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Radio Free Albemuth  
Radio free albemuth.jpg
Dust-jacket from the first edition
Author Philip K. Dick
Country  United States
Language English
Genre(s) Dystopian science fiction
Publisher Arbor House
Publication date 1985
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 214 pp
ISBN ISBN 0-877-95762-2

Radio Free Albemuth is a novel by Philip K. Dick, written in 1976 and published posthumously in 1985. Originally titled VALISystem A, it was his first attempt to deal in fiction with his experiences of early 1974. When his publishers at Bantam requested extensive rewrites he canned the project and reworked it into the VALIS trilogy. Arbor House acquired the rights to Radio Free Albemuth in 1985, they published an edition under the current title (the original was too close to VALIS, already published by then) prepared from the corrected typescript given by Dick to his friend Tim Powers.


Plot summary

In this alternate history the corrupt US President Ferris F Fremont (FFF for 666, Number of the Beast) becomes chief executive in the sixties. The character is best described as an amalgam of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, who abrogates civil liberties and human rights through positing a conspiracy theory centred around a fictitious subversive organisation known as "Aramchek". In addition to this, he is associated with a right-wing populist movement called "Friends of the American People" (Fappers).

Ironically enough, the President's paranoia and opportunism lead to the establishment of a real resistance movement to him, which is organised through eponymous radio broadcasts from a mysterious alien satellite, by a superintelligent, extraterrestrial, omnipotent being (or network) named VALIS.

As with its successor, VALIS, this novel is autobiographical. Dick himself is a major character, though fictitious protagonist Nicholas Brady serves as a vehicle for Dick's alleged gnostic theophany on February 11, 1974. In addition, Sadassa Silvia is a character who claims that Ferris Fremont is actually a communist covert agent, and that her mother recruited him for the Soviet Union after she joins the resistance.

As with VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth deals with his highly personal style of Christianity (or Gnosticism), as well as with the moral repercussions of being an informer for the authorities, and his dislike of the Republican Party, satirizing Nixon's America as a Stalinist or neo-fascist police state. Eventually, Fremont captures and imprisons Dick and Brady after the latter produces and distributes a record that urges subliminal messages of revolt against the Fremont dictatorship. Brady and Silvia are executed, and Dick narrates the concluding passage about his life in a concentration camp, where "his" latest work is penned by a ghost writer and regime-approved hack. Suddenly, he hears other music, with another subliminal message. As Dick hears children singing the tune, he realises that all may not be lost after all.

Relationship to VALIS

When he rewrote Radio Free Albemuth as VALIS beforehand, Dick incorporated the plotline of Radio Free Albemuth as a backdrop film that recapitulated the central theological and existential concerns of his novel as a mise en abyme - that is, a miniature copy of his central preoccupations at this stage of his literary career, common to both works.

Film adaptation

John Alan Simon has produced, written and directed an upcoming film adaptation of Radio Free Albemuth. The film is still in post-production, and is tentatively scheduled for release sometime in 2009. Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette stars as Sylvia. Filming took place in October 2007 at Los Angeles' Lacy Street Studios and multiple other locations. The film may be released under the title VALIS.




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