Review: Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick

“Never walk over a writer, I said to myself, unless you’re positive he can’t rise up behind you. If you’re going to burn him, make sure he’s dead. Because if he’s alive, he will talk: talk in written form, on the printed, permanent page.”
~Philip K. Dick, Radio Free Albemuth

Plot summary

“In Radio Free Albemuth, his last novel, Philip K. Dick morphed and recombined themes that had informed his fiction from A Scanner Darkly to VALIS and produced a wild, impassioned work that reads like a visionary alternate history of the United States.

Philip K. Dick's reality. Photo: TORLEY (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Philip K. Dick’s reality. Photo: TORLEY (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Agonizingly suspenseful, darkly hilarious, and filled with enough conspiracy theories to thrill the most hardened paranoid, Radio Free Albemuth is proof of Dick’s stature as our century’s greatest science fiction writer.” More on Goodreads

“In a one-party system there is always a landslide.” ~Philip K. Dick, Radio Free Albemuth

For author information, check out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Key concepts
  • Divine message for the selected few
  • Alternate history
  • Totalitarian USA
Review
Cover for Radio Free Albemuth. Photo: CHRIS DRUMM (CC BY 2.0)
Cover for Radio Free Albemuth. Photo: CHRIS DRUMM (CC BY 2.0)

Philip K. Dick strikes once again. He comes to haunt us for aeons with his crazy ideas and scenarios. And now it seems that he has struck a chord and Radio Free Albemuth is more current than ever.

Dick‘s last novel, Radio Free Albemuth, written in 1976 and published posthumously in 1985, depicts an alternate history in the United States. Liberals and leftists are being persecuted under an authoritarian rule by President Ferris F. Fremont. This said president is both paranoid and opportunistic and eager to revenge on the persons different from him. Does this ring a bell, anyone?

Like much of his work, [the novel] involves oppression by a bureaucratic apparatus that is no less dangerous for being somewhat vague in ideology and purpose. The former hippies who fight back are aided by erratic forces that may be occult, extraterrestrial or other-dimensional, if they exist at all. The alternative explanations that the author plays with before resolving the issue allow him scope for some typically off-center meditations on science, religion, commitment and freedom.” (Jonas 1986)

A rather hilarious detail in the novel is the alter-ego character named Philip K. Dick, but he seems to be quite an opposite version of the real deal. The character accuses the fellow author, Harlan Ellison, of creating an image of Dick as a writer suffering from substance-abuse but this has been a hoax by Ellison. according to the alter-ego character. An educated reader probably remembers the episode with Stanisław Lem, when Dick could not believe Lem to be a real person but rather a Communist Committee trying to infiltrate US. But who knows, who are we to judge… 🙂

There is also a recent film on the novel, starring among other Alanis Morissette as Sylvia Aramchek. I have not seen it myself and frankly am not too enthusiastic about it to begin with.

Have a good start of March!

More information
– Gerald Jonas: Science Fiction, published in The New York Times on 12 January 1986, link retrieved on 14 February 2017

“How undisturbed, the sleep of the foolish.”
~Philip K. Dick, Radio Free Albemuth

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Author: fictivestina

Hey, I'm a native Helsinkian but a cosmopolitan at heart :) Outdoors, reading, writing and cultural attractions are my passion. Hiking in Lapland cannot be competed with!

2 thoughts on “Review: Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick”

  1. This is a strange book, typically Dickian, but there is something about it that I really like. I read and reviewed it this time last year as part of a year-long Philip K. Dick readathon. I’m curious to watch the movie version if I can find it. Yes, the character of PKD was not as most readers imagine him. He seemed much calmer in the book!

    Liked by 1 person

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