Cover of first edition (paperback)
|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
The Simulacra is a 1964 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. The novel portrays a future totalitarian society apparently dominated by a matriarch, Nicole Thibodeaux. It revolves around the themes of reality and illusionary beliefs, as do many of Dick's works. Additionally, it touches on Nazi ideology.
Set in the middle of the twenty-first century, The Simulacra is the story of several protagonists within the United States of Europe and America (USEA), formed by the merger of (West) Germany and the United States, where the whole government is a fraud and the President (der Alte, "the Old Man") is a simulacrum (android). As well as the USEA, other global superpowers are the French Empire, People's Republic of China and Free (Black) Africa. There is some mention of a World War Three, which may have involved some tactical nuclear weapons, and a possibility that the Soviet Union exists. Communism still exists, but Poland has become its global centre of authority, with its administrative centre now based in Warsaw.
Society is stratified into 'Ges' (German Geheimnisträger, "bearers of the secret" (the elite)) and 'Bes' (German Befehlsträger, "implementers of instruction" (professional and artisanal)) classes, and there is conspicuous consolidation of political and broadcast media power. The Democratic and Republican Parties merged into a single party, the 'Democrat-Republican Party' and the 'United Triadic Network' presumably resulted from an amalgamation of NBC, CBS and ABC.
In addition, actual political power has devolved to a permanent First Lady, Nicole Thibodeaux, whose consorts are a series of male presidents – die Alten. While the current der Alte, Rudi Kalbfleisch, is a simulacrum, "Nicole" is human, although the original Nicole Thibodeaux died several decades ago. Since the death of the original, her role has been portrayed by four consecutive actors, and the latest such figure is Kate Rupert. This is a Geheimnis (secret), and insider possession of this secret is enough to insure elite membership through conferral of Ges status.
A secretive governing council controls the USEA, although 'Karp und Söhne Werke', as manufacturers of the current der Alte-simulacrum, exerts some power. The next simulacrum contract, for Dieter Hogbein, however, will be given to 'Frauenzimmer Associates', and Karp und Söhne is unhappy about this new contractual arrangement. One subplot involves the Karp und Söhne Werke threatened exposure of what has been a state secret over the last five decades. Nicole dislikes Kalbfleisch, although inbuilt obsolescence means that he is about to suffer an obligatory heart attack and he will be replaced in his turn. Kalbfleisch only momentarily appears in this novel.
Doctor Egon Superb encounters additional difficulties because A. G. Chemie, the leading USEA psycho-pharmaceutical drug cartel, has engineered the prohibition of psychotherapy under the "MacPhearson Act." However, the USEA is willing to let him continue to practice, and treat Richard Kongrosian, a well known pianist who performs in the White House. Richard Kongrosian believes that his body odor is lethal; this belief is delusional, he has no such body odor. Kongrosian has telekinetic abilities: he can play piano using only his mind. Nicole Thibodeaux is anxious to keep his abilities under control, as are Wilder Pembroke, head of the National Police, and members of the covert national governance council.
Bertold Goltz (an alleged neofascist) is seemingly trying to overthrow the government, and runs the 'Sons of Job', a religious paramilitary organisation, although he is not what he seems, and is secretly head of the covert USEA governing council. In addition, there is a subplot that involves Charles (Chic) Strikerock, Vince, his brother and a cut-price colonisation spacecraft sales firm (known as "Loony Lukes") involved in Martian colonisation. Mars boasts insectoid life, the sentient and empathic 'papoola', while Ganymede is inhabited by multicellular primitive life forms.
Nothing is as it seems, and the novel ends inconclusively. The der Alte-simulacrum has been revealed as an android and Kate/Nicole has been disclosed as an impostor- therefore undoing the Geheimnis (secret) raison d'etre for ges/bes class stratification. Bertold Goltz is killed by a National Police detachment, as is the rest of the covert governing council. Using telekinesis, Kongrosian kills Pembroke before he can overthrow Nicole in a coup d'etat and teleports her to safety at his secluded Northern US home. Karp und Sohnen rebel against the abortive coup, however, and soon the National Police and USEA armed forces are engaged in civil war, with active use of low-yield nuclear weapons. Recrudescent Neanderthals (or "chuppers") seem happy at this turn of events, as they gather near Kongrosian's home: the imminent self-destruction of Homo sapiens might give them another opportunity to dominate Earth.
- Rossi, Umberto, “The Great National Disaster: The Destruction of Imperial America in P.K. Dick’s The Simulacra”, RSA: Rivista di Studi Nord Americani #13/2002, pp. 22–39.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 142. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.