I’m of two minds with Radio Free Albemuth (1976/1985), Dick’s posthumously published novel that precipitated his more famous VALIS trilogy. I pity the Phil (sorry) for the publication of this book, which, in his right mind, he never would have wanted the public to read in this condition. It reads like the shell of a story. He’s not the best writer, but he writes clean prose, and I’ve never seen him reliant on so much bad, awkward, abrupt, and pointless dialogue. It reads like something a CIA shill ghostwrote in order to make PKD look like a joke. (Which is actually something that happens in the book.)
In my other mind, it has whetted my appetite for next month’s PKD read, VALIS (1981), which I hope will be a better written, amplified fictionalization of the
hallucinations events that happened to PKD in February and March of 1974. As if reading his nonfictional account in The Exegesis isn’t enough. Please, Phil, tell us more about the pink light!
Anyway, here’s the result of this month’s BINGO game:
One Bingo. Not as good as last time.
- The “helpful black man” device has transitioned to the “helpful Philip K. Dick” device in this novel.
- Unlike Ubik, we see much less of Phil’s commentary on consumer culture, hence no “Ugh… capitalism.”
- Technology seems to be Dick’s friend in this novel, with the idea to implant subliminal revolutionary messages in folk music. Does anyone else find this solution a little bit hypocritical, given Dick’s suspicion of governmental brainwashing?
- I should have added a “Harlan Ellison lied about my drug use in Dangerous Visions” box because he bangs on that drum a lot.
- No flying cars? No arrogant boss? Wait a minute– who wrote this?
Given the evidence of the BINGO card, perhaps what’s supposed to feel like the most PKD book ever is actually the least PKD book ever. Is it possible that the CIA actually concocted this novel to make PKD look like a bad writer, in order to taint his legacy? Because, man, this book is kind of awful.
The latest PKD-related reviews from the rest of the PKD Exegesis Support Group:
Radio Free Albemuth from Who’s Dreaming Who
PKD’s Exegesis: It Begins from Anton (maybe) Chekov