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 supervision.
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