My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Our Friends From Frolix 8 is a pretty good story, although far from perfect. Surprisingly, it’s a fairly linear sci fi story from Dick, without his alternate worlds and universes he wrote so much about. And this was published in 1970, while Dick was pretty much at his height of alternate worlds.
The plot is about Nick Appleton, a tire “regroover,” who lives in a futuristic world (about 200 years from now) governed by large headed New Men (with large IQs) and Unusuals, who possess telepathic abilities. The rest of the seven billion humans are Old Men or Under Men, who are fighting a silent revolution to one day overthrow the system.
Nick takes his son for a mandatory civil service exam, which he thinks his son will pass and which will lead him to a better life than Nick has. However, the exam is rigged and his son fails, disillusioning Nick.
Nick finds himself at work conversing with his boss about things. Big things are happening. A revolutionary leader who has been jailed, but who has written numerous illegal pamphlets and booklets is about to be executed. The primary revolutionary, Thors Provino, took off in a space ship 10 years ago, but is apparently headed back to Earth with help, presumably from an alien or aliens. Like I said, big stuff. Nick’s boss talks him into sharing an illegal beer with him and discusses the illegal literature, before taking Nick to a dealer of this literature. There Nick meets a 16 year old girl named Charley, the dealer’s girlfriend, and he is smitten. I know, I know — Dick and his adolescent girls. He had problems, what can I say?
The dealer goes crazy and attacks Charley, and Nick and Charley take off for safety. And he takes her home to his wife and son. Crazy, right? Well, his wife is generally okay with things until she finds an illegal pamphlet in Charley’s coat and insists she leaves. To her consternation, Nick leaves with her. They take shelter at a big printing place, where the illegal pamphlets are printed. Meanwhile, Council Chairman Willis Gram, the world dictator who lies around in his pajamas all day, is panicking about the thought of Thors returning with an alien to take over. He orders the prison camps to be opened and everyone released as a good will gesture, but at the same time, orders an attack against the printing plant. There, Nick and Charley are captured. Gram falls for Charley (how does she have this hold over men?) and releases Nick, but Charley escapes Gram’s clutches and takes off. Gram realizes she’s probably going to go back to Nick, so he puts out a warrant for Nick which they find out about at the dealer’s apartment when the cops (pissers) show up. The dealer, Denny, is killed and Charley and Nick take off.
What’s happening with Thors? Well, he IS returning with an alien, from Frolix 8. He’s lived millions of years and is a 90 ton gelatinous slime blob. He encompasses the ship, protecting it from missiles the army is sending up against the space ship. He feeds on things and grows. They announce they’re landing in Times Square and Gram ships a huge laser up from Baltimore to incinerate Thors upon landing. They land eight hours early, but the laser is ready and they fire, only to find the alien devouring the beam and growing larger.
At some point, Charley and Nick find themselves in Central Park, where they make love and Nick recites a Yeats poem. Gotta get the statutory rape in there, don’tcha Phil? They take off in their squib, followed closely by two pissers and Charley crashes and dies violently. That seemed unnecessary, but I guess that’s the only way Dick knew to close things. The alien starts telepathically lobotomizing the New Men, rendering them useless and Nick confronts Gram, where things basically end. The last few pages are pretty interesting, but I won’t go into more detail here — I’ve already shared enough.
In this book, there are drug bars, where people can legally get high and in this book, too, everyone is a walking pharmacist. It’s bizarre to think that your average person would know so much about drugs. Dick also brings Biblical themes into play, as well as race, divorce, and futuristic gadgets, all themes and things he wrote so much about. This isn’t one of his better known works, and there are some textual inconsistencies (with dates especially) and the dialogue is often somewhat clunky, but it’s a fun story and it’s pretty action packed, so I suspect many Dick fans will like this book, as will many other readers. I can’t give it five stars because it’s not his best, but it’s a solid four star effort and as such, it’s recommended.