The Simulacra

The Simulacra

infobox Book |
name = The Simulacra
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
author = Philip K. Dick
illustrator = Emsh
cover_artist = Emsh
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Ace Books
release_date = 1964
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 192 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"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.

Plot summary

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 - "Old Man") is an 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 Democrat 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". Although the current 'der Alte,' Rudi Kalbfleisch, is a simulacra/android, Nicole is human (although 'she' died several decades ago, her 'role' has been portrayed by four consecutive actors, and the latest 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"-simulacra, exerts some power. The next simulacra 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.

Against this backdrop Dr. Egon Superb, the sole remaining psychotherapist, is struggling to practice in a world full of the maladjusted. 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 refuses to see anyone because he is convinced that his body odor is lethal, and although it is not, he begins to exhibit telekinetic abilities. 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. Ian Duncan is desperately in love with the First Lady, whom he has never met. 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"-simulacra 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. For some reason, recrudescent Neanderthals (or "chuppers") seem happy at this turn of events, as they gather near Kongrosian's home.

Nazi parallels

There is a further subplot that involves Reichsmarshall Herman Goering, as the USEA strives to assist Nazi Germany to win the Second World War in an alternate timeline. The USEA and Nazi Germany have troubling similarities - both are one-party states, both have powerful quarrelling police and armed forces factions, and both have authoritarian leaders in place. Of all Dick's work, "The Simulacra" most resembles his earlier masterpiece, "The Man in the High Castle", set in an alternate universe where the Nazi/Japanese Axis did win the Second World War.


*cite book | last=Tuck | first=Donald H. | authorlink=Donald H. Tuck | title=The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy | location=Chicago | publisher=Advent | pages=142| date=1974|id=ISBN 0-911682-20-1

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