I read a book while in high school in the 1970s. It was a science fiction about a postapocalyptic world where no one knew how to make anything anymore.

There was a big blob-like "creature" or machine of some type and the people left in this place would feed into it objects left from their civilization. It would recreate the submitted item, but they did not actually work even though they looked like the item reproduced. The aim of the main characters was to actually create something and by the end of the book they had made a spoon, I think, or it could have been a cup.

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Philip K. Dick's "Pay for the Printer".

There was a big blob like "creature" or machine of some type

Huge and old, it squatted in the center of the settlement park, a lump of ancient yellow protoplasm, thick, gummy, opaque.

and the people left in this place would feed into it objects left from their civilisation.

On the concrete platform, in front of the dying Biltong, lay a heap of originals to be duplicated. Beside them, a few prints had been commenced, unformed balls of black ash mixed with the moisture of the Biltong's body, the juice from which it laboriously constructed its prints.

It recreated them but they did not actually work although they looked like the item reproduced.

"It's just terrible -- look at this!" She fumbled in her sweater pocket and brought out a small bright object the size of a dime. "Everything he prints is like this, now -- or worse."

Fergesson took the watch and examined it, one eye on the road. The strap broke like a dried leaf between his fingers into small brittle fragments of dark fiber without tensile strength. The face of the watch looked all right -- but the hands weren't moving.

by the end of the book they had made a spoon I thinks or it could have been a cup.

It was a cup, a wooden drinking cup, crude and ill-shaped. (...)

The knife was as crude as the cup -- hammered, bent, tied together with wire.


Is that Riddley Walker (1980) by Russel Hoban?

Roughly two thousand years after a nuclear war has devastated civilization, Riddley, the young narrator, stumbles upon efforts to recreate a weapon of the ancient world.

The novel's characters live a harsh life in a small area which is presently the English county of Kent, and know little of the world outside of "Inland" (England). Their level of civilization is similar to England's prehistoric Iron Age, although they do not produce their own iron but salvage it from ancient machinery. Church and state have combined into one secretive institution, whose mythology, based on misinterpreted stories of the war and an old Catholic saint (Eustace), is enacted in puppet shows.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you include in your answer some details on how it matches the "blob-like creature or machine" that would be fed objects to replicate?
    – DavidW
    May 15, 2020 at 15:18

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