "when robots take over".

I avoided Philip K. Dick for a long time because people said he had great ideas but lacked the writing chops to turn them into great stories.
I’m still figuring out whether that’s true, but in the mean time, I was impressed by The Defenders.
If this short story came out in 2018, would I be giving...more

This novelette explores an alternative history scenario where Cold War has escalated to full fledged nuclear confrontation. Both US and Soviets move to Underground bunkers, from where they control(barely) the Fallout universe through radiation resistant Terminators called ‘Leadys‘ (I think their...more

It's not unusual for a short story to be a one-trick pony, but you can see this one coming a mile off. Back in '53 its future Cold War setting probably provided food for thought, less so in the present.

The First Casualty of War Is Truth

Eight years of nuclear global warfare have driven humanity below the surface of the Earth, which is by now a wasteland of contaminated land and wrecked cities lying under a polluted atmosphere. The actual war is no longer conducted by humans themselves but by so-...more

I liked this long short story very much, and I suppose Dick must have liked it too, for a decade after publishing this version in Galaxy (1953) he used it as the basis of a novel The Penultimate Truth.

It is set in a world dominated for eight years by nuclear war, in which all human beings live un...more

Now this is what I've been looking for! I've been reading this little pulp fiction paperbacks in a waiting room I have been frequenting. Many of them have been absolutely awful! AbAw. Is that a thing? It is now!

This, like all the rest was written decades ago. Obviously during the Cold War because...more

My first short story by Dick. I'm excited, like I just discovered Asimov for the first time.

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