I picked this book up in a bookshop in late 1981 but have not been able to find it since. The book was in English.

I read the first few pages and it appeared to be military sci-fi. It mentioned soldiers with spring guns and a small robot with wheels or tracks and whirling blades on extended arms. The blades were glinting in the sun. This was in the context of an assault on a hill, though I can't recall who was attacking or defending.

Edit: I also recall there was a bunker in the defensive positions on the hill. Bit of a WWI vibe but with scary robots added!

I feel like it might have been by either Philip K. Dick or Gordon Dickson, but despite making a point of looking at books by these authors I've not been able to find it.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! Were the soldiers humans? Do you recall where the story was set? Was gunpowder unknown, not possible, or somehow illegal?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:43
  • 1
    I think the soldiers were human, but I can't recall where the story was set. Can't recall anything about gunpowder one way or the other. I don't feel like the spring guns were a low-tech type of thing though.
    – ATduToit
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:53
  • The Dorsai used spring powered rifles. Not sure if any of the stories have combat robots, but there is a medbot in one
    – Shawn
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:58
  • "Weapon for weapon, any thug in the back alley of a large city had more, and more modern firepower; but the trick with modern warfare was not to outgun the enemy, but carry weapons he could not gimmick. Chemical and radiation armament was too easily put out of action from a distance. Therefore, the spring-rifle with its five thousand-sliver magazine and its tiny, compact, non-metallic mechanism which could put a sliver in a man-sized target at a thousand meters time after time with unvarying accuracy."
    – Shawn
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 14:04
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    @OrganicMarble I think you are right. I had a look through my bookshelf last night after I posted and I looked through a Philip K Dick anthology -- and there was my robot with spinning blades on extended arms. Maybe I looked at two books but remembered them as one book. Thinking about it, I remember I wasn't in the bookshop for long and I was looking at books which were near each other on the shelf, and Dick and Dickson would have been right next to each other. Anyway--if you post your comment as an answer I'll mark it correct.
    – ATduToit
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


This may be Second Variety by Philip K. Dick, which has small robots with spinning blades on extended arms. There are bunkers in the story. Spring guns...I don't remember any spring guns.

Across the ground something small and metallic came...A metal sphere...Its claws were out, two razor projections spinning in a blur of white steel

Poorly adapted into the 1995 movie Screamers.

(Originally posted as speculative comment, OP indicated that it was the correct answer).

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