By: Philip K. Dick
The “Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick occurs in the aftermath of a widespread
nuclear war between the Soviet Union, sometimes called the Russians, and the United
Nations. Major Joseph Hendricks is the commander of a small American force stationed
in the slag and ash of nuclear ravaged France. A few miles away are a group of
Soviet soldiers, and in between is an army of technological killers known as “The
Claws”. Early Soviet victories forced the North American government and technology
production team to flee to a moon base, leaving the majority of the troops behind.
To counter the almost complete Soviet victory, United Nation technicians developed
robots, nicknamed claws – the basic models are “a churning sphere of blades and
metal” that ambush their unsuspecting victims “spinning, creeping, shaking
themselves up suddenly from the gray ash and darting toward… any warm body.” United
Nations forces are protected from the claws by a special wrist tab that disables the
robots from attacking them. Within six years, the robots are repairing and
redesigning themselves in automated underground factories run without any human
The United Nation forces receive a message from the Soviets asking for
a policy-level officer to meet them for an urgent conference. Hendricks is sent to
negotiate with the Soviets. On the way to the Soviet base, he meets a small boy
named “David” who asks to come with Hendricks. When he gets to the base, the
soldiers immediately kill David, revealing him to be a robot. The three Soviets met
by Major Hendricks – Klaus, Rudi and Tasso – reveal that the entire Soviet army and
command structure collapsed under the onslaught of the new robots. From salvaged
internal metal identification plates, two varieties are identified: I-V, a wounded
soldier, and III-V, David. The II-V – the “second variety” – remains unknown. The
Soviets also reveal that the United Nation protective tabs are ineffective against
the new robots. Hendricks attempts to transmit a warning to his United Nations
bunker, but is unable to do so.
A crowd of David and Wounded Soldier model attack,
but Tasso destroys them with a very powerful hand grenade. They search for a hidden
escape rocket to hopefully escape to the moon base, only to find that the rocket is
a single-seat spacecraft. Hendricks attempts to leave, but Tasso quickly subdues
him. She convinces him to let her leave and send back help. In his injured state, he
has no choice but to agree. Alone, Hendricks discovers that Tasso was the true II-V
and recognizes that he has doomed the Moon Base by sending a robot to them.
Dick, Philip K. “Second Variety”. Gutenberg Ebook of Second Variety. May 1953.
www.Gutenberg.org Web. 17 April, 2010. .
Reviewer: Tam Pham