Year of a Hundred books – #1 Radio Free Albemuth

Starting 1st of January this year, I began keeping track of all the books I read. By mid May, when thesis-writing consumed my life (and my ability to type things into a spreadsheet), I’d read 33 books. Now that I’ve graduated and have time to read books that aren’t (necessarily) about Early-Modern university education, I’ve decided to set myself a challenge:

By the 24th of September 2013, I aim to have read 100 books. Yes, that’s right, a hundred.

Is this insane? Probably, but go big or go home, right?

So, without further ado, onto Number 1!

Radio Free AlbemuthRadio Free Albemuth – Philip K. Dick

2/5

I’ve only read one of Dick’s other works, The Man in the High Castle (which I didn’t really like), although I’ve seen several film adaptations of his works. One of my friends has recently been pressuring me to read more, so when I saw Radio Free Albemuth in the library, I decided to take the plunge. This was probably a mistake.

For one thing, I later found out that Albemuth,  is essentially the first draft of one of Dick’s other books and published posthumously. For another, it takes place in an alternate universe where the US is under fascist regime, and features Dick as a narrator and a whole slew of references to his other works. Not really the best place for the uninitiated to jump in! Compound this with the off-puttingly cynical nature of Dick’s narratives and the pulp-ish flavour to his prose, it was hard work getting through it.

Part of the problem is that I couldn’t tell if the novel knew what it was trying to be. It was either a counter-cultural criticism of Nixon era Republicanism (which I’d have difficulty relating to either way!), or a rather poorly written philosophical exploration of rather esoteric theological themes.

I’d say that I disliked Albemuth even more that High Castle, and while, as I’ve said, it’s perhaps not representative of the wider body of Dick’s fiction, I’ll probably steer clear in future, unless someone can convince me otherwise.

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