How I attained this book?
In HMV there was a sale. Dozens of dystopian books surrounded me, and I took time choosing which I wanted, to my family member’s chagrin. I thought I’d settle with a Philip K Dick book alongside another that had been recommended to me – Fahrenheit 451. I could trust Philip K Dick could write a good novel from when I read much of him in 2010 and 2011.
How does it start?
When Nick Appleton’s son, Bobby, finally takes the civil service test, and fails, as everybody told him he would because they’re biased, we don’t even know what he’s truly feeling, but he’s changed. His wife is now an agent of conformity bent on using Nick to perpetuate their family’s survival instead of the notion of real love.
Is OFFF8 typical Dick?
In some ways, yes, it’s typical of author Philip K Dick. Main protagonist Nick Appleton loses affection for his wife, distrusts her even, and then goes looking for a rebellious young female who can teach him something new about life, allow him to be a bit naughty, and explore his ‘human’ side and the revolution-in-works. In this sense it’s a bit like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
In other ways, it’s not so typical. There aren’t any conspiracy theories, and the tables don’t turn on the main protagonist in quite as dramatic a way as they do in Total Recall or Minority Report. We’re looking at a fight against a dystopian system, but it’s not one that can be sought from the protagonist searching for clues, as in Paycheck. Instead we’re anticipating news from the character Thors Provoni who had abandoned Earth on a ship and seeks to elude destruction, before deciding to make a return and change things for the better, this time accompanied by a giant protoplasmic slime alien. As far as the establishment is concerned, Thors Provoni is a villain, and I’m sure the medication-reliant majority on Earth agree, except those daring enough to sell rebel preacher material.
What flavour of dystopian are we in for?
Our Friends From Frolix 8 (OFFF8) shows what happens when those in power are victim to the fear and pressure they exert on the population on a daily basis, and likens those certain people to children in their eagerness to possess, and proclaim the absolute certainty of things.
Very much a vision of a future where population control, enforced conformity, ‘relocation camps’ as punishments, surveillance, and biased two-party political systems are the norm. It makes you appreciate that from a time long ago authors such as Philip K Dick could see disadvantages with the current political model. We see news broadcasters underplaying revolutionary events to support the system in power, and their paid positions, twisting fact with fiction in a way that’s reminiscent of every time there is a real election.
I was beginning to get the feeling I was reading the solution to a problem we’re seeing emerge in modern day of increased surveillance and infringement of privacy that comes with technological advancement, and of severe measures taken against minorities or any who don’t conform to the standard majority mode of living.
Is it good?
OFFF8 is possibly the best PKD book I’ve read, and the most relevant to read now. Though it bears similarity to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, there isn’t anything much more original than a protoplasmic slime alien, and it was fun reading how the tyranny struggles to react to this. I kept talking about the book. Must read!