Solar Lottery is Dick’s first science fiction novel. In the early ‘50s he had some success with short stories and had previously written a couple of unpublished mainstream books (Gather Yourselves Together and Voices from the Street), but this was his first full-length novel to be published when it came out as one half of an ACE Double in 1955.
In 2203 a Quizmaster, chosen randomly from over six billion people, rules the solar system. This Quizmaster has to fend off assassins, and even with the protection of a telepathic corps, it’s rare for a Quizmaster to stay in power very long. Reese Verrick though manages to hold onto the position for ten years until lowly electronics repairman Leon Cartwright figures out how to game the system.
The main story is entertaining in the pulpy style of the 50s even if it does get bogged down in a lot of jargon (bottle twitching, Minimax M-game theory) that isn’t very well explained. It has one too many things going on with a side story about a mythical tenth planet, supposedly discovered by some crackpot, whose followers travel to the far reaches of the solar system to try to find it.
Dick said that he borrowed from the other sci-fi greats of the era when writing this one, like A.E. Van Vogt (I assume that’s where the wooden characterization comes from) and Alfred Bester whose The Demolished Man directly inspires the telepathic corps that protects the Quizmaster. The speechifying Ted Benteley has a lot in common with the angry and idealistic Stuart Hadley from Voices From the Street which Dick wrote just before writing Solar Lottery.
Cast of characters
Ted Benteley – pledges allegiance to Verrick without knowing Cartwright is the new Quizmaster
Reese Verrick – the former Quizmaster
Eleanor Stevens – Verrick’s secretary. A former telepath who gives up her ability to stay on with Verrick
Peter Wakeman – one of the Quizmaster’s teeps
Leon Cartwright – the new Quizmaster
John Preston – deceased figurehead of the Prestonites. Preached of a undiscovered tenth planet called the Flame Disc
Rita