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on 5 June 1999
Philip K. Dick is one of my favourite authors. There is a strong underlying similarity between all his books. They are stories of ordinary, often powerless, people caught up in confusing events in societies where difficult moral decisions have to be made. It usually comes down to a straight choice between good and evil but the choice is never easy. Which is which? Over the top of this underlying structure P.K.D. uses a wide variety of traditional science fiction motifs in intriguing and original ways which give a different flavour to each book. I think 'Our Friends From Frolix 8' has a strong claim to be his best novel. In this story mutations have produced two new kinds of human beings, the 'New Men', who are fantastically more intelligent than 'Old Men', and the 'Unusuals' who have a range of different mental powers including telepathy and precognition. The 'New Men' and the 'Unusuals' are engaged in a political struggle for dominance leaving the majority of the human race behind as second class citizens. Thors Provoni is an 'Old Man' who has fled into space seeking alien allies to usurp the dominance of the 'New Men' and he finds 'friends' in the Frolix 8 system. Is this an act of bravery or supreme treachery? The novel is somewhat ambiguous on this point (at least to start with). The main character is Nick Appleton, an 'Old Man' who works as a lowly tyre regroover. He gets sucked into the resistance against the 'New Men' and falls in love with a street wise girl with psychotic tendencies. Then the Frolixians arrive.... I think that in this novel, Dick really manages to get your sympathy for all the characters - even in a strange way for the nasty and psychotic ones so it's ultimately uplifting even when it is tragic. Without wishing to spoil it, I found the ending very moving...
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on 16 January 2015
Not Dick's best, but still good. Sort of a "typical" Dick novel rather than a mutant like The Man In The Highcastle or Through A Scanner Darkly. (The best of the "typicals" is Flow My Tears The Policeman Said, which is probably Dick's best novel, full stop.)
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on 18 November 2013
Dick's fantasy world has three groups identifiable as categories of people in Nazi Germany. 'New Men', 'Unusuals' and 'Under Men'. The New Men and Unusuals were rivals but worked together as they combined to form the basic Nazi ideology and social organisation, not based on marriage. Anybody opposed to them - or more accurately, who they opposed - were Untermenschen.
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Readers of PKD who come to his books via the film adaptations of his work must often be disapponted. Technically, he's one of the worst authors ever to have been printed, with his clumsy, jerry built futures and colander plots.

'OFF8' is typical of his second tier work. The next stage of human evolution has been reached, and the 10'000 or so 'New Men' rule over the 6 billion unevolved in a ruthless '1984' style surveillance dictatorship. The only way to escape poverty is to pass Government Civil Service entrance tests, which are in fact an elaborate con - no-one ever passes them. Ranged against the Government are the Undermen, an underground organisation who are relying on the return of Thors Provoni, who left Earth decades earlier to find help from extraterrestrial races.

But where to start? It's never explained how 10000 people could keep 6 billion in subugation, or more importantly why they should want to: The apparatus of government seems completely devoted to putting millions of people in concentration camps for trivial reasons, but the motivation for doing so is never made clear: Same with the Civil Service tests. If you already have the stick, why bother inventing a false carrot?

More minor cavils: The undermen are supposedly kept in poverty, but all own flying cars, elaborately fashionable clothes and high-tech apartments. Alcohol is illegal, but bootlegging is so well developed that beer has brand names and sophisticated packaging. Anyone caught drunk is supposedly immiediately sent to a camp for ten years, but the undermen are constantly knocking a few back and then going outdoors. One can get into the equivalent of the White House to speak to the President simply by going up to the front door and asking nicely. For an evil fascist dictatorship, it's surprisngly easy going.

So why is Dick so highly regarded in the SF field? Simply because every one of his books, including
'OFF8' has at least one or two ideas that are so strange and profound that they stay in your head for years afterwards: No other writer of popular culture has presented philosophical notions with anything near the depth and resonance of Dick. So while it's perfectly understandable that some of the the critics posting here have found him wanting, I would recommend you stick with him.
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on 26 April 2016
This book is one of those weird books that starts out by feeling completely alien to you, and yet by the end of it, you’re thoroughly immersed in the fantastic, futuristic world that it portrays. Of course, Dick is the master of science fiction, and so it’s unsurprising that he’s able to build a world as compelling as the one that’s featured in Frolix 8.

Loosely speaking, I’d describe this as a sort of futuristic, nihilistic 1984 – it has many of the same hallmarks in that it’s a dystopian novel with an all-powerful government, only in this case it’s populated by people with psychic abilities and/or extraordinary levels of intellect. We follow a number of different characters as they await the return of an exiled rebel, who’s made contact with an alien race and who plots to free the Old Men, the proletariat, from the tyranny of the current system.

It’s a fantastic book and it’s a lot of fun, and even though you do need to concentrate from time to time so that you know what the hell is going on, that’s no bad thing. There are also plenty of action sequences, and there’s never a dull moment. Recommended!
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on 7 February 2000
A enjoyable book, get to relate to characters though book tends to be a bit confusing in places! Would advice Phillip K Dick and Sci Fi fans to read and if feeling like something different readers new to Phillip's work as this is a good example!
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on 29 May 2006
Philip K Dick is recognised as a master of SF. However, I can never come to an understanding with any of his works. I believe that his books and stories make much better films (take Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall...) than literature. This, for me, is a high praise, but this is a book!

In this novel, the "new men", mutated strains of men - the superbly talented and the "unusual" (precogs and telepaths) - have seized power and normal humans are being socially left behind and excluded. There's a resistance movement going on, but obviously without a very bright future.

There are two paralel tales: a poor workman and his son, who are sucked into the greater conspiracies, and a Thors Provoni, a kind of Messiah and new man renegade who has gone to search for help from the planet Frolix 8, and for whom everybody awaits like Godot. When those chaps come and help the normals...

My problem whith this book is that I cannot understand the ultimate Dick's meaning. This, like manyo of his other tales is full of misfits, mutants who don't get any clear advantages from their mutations, conspiracies... I dont' understand the end of the story, or what all this means - probably because the author wanted it to mean nothing at all, wanted it to be a reflection of a world in which he felt an isolated misfit among "superiors" ¿or maybe he felt he lived in a higher level of reality?.

All this makes a good material for a SF novel, but the author gets it muddled and after all you don't understand the ending.

That's why I'm giving 3 stars, not because it's a bad book, but because I don't think it works so well as a SF story.
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on 6 May 2014
Typical Philip K Dick, always worth a read. As usual, drawn in to the inner sanctum of the author weird and wonderful universe.
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on 3 March 2016
great
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on 1 February 2015
great
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