In the far-off future mankind has evolved. The New Men are those with bigger brains and a greater intellect, while the Unusuals are mutants with psionic abilities. These two groups form a loosely-aligned ruling class who oppress the unevolved Old Men just struggling to get by. But don’t forget about the Under Men! They follow the writings of Eric Cordon and rebel against the whole class imbalance while waiting for Thors Provoni to return from outer space with some kind of help to free them from the tyrannical rule.
Our Friends from Frolix 8 is about as middle of the road as you can get with Dick’s minor works. I remembered almost nothing about it before I reread it. It’s redeemed by the oddball telepath and supreme leader of Earth Willis Gram, but only somewhat, and if you replaced sad-sack Nick Appleton with the protagonist from a dozen of Dick’s other stories you probably wouldn’t notice a difference.
Cast of characters
Nick Appleton – our protag. He’s employed as a tire regroover, an odd profession since the squibs in the book are flying vehicles
Bobby Appleton – Nick’s son
Kleo Appleton – Nick’s wife
Thors Provoni – left Earth to look for help in the far reaches of outer space
Willis Gram – Council Chairman of the Extraordinary Committee for Public Safety (Unusual)
Lloyd Barnes – the police director (New Man)
Eric Cordon – Under Man organizer and propaganda writer
Earl Zeta – Nick’s boss (Under Man)
Charlotte Boyer – a sixteen-year-old Under Man girl who gets involved with Nick
Denny – Charlotte’s boyfriend (Under Man)
Morgo Rahn Wilc – the Frolixan friend who accompanies Thors Provoni back to Earth
One of Dick’s funniest premises. Former patients of a mental hospital abandoned by Earth on an Alphane moon have established a somewhat stable class system organized by mental disorder. The clans include the Pares (paranoids), Manses (manics), Deps (depressives), Polys (polymorphic schizophrenics), Skitzes, (schizophrenics), Ob-Coms (obsessive compulsives) and the Heebs (hebephrenics).
On Earth Chuck Rittersdorf is drawn into a plot involving the Alphanes and their quest to regain control of the moon. Mary Rittersdorf, a psychologist and Chuck’s estranged wife, travels to the moon to evaluate the inhabitants. Meanwhile Chuck gets involved with Bunny Hentman, a former criminal with ties to the Alphane government, who is currently working on Earth as a TV comic. He hires Chuck as a writer (apparently the scripts Chuck writes for CIA simulacra are gut-bustingly funny), but in reality Bunny is only using Chuck because of the connection to his wife.
Chuck eventually ends up on the Alphane moon, and the story wraps up with Chuck helping to convince the clans to accept Alphane rule as long as they aren’t put back into a mental hospital. Mary and Chuck tentatively resume their relationship (I forgot to mention Chuck was trying to kill Mary all this time with the use of a CIA simulacrum) and they both have mental evaluations. Turns out Mary is a Dep, but Chuck, who has a clean bill of mental health, decides to start a new clan on the moon called the Norms.
Clans of the Alphane Moon is filled with some of Dick’s most unique characters like the Heeb mystics and the telepathic Ganymedean slime Lord Running Clam, so it’s too bad we spend most of the book with Chuck, a typically bland PKD protagonist dealing with suicidal impulses and marital problems.
Cast of characters
Gabriel Baines – the Pare delegate
Howard Straw – the Mans delegate
Jacob Simion – the Heeb delegate
Annette Golding – the Poly delegate
Ingrid Hibbler – the Ob Com delegate
Omar Diamond – the Skitz delegate
Dino Waters – the Dep delegate
Chuck Rittersdorf – our protagonist. Programs simulacra for the CIA
Mary Rittersdorf – Chuck’s estranged wife. A psychologist
Bunny Hentman – a TV comedian
Jerry Feld – producer of Bunny’s show
Joan Triste – a psi capable of rewinding time
Lord Running Clam – Chuck’s Ganymedean neighbor
Jack Elwood – Chuck’s CIA boss
Roger London – Jack Elwood’s boss
Pete Petri – Chuck’s scriptwriting coworker at the CIA
Daniel Mageboom – the simulacrum sent to the Alphane moon with Mary
Ignatz Ledebur – a Heeb mystic
Sarah Apostoles – another Heeb mystic
Calv Dark and Thursday Jones – Bunny’s writers
RBX 303 – an Alphane connected to the Alphane government
In The Game Players of Titan radiation from a nuclear war has wiped out much of Earth’s population. The remaining people, most of whom are unable to reproduce, gather together to play a Monopoly-like game where they win controlling deeds to American cities and pair off with spouses with the hope of finding the ‘luck’ to conceive children.
A race of aliens from the Saturn moon Titan has colonized Earth, but these telepathic vugs have problems of their own as a faction of moderates feuds with extremists with psionic powers who have infiltrated Earth disguised as humans. Pete Garden stumbles upon this secret one night during a drug-fueled bender celebrating the luck he found with his new wife. This leads to a showdown on Titan with the game-players of Earth and the vugs who play their own version of the game.
I have to make a note about the Rushmore Effect, because I love it. It’s a kind of limited A.I. given to all inanimate objects. Tea kettles and ice machines say ‘thank you’ and cars and elevators have polite and objective conversations with people, all except for Joe Schilling’s car which is cantankerous and seems to hate him.
Cast of characters
Pete Garden – our protagonist. Member of Pretty Blue Fox and former Bindman of Berkeley, California
Freya – Pete’s former wife and member of Pretty Blue Fox
Jack Blau, Clem Gaines, Bill Calumine, Silvanus Angst, Stuart Marks– Bindmen who play with Pretty Blue Fox
Jerome Luckman – Bindman of New York who purchases the title to Berkeley
Walt Remington – Pretty Blue Fox member responsible for the Berkeley title ending up with Luckman
Dotty Luckman – Luckman’s wife
Joe Schilling – record store owner and former Bindman of New York. Lost to Luckman. Joseph Schilling is also the name of the record store owner in Mary and the Giant
Dave Mutreaux – Luckman’s precog
Sid Mosk – Luckman’s secretary
Patricia McClain – former B barred from the game because she’s a telepath. Pete’s neighbor in San Rafael
Allan McClain – Pat McClain’s husband
Mary Anne McClain – Patricia’s 18-year-old daughter with powerful psionic powers. Her name was repurposed from Mary and the Giant (unpublished when this book came out) along with Joe Schilling
Nats Katz – popular tv recording artist
U.S. Cummings – the vug District Commissioner
Carol Holt – Pete’s new wife
E.B. Black – the vug police officer investigating Luckman’s death
Wade Hawthorne – the Terran police officer investigating Luckman’s death