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Our Friends From Frolix 8 (Gollancz) by…

Our Friends From Frolix 8 (Gollancz) (edition 2006)

by Philip K. Dick (Author)

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1,0091217,956 (3.33)10
In Our Friends from Frolix 8, the world is run by an elite few. And what determines whether one is part of the elite isn't wealth or privilege, but brains. As children, every citizen of Earth is tested; some are found to be super-smart New Men and some are Unusuals with various psychic powers. The vast majority are Undermen, performing menial jobs in an overpopulated world. Nick Appleton is an Underman, content to eke out an existence as a tire regroover. But after his son is classified as an Underman, Appleton begins to question the hierarchy. Strengthening his resolve, and energizing the resistance movement, is news that the great resistance leader Thors Provoni is returning from a trip to the farthest reaches of space. And he's brought help: a giant, indestructible alien.… (more)
Title:Our Friends From Frolix 8 (Gollancz)
Authors:Philip K. Dick (Author)
Info:Gollancz (2006), Edition: 4, 208 pages
Collections:Your library

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Our Friends from Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick


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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
i love pkd, but this book runs around at the height of his "wives are horrible, pathetic shrews; the only other women are vibrant pixie sex monkeys" bullshit.

the end is awesome, though.

but he forgot to tell us that these "new men" have big heads until halfway through, which is kinda bullshit. ( )
  J.Flux | Aug 13, 2022 |
I began reading this book just as the "Operation Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal story broke, and in confirmation of the unspoken rule that "all politics is in Philip K Dick somewhere", the very first chapter involves the main character's son having his score on an admissions test invalidated so that the rule of the elite can continue unabated. Fittingly, this is one of his more political novels, and yet one of the few with a happy ending. I liked it, but with the caveats appropriate to its minor-tier status.

The basic setup of the novel involves a future Earth with 3 types of people: the Old Men, who are normal humans; the New Men, who have much higher IQ; and the Unusuals, who have mutations like telepathy. The latter two groups, though vastly outnumbered by ten thousand to several billion, rule society via a combination of natural superiority and outright fraud, such as changing test scores to lock even promising Old Men out of the upper echelons of power. Protagonist Nick Appleton, a more-or-less typical PKD stand-in, is an Old Man with the almost Onion-esque crap job of "tire regroover"; when the tires of flying cars get low on tread, he etches new grooves on them, which also cuts them dangerously thin. Life sucks in this class-stratified society with omnipresent government surveillance where both alcohol and subversive literature are banned, but there is hope - one dual New Man/Unusual, Thors Provoni, stole a prototype FTL spaceship 10 years ago and is rumored to be returning to Earth in the company of an alien power who will upend the corrupt social order.

I hadn't read any PKD in a while, so it was striking to see the relative absence of reality-questioning and simultaneous increase in politics here, especially against such a relevant backdrop as the college scam stuff. Anti-government themes are to PKD as murders are to Agatha Christie, of course, but there's an uneasy model of politics here, as developed in the plot: both an alien and a renegade Unusual/New Man were required to break up the oligarchic tyranny of the New Men and the Unusuals (who are so entitled that one government official spends an inordinate amount of time trying to steal the protagonist's side chick), but the alien itself, the titular Friend from Frolix 8, is a pure MacGuffin, a sideshow who doesn't even show up until the second half of the book, and vanishes almost immediately after landing on Earth and shifting the balance of power by psychically removing the powers of the elites (excepting Provoni?). The book ends with the Old Men establishing rehabilitation camps for the newly depowered and infantilized Unusuals and New Men, but it's not a very satisfying ending, since we don't see what the new future is actually like. Is the alien going to swallow up all independent life on Earth or not? Childhood's End this isn't. I won't torture the novel to produce allegories for the real world, but I was struck by the helplessness of the majority to change anything about their world, and subsequent reliance on the mutant and the alien.

