The Defenders

I managed to read a short story over breakfast, using the Stanza app on my iPhone. I don’t manage to do anything quite so significant during breakfast any day of the week, but on Sunday… well, it impressed even me.

I read ‘The Defenders‘ by Philip K. Dick. If it hasn’t been mentioned somewhere in a PARANOIA bibliography before, it needs to be appended. I’m sure it has.

Our world has descended into nuclear war. The Cold War went hot, and the Soviet and Allied forces struck fast and hard with weapons that rendered the surface uninhabitable. Mankind found a place to live deep beneath the ground, protected in great bunkers. Civilisation exists within layers of habitation beneath the earth. People live desperate lives, eating synthetic food, existing for their work bathed in artificial light. Stooped, tired and angry, they do what they can for the war effort, manufacturing weapons for transportation to the surface – where the Leady armies of both sides continue to battle. The artificial life-form known as the Leady can exist in the radioactive wasteland of the surface and continue to fight for the just cause of those struggling below. In time, the Leady will triumph and then their task will be to rebuild and cleanse the surface. Until then, the people strive to live from day-to-day, working hard, absorbing daily news reports from the war above like sponges, and hoping one day to see the Sun again.

I can see a touch of PARANOIA, a smattering of Terminator. Dick plays with themes he has used before, but the short tale makes for an enjoyable read – and when you reach the end, you know the conclusion could go no other way. You could have PARANOIA use the Leady concept to mean no one see the Outdoors. The Computer simply can’t risk lives sending anything up there but robots. It isn’t safe, it wouldn’t be right – to risk anyone out there would be to waste precious resource and serve only to create more casualties that benefit the cause of the enemy.

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One thought on “The Defenders

  1. “The Defenders” proper hasn’t been mentioned in previous PARANOIA bibliographies. But Dick later adapted that story (originally published in Galaxy magazine in 1953) as part of his 1964 novel “The Penultimate Truth” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Penultimate_Truth ), which I believe has been mentioned.

    Philip K. Dick was really on an Alpha Complex kick in 1964. An earlier novel from that year, “Clans of the Alphane Moon” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clans_of_the_Alphane_Moon ), is widely recognized as a significant PARANOIA precursor.