Second Variety

Second variety is a wonderful and influential short story written by Philip K. Dick. This is a science fiction which describes the destruction caused to earth surface by nuclear wars making it uninhabitable for human beings. This short story is full of suspense, violence and thrill. In the process of evolution, the second variety is very well equipped to kill the already existing once. Initially it may appear bit difficult to get along the plot, once getting hold then all the turns and twist are amazing.

This is a classic piece of literature which conveys a great message to protect human race on earth from the lethal weapons created by man himself. It mainly depicts the destructions caused by nuclear wars. Defeated by Russia, American government flees to moon base and develops advanced technologies to fight back. They develop robots called claws, the killing machine. Soldiers of UN forces are protected by a special kind of wrist tab. They were produced and designed in an unmanned factory. Within the span of six years the claws have destroyed the entire Russian army.

But later machine overtook man and there was a threat of great disaster. UN forces were urgently summoned by Russians for policy meeting. Major Hendricks is sent for negotiation with Russians On his way he was accompanied by a boy who later turn out to be a 1-V robot. It was reveal that the US wrist tab became ineffective against claws. Along with three Russian soldiers, Hendricks set on a journey to prevent the destruction. And it becomes very difficult for Hendricks to find out who is the second variety robot among his Russian companions. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” also presented human-like machines, the claws.

These machines were made for a world war and eventually broke free of human control, developing machines that could pass as humans (as our smart phones will do someday). Unlike the replicants, the claws were always intent on killing humans-thus necessitating a means to tell them apart. The early models were easily recognized as being non-humans. Unfortunately for the humans in the story, the only way they could tell the most advanced models from humans was by seeing multiple claws of the same variety together. Otherwise, they easily passed as humans right up until the point they started killing.

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It seems worth considering that the same might apply to psychopaths. To be specific, normal people can catch the psychopaths that are poor mimics, have poor impulse control, have difficulty with behaving responsibly, and possess a poor capacity for assessing consequences. However, the psychopaths that are better mimics, have better impulse control, can seem to act responsibly, and can assess consequences would be far more difficult to spot. Such psychopaths could easily pass as normal humans, much like Glaucon’s unjust man is able to conceal his true nature.

As such, perhaps the experts think that these specific traits are part of what it is to be a psychopath because these traits are possessed by the psychopaths they have caught. However, as with the more advanced claws, perhaps the most dangerous psychopaths are eluding detection. At least until it is too late. “Second Variety” occurs in the aftermath of an extensive nuclear war between the Soviet Union (sometimes referred to as Russia) and the United Nations. Early Soviet victories forced the North American government and production to flee to a Moon Base, leaving the majority of their troops behind.

To counter the almost complete Soviet victory, U. N. technicians develop 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]. ” U. N. forces are protected from the claws by a special radiation-emitting wrist tab. Within six years, the sophisticated and independent claws have destroyed the Soviet forces, repairing and redesigning themselves in automated underground factories run without any human oversight.

The U. N. forces receive a message from the Soviets asking for a policy-level officer to go to them for a gravely urgent conference. The U. N. victory was costlier than they had expected. Major Joseph Hendricks is sent to negotiate with the Soviets. En route to the rendezvous, he meets a small boy named “David” who asks to accompany Hendricks. When they near the Soviet bunker, soldiers immediately kill the boy, revealing him to be a robot. The claws’ development program has evolved to develop sophisticated robots identical to humans designed to infiltrate and kill.

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 different models are produced independently of each other in different factories. The Soviets also reveal that the U. N. protective tabs are ineffective against the new robots. Hendricks attempts to transmit a warning to his H. Q. unker, but is unable to do so. During the night, Klaus kills Rudi, mistakenly believing he is the II-V. The next morning, Hendricks and the two remaining Soviets return to the U. N. lines. When they reach the bunker, they discover it overrun: a crowd of David and Wounded Soldier model robots attack, but Tasso destroys them with a very powerful hand grenade, stating that it was designed to destroy the robots. Hendricks and Tasso flee, leaving Klaus to the old-style claws. However, Klaus survives both the claws and the bomb blast only to be shot by Tasso, sending “gears and wheels” flying.

Tasso tells Hendricks that Klaus must have been the II-V robot. Hendricks, now suffering from a wounded arm and internal injuries, hopes to escape to the Moon Base. He and Tasso search for a hidden escape rocket, which is revealed as 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. Hendricks provides Tasso with the signal code needed to find the Moon Base.

Alone and armed with Tasso’s pistol, Hendricks returns to Klaus’s remains and discovers from the parts that the robot was not a II-V, but a IV-V. A group of robots then attack Hendricks, including Davids, Wounded Soldiers, and several Tasso—the true II-V—models. Hendricks recognizes that he has doomed the Moon Base by sending a robot to them, and that he cannot withstand the onslaught of robots attacking him. As the Tasso models approach, Hendricks notices the bombs clipped to their belts, and recalls that the first Tasso used one to destroy other claws.

At his end, Hendricks is vaguely comforted by the thought that the claws are designing, developing, and producing weapons meant for killing other claws. Dick said of the story: “My grand theme—who is human and who only appears (masquerading) as human? —emerges most fully. Unless we can individually and collectively be certain of the answer to this question, we face what is, in my view, the most serious problem possible. Without answering it adequately, we cannot even be certain of our own selves. I cannot even know myself, let alone you. So I keep working on this theme; to me nothing is as important a question.

And the answer comes very hard. “[1] Reviewing the story, critic Zack Handlen wrote, “‘Second Variety’ is grim, violent, and suspenseful. There’s enough characterization to keep the protagonists from being indistinguishable, but not much beyond that. While most of the twists are easy to spot once you discover the main plot—basically [an] ‘Are you or aren’t you a machine’ deal—they still have an impact, and Dick makes his point quite clearly. Which isn’t something you can say for much of his other work—[‘Second Variety’] is the most user-friendly piece of his I’ve read.

There’s enough uncertainty to know it’s Dick; questions of identity keep popping up, and the good guys/bad guys line is pretty well obliterated by the end. But the plot is logical, and there is a point A to point B to point C evolution that you can follow without too much trouble. ” He also remarked on the similarities between “Second Variety” and the Terminator films, writing: “When the claws/screamers start changing, their newest models take human forms for much the same reasons the T-800 was created. “

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