Also notable for me were PKD's trademark issues with pacing (major life decisions are made almost instantly for odd and seemingly implausible reasons, meanwhile important backstory is delivered in expository chapters while nothing is happening) and his equally signature idiosyncrasies with women. There's an uninentionally revealing internal monologue late in the book delivered by Police Commissioner Gram, the aforementioned official trying to steal Nick's side chick Charlotte, who Nick suddenly abandoned his wife Kleo and several children for after having known her for several minutes:

"You brought Charlotte to your apartment, made up a lie as to how you got involved with her, and then Kleo found the Cordonite tract, and blam, that was it. Because it gave her what a wife likes best: a situation in which her husband has to choose between two evils, between two choices neither of which is palatable to him. Wives love that. When you're in court, divorcing one, you get presented with a choice between going back to her or losing all your possessions, your property, stuff you've hung onto since high school. Yeah, wives really like that."

And a few chapters later, Gram reflects further on his sudden lust for this young woman, who like Nick he has known for essentially no time at all:

"That's the trouble with being that age, he reflected. You idealize the whole woman, her self, her personality… but at my age it's simply how good a lay they'd make and that's that. I'll enjoy her, use her up, teach her a few things she probably doesn't know about sexual relations – even though she's 'been around' – that she hasn't dreamed up. She can be my little fish, for example. And once she learns them, does them, she'll remember them the rest of her life. They'll haunt her, the memory of them… but on some level she'll be yearning for them again: they were so nice. Let's see what Nick Appleton, or Denny Strong, or whoever gets her after me, will do to gratify that. And she won't be able to force herself to tell him what it is that's the matter."

Hmm. Somewhat redeeming all this is the presence of perhaps the best awful sex scene in all of PKD's oeuvre a few chapters later. Immediately after the police have murdered her ex-boyfriend Denny Strong, Charlotte takes Nick to Central Park in Denny's car and flatly tells him they're going to have sex. She starts removing his clothes at the verbal equivalent of gunpoint, he tells her she has small breasts, and he starts babbling about Yeats, statutory rape, and Denny while trying to put his clothes back on. Didn't he just abandon his entire family for her, and hasn't he been fighting the equivalent of the head of secret police for the entire planet over this girl? Clearly PKD was working through some of his own marriage issues via Charlotte (the very year after this book was published his wife left him), but it's distractingly unsubtle to read. Additionally, the focus on police reminded me of the far superior treatment he would provide 5 years later in Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; this is essentially the last of the amphetamine-fueled pulp novels that he cranked out at unhealthy velocity.

And yet throughout you're reminded constantly why you're reading PKD, who can transform even the roughest pacing, plotting, and characterization into a memorable science-fiction vision of desperate politics and thought-provoking prognostication. The book's recurring conceit that in the future alcohol will be all but outlawed yet pharmaceutical cocktails are eaten like candy and opium is universally consumed is funny, and there's an interesting throwaway reference to J.W. Dunne's An Experiment With Time, a 1927 discussion of precognitive dreams which obviously had a large influence on PKD's own work as well as several other famous sci-fi authors. The horror of the power of the alien is delivered with a nearly Stephen King intensity, yet as the potential of the alien power to transform human society into an equitable, open, and loving world are delightful passages that show his gift for the right imagery at the right time:

"Your race is xenophobic. And I am the ultimate foreigner. I love you, Mr. Provoni; I love your people… insofar as I know them through your mind. I will not do what I can do, but I will make them know what I can do. In your mind's memory-section there is a Zen story about the greatest swordsman in Japan. Two men challenge him. They agree to row out to a small island and fight there. The greatest swordsman in Japan, being a student of Zen, sees to it that he is last to leave the boat. The moment the others have leaped out onto the shore of the island he pushes off, rows away, leaving them and their swords there. Thus he proves his claim for what he is: indeed he is the finest swordsman in Japan. Do you see the application to my situation? I can outfight your establishment, but I will do so by not-fighting... if you follow my thought. It will be in fact be my refusal to fight – yet showing my strength – which will frighten them the most, because they cannot imagine such power held but not used."

