Radio Free Albemuth (1976, pub. 1985) by Philip K. Dick

Radio Free Albemuth

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:

Radio Free Albemuth (1976.1985)

One Bingo. Not as good as last time.

Reading notes:

  • 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?

Conclusion:

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

Exegesis, part II from Admiral Ironbombs

PKD’s Exegesis: It Begins from Anton (maybe) Chekov

 

 

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21 thoughts on “Radio Free Albemuth (1976, pub. 1985) by Philip K. Dick

  1. Well, I was just reading about how the CIA concocted modern “literary” fiction to fight the Soviets, so it’s entirely possible…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can’t remember if I’ve read this one, though I’m pretty sure I have. is this the one where the vewpoint changes to a different character half way through? It’s pretty forgettable.

    Can’t wait for VALIS. That book was the first Dick I read and it blew my mind, at least third page in when Dick reveals himself as the character – I’d never seen/read anything like that in a novel before. I’m hoping you’ll want to do a full review as I think it’s very deserving, especially since it’s so closely related to The Exegesis and tells quite an honest and sad tale. (Though I still expect the Bingo card!)

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  3. S. C. Flynn says:

    Re your first paragraph, was Phil ever “in his right mind”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phil had many right minds, lol. Many of which belonged to several Greek and Christian philosphers!

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      • Heh. Part of me is all annoyed at all the review reading I have been missing, while the other part is just glad I now have all of these Couch reviews to read all at once. Anyway.

        Now I am more curious than ever to read this one because WHY DID I LIKE IT SO MUCH??!! I don’t really remember, though it might be that this book was the one that first really truly introduced me to his brand of crazy and how his intersected with his life, so maybe it was that I was falling for and not this book. Will I still love it and be its only defender? Or will I look back at past reader Nikki in shame? Find out this month, when I finally catch up on my PKD reading.

        But I still fucking hated the VALIS trilogy. I didn’t read that long enough ago to doubt that particular sentiment.

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        • The’re so different to his earlier books,that they can’t be compared.”Valis” only seems to clinically analyse his experiences in the form of the novel,rather than a more artistic approach in letting the novel form them.He wasn’t allowing himself the fun he had in “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”.As I’ve said before,it became too personal and involved in the later book.

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        • You probably liked RFA because it’s fucking crazy. I just think it’s terribly written. Even PKD had standards. I’m curious how I’ll like VALIS since you hate it so much. The Exegesis has done a good job of promoting it, lol.

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          • Despite the visionary brilliance of “Valis”,RFA was more concise and level-headed,although bland in tone compared to his many other books,that are suffused with his unmistakably dense,weird,comic darkness.

            He didn’t get a chance to rewrite RFA.I think he’d have been very unpleased with it’s publication in that state!

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          • I competely agree that Dick wouldn’t have wanted RFA out in the world as it is! For shame for shame.

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          • It was closer to his previous stuff in mood,emphasis and sanguinity than the more manic “Valis”,but wasn’t really a good epitaph.He did intend it as separate novel,but didn’t get the chance to redefine it.He would have been[and probably is]very cross about this!

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  4. This was actually submitted for publication,but a rewrite was requested,but he left this one in the drawer,and it was transformed into “Valis”.Dick never intended for this novel to be published,and probably never would have been,if he hadn’t died when he did.The original manuscript though,as far as I remember,he gave to Tim Powers.

    Despite it’s imperfections,it’s much more level-headed and clearer than the visionary brilliance of “Valis”.This was the first novel he wrote since “A Scanner Darkly”,which marked a departure point for him,so RFA was a new direction.If you compare it to ASD,you’ll see that one still manages to ozze and quack with something like his inventive powers that were ripe in the 1960s,and has a quirky tonal prose that’s more engaging than ASD and “Valis”.

    If you read “Valis”,you’ll see that Dick was two people.Dick himself was the responsible one,while his “darker” self was the one who experienced the visions.

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    • I’m very excited to read VALIS. Based on what you say, and what I got out of RFA, I think I’ll enjoy it more. The finished product.

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      • Dick did intend for RFA to be published,but not in it’s unrevised state.If he had lived,he’d have made the revisions.”Valis” is a novel unlike anything he or anybody else has wrote.

        What other novels of his have you read?

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        • Flow my Tears, Do Androids Dream, and his Collected Short Stories. And now Ubik and RFA.

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          • I don’t think he ever wrote a better book than “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.It came along after a long string of excellent novels written over a number of years,but still managed to add much that was vital and new.I hope you liked all those you read,or you might not get on with “Valis”,although I know you’re going to read it anyway.I think you’d like “Time Out of Joint”,”The Man in the High Castle”,”We Can Build You”,”Dr Bloodmoney”,”The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” and “Galactic Pot-Healer”,among some others.

            He wrote more short stories than he could keep count of or wanted to write,so it’s not surprising the’re so varible in quality.Many of them are quite good though,and I’m quite fond of “Upon the Dull Earth”,”Precious Artifact” and “Faith of Our Fathers” among others.

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  5. […] (1946-1959) by Mervyn Peake, a splendid read, possibly SF’s first comedy of manners. Radio Free Albemuth (1976, 1985) by Philip K. Dick, to continue 12-stepping through The Exegesis. Missing Man (1975) by Katherine […]

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  6. […] VALIS is the better written and more entertaining version of Radio Free Albemuth, the posthumously-published, unpolished prototype of VALIS, though I don’t think I would […]

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