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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 December 2010
Philip K Dick's Radio Free Albemuth is in many ways an autobiography in novel form. PKD himself appears as the narrator in the first and third sections (and a key character in the second section), with the events of the book mirroring his own personal experiences in 1974.

In that year he experienced a series of strange visions, initially the likely result of medication but increasingly less likely. In the book, one of the main characters similar has visions and tries to work out what they mean and what is causing them, cycling through options such as religious experiences and aliens as new visions come to him.

As in many of Philip K Dick's books, the science fiction is gently in the background, occasionally playing a key role in the plot but never really what the book is about. The same applies to the authoritarian government and plots to overthrow it. This part of the book features heavily on the cover of many editions, making the book sound far more like an action thriller than the reality. However, the book is about paranoia and trust - how do you react to apparently impossible events in your life and how do your friendships cope when put under strain by an authoritarian government?

The label "science fiction" has probably deprived the book of the plaudits from literary circles it would have otherwise won, for the playful self-referential role of author as narrator is written in a way that rivals much lauded authors such as Primo Levi. At one point the narrator (a thinly disguised version of the author) talks about a book he has written (using the genuine title of a PKD novel), which in turn is about an imaginary alternative history, and a second book (again a genuine PKD novel) that is about a hallucinating character similar to the narrator's best friend in this novel. At another point the narrator is criticised by his best friend in words that could just as well be addressed to the real Philip K Dick,

"Sorry, Phil, but - well, why can't you write about normal people, the way other authors do? Normal people with normal interests who do normal things. Instead, when your books open, there is this misfit holding some miserable low job, and he takes drugs and his girlfriend is in a mental institution but he still loves her..."

The book itself did not get published during PKD's lifetime as requests for major changes from the publishers saw Dick sideline the text and instead use it as a basis for the first part of his three-volume Valis trilogy. The text was published after his death. Unlike many books which are not published during an author's lifetime because they simply were not very good, this one is an enjoyable read - as long as you aren't expecting a fast moving science fiction thriller.
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on 31 December 2000
People who know something about PKD's life will understand this novel as partly an autobiographic novel: the main character resembles the writer himself (Phil) selling records having visions about transcendental phenomena and so on. The novel combines almost all the more important elements of his novels: similarly to The Scanner Darkly the story and the characters not too much sci-fi-like, similarly to The Man in the High Castle, the sci-fi is an alternative history of the US, the ET thing which transmits messages is from the novel Valis and the whole paranoid scizophrenic athmosphere is well known from all the PKD novels. However, the message of the novel is very positive and the whole story is told in a somewhat nostalgic and touching manner. I hardly can decide whether this feeling is related to the "last novel" biographical fact and influenced by it or truly emanates from the novel. My best idea to let you decide this: if you like others from PKD you will certainly love this novel.
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on 29 November 2011
Phillip K. Dick's "Radio Free Albemuth" is a brilliant summary of everything he went through during and after his visionary period.

It deals with his successive interpretations of it and his eventual conclusions as to its meaning. By varying the narration between himself (rational old PKD SF Writer) and creating another character (Nick Brady - who shadows what PKD did for a living before full time writing) to whom the experience in the book happens PKD manages to give us both a first person viewpoint insight into the nature of the experience and a third person "objective" comment on it.

Chronologically, RFA was his first attempt to deal, in writing, with the experience that influenced the rest of his life, but the book was shelved and never published in his lifetime. He went on to write the Valis trilogy, but although they are great pieces of work in themselves, I feel RFA distils the essence of his experience, while remaining a fine dystopian novel.

When we human beings live through an event that we cannot rationally explain, we cannot just accept it. We feel the need to explain it and to analyse what it means. Through the two viewpoints present in the novel, RFA shows this process in detail as PKD proposes answers and then dismisses them as the next plausible solution comes to mind. Indeed, this book shows how his empirical reasoning never left him, despite the sheer power of the seeming madness that took him over at that vital time.

The dystopian aspects of the book are even more relevant today than they were at the time it was written. Hearing the apparently more liberal Obama praise the protestors on Tahrir Square in Cairo, while not doing anything to stop the brutality against the "Occupy" Movement back home just illustrates how far down the line towards Dick's nightmare US we have come.

My only negative comment is on the qulaity of the paper and print used in the edition I bought (the one illustrated here). It was very poor indeed and I doubt if this is a book I'll be able to pass on to my daughter when I leave the planet.
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on 3 April 2016
The events recounted/fictionalized in Radio Free Albemuth come from an experience PKD went through in 1974; a year during which I read a book called Don Juan A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge from 1968; which at the time was also "hard" to understand.
Radio Free Albemuth and Valis overwhelmed many readers when they saw the light in 1981/1985 as the events overwhelmed PKD in 74. In the book he calls God Valis [vast active intelligence system] he also calls him Zebra; PKD did not have the language in 74 to term what had happened to him; in fact Western society did not by and large have the wherewithal to describe those kind of events which these days (post 90s New Age/Ayahuasca/Iboga/David Icke/Shamanic penetration in Western Culture/Ascension) we would term simply "Waking Up"...