A hopeful vision of power like that is all too rare in PKD's novels, and so while this is neither his most technically accomplished nor intellectually adventurous novel, it is a worthy entry all the same. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
If you were wondering what Phil’s writing was like when living through what eventually became the source material for A Scanner Darkly, this book is your answer. This book is an amphetamine driven mess. He must have had a drop dead deadline and popped insane amounts of speed to get it written. There are many speed freak conversations in A Scanner Darkly. That paranoid gibberish is supposed to be what's chronicled in that book. This is not a chronicle or commentary on amphetamine thought -it is amephetamine thought. This kind of pace and thinking can give you a rush in other PKD books, but not at this point. I was afraid after finishing it I might come away with a permanent eye twitch.
To back track, I had just read The Broken Bubble which was supposed to be written in 56, at least a decade previous to this. There's a young bohemian couple in that novel and they are back, more in focus in this novel, and more street wise and savage. Even the fancy hot rod, -"The Horch"has returned, this time as a "squib"-named the "Purple Sea Cow". So the hot rod that the real life kids owned, who are the inspiration for these characters, apparently impressed the shit out of Phil.
PKD’s probs with women reach a head in this methamphetamine hydrochloride (named checked in the book) soaked ramble. The absolute worst I’ve seen yet -they are all shrews, harpies and robots. I had pulled out all the PKD I haven’t read yet, and was going to do a run, but I think the run has ended prematurely. Of everything I've read so far, this could be his lowest point as an established writer, both intellectually and spriritually. I'm not in a hurry to find out there's a step below this.
To quote Thors Provoni -the savior in this book, thinking about what he's going to do when he gets back to earth:
"I'll sit there at a drugbar, he said to himself, and have one capsule, pellet, tablet and spansule after another. I'll frost myself into invisibility. I'll fly like a raven, like a crow; I'll cackle and chirp my way across the fields of greenhouses, into the sunlight and out of it..." ( )
  arthurfrayn | Jun 20, 2020 |
This is a generally average PKD read. All the things that follow through his work: drugs, god, paranoia, government conspiracies, philosophy-- it all abounds here. The tale is a roundabout one that comes full circle, resulting in an easy and typical ending. While there was potential in this one, I found that I was not as attached to it as some of my other, favourite, PKD works. Nevertheless, it is still worth a read for PKD enthusiasts.

3 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Jul 17, 2019 |
This is not Philip K. Dick's best book, but I enjoyed it.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, except maybe the girl, which is typical for Dick, but the action and the ideas were plenty interesting enough to keep me reading. Given it was written in 1970, the surveillance society depicted in it -- flying cameras, rooms of computers gathering data, politicans assessing the effect of their policies on the 'average man' -- seemed uncannily topical. And the Council Leader Willis Gram, with his inability to separate the personal from the public, didn't half remind me of Trump. I felt the New Men/Unusuals must represent the two-party system in some way, but not being American I'm not familiar enough with the Democrats and Republicans to infer much from that. And what that makes the Old Men, I'm not sure.

But that's the beauty of Dick's writing: it gets you thinking about deeper meanings.

However, the plot is pretty simple and the alien was perhaps a tad too all-powerful to be believed. But then, given the title I'm not sure this book was meant to be taken entirely seriously. ( )
  Jackdoor | Apr 16, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Plourde, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitesides, KimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Bobby said. 'I don't want to take the test.'
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In Our Friends from Frolix 8, the world is run by an elite few. And what determines whether one is part of the elite isn't wealth or privilege, but brains. As children, every citizen of Earth is tested; some are found to be super-smart New Men and some are Unusuals with various psychic powers. The vast majority are Undermen, performing menial jobs in an overpopulated world. Nick Appleton is an Underman, content to eke out an existence as a tire regroover. But after his son is classified as an Underman, Appleton begins to question the hierarchy. Strengthening his resolve, and energizing the resistance movement, is news that the great resistance leader Thors Provoni is returning from a trip to the farthest reaches of space. And he's brought help: a giant, indestructible alien.

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