PKD went through what Stanislav Grof in his amazing book[s] calls Spiritual Emergency ...

This is the thing about PKD on everything he was ahead of the game; sometimes by 40 or 50 years ... his own awakening overwhelmed him like a tsunami of complex meaning and interpretations he tried to fit in a Newtonian vision when really Quantum was the only possible starting point ... he tried for the rest of his days to fit the experience into a "normal" framework ... Valis/Radio Free Albemuth are that in many ways ... this attempt ...
Radio Free Albemuth as a text says to quote Neil Young "More to the picture than meets the eye"; Radio Free Albemuth heralds the widening of consciousness which became much more widespread in the 90s and beyond: PKD woke up in 74; he saw past lives he saw the collapsing of time as a concept when in the fourth and higher dimensions; he "channeled" information from his Higher Self/Guide/Guardian Angel and knew all this was real but did not as did not his society have the vernacular to express it; so he gave us Valis Radio Free Albemuth and Divine Invasion to try and explain; and he did it in PKD style: with boundless humour ...

Radio Free Albemuth is a document from those times; a mystic spiritual text by an overwhelmed PKD who was never mad never schizophrenic; simply ahead of the times ... a wayshower a true genius; think of Radio Free Albemuth and Valis too as a sign-of-things-to-come couched in a highly humorous vein ... it is SO enjoyable a read
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on 9 December 2009
To echo what other reviewers have already said a knowledge of PKD and his other works would greatly enhance your reading of this book. I have been a great fan of his for as long as I can remember and have read many of his books - certainly unique I would say. As the title of my review would suggest I would recommend this book to an already fan but I am not sure a PKD virgin would get the most out of this book. Its a book I go back to time and again
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on 1 December 2014
First issued after Dick's death in the 1980s, this was written in the 1970s following Dick's strange experience in 1974. He called it Valisystem A, but later wrote and published VALIS instead. In many ways, therefore, this, like VALIS, is semi-autobiographical. Again Dick appears as a character in his own novel; again the experience he had is projected onto a second character. In VALIS we had Horselover Fat; here it's Nicholas Brady. But where VALIS rather plumps for the mystical, this goes in a more political direction, with Dick and Brady attempting to overthrow a totalitarian regime run by tyrannical President Ferris F Freemont (FFF = 666, get it?) - a rather thinly disguised Richard Nixon, perhaps?

For all its political aims it's a very dialogue dominated book; there's not a lot of action; anyone expecting some sort of high-action political thriller will be disappointed (but then you wouldn't read Dick for that anyway). For fans it's a different look at Dick's odd experience, and though many of the incidents related in VALIS are here, they do take second place to the plot.

Personally, though, I found VALIS a much better, more satisfying book. It has more depth to it, and I can see why Dick chose it, ultimately, as the vehicle for his message. Radio Free Albemuth gets rather side-tracked into a political plot. Having said that, it may well appeal to fans wanting a more orthodox SF book, who would steer clear of VALIS' mystical musings.
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on 29 August 2013
This was one of Philip K Dick's best. A fantastic blend of reality and alternate reality when he tried to get across his ideas of all the things he'd experienced in a America that was slightly more fascist than the one he actually lived in. Parts of this were really beautiful. The only part that I found kind of sad was when he was talking about how his friend's life had totally improved since he had his interaction with Vallis and how it have given him the direction he never had before. But totally ignored how for his wife it had had the opposite effect, she'd gone from a successful student who was looking at becoming a professor to a housewife who watched too much daytime tv. It was quite a sad transfer. But kinda added to the realism of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this and am very glad it was his last book.
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on 19 February 2016
I do like Philip K Dick. I've just watched the film and the book is in true PKD style with 'who do you trust' mixed with aliens (never extant) and a healthy distrust of the USA government. Anyone for president Trump?
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on 5 January 2002
Now there's a strong element of paranoia in much of Dick's writing, especially the later novels, but in this one it really does reach epic proportions.
This is clearly very close to autobiography and as such, the real Dick fans such as me find it interesting.
For anyone else, it will, I'm afraid, prove incredibly dull.
Read all the other PKD books before you bother with this one!
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on 26 December 2014
An astounding book. Showing the complexities of PKD's religio-SF-political (anti Nixon, left paranoia) ideas.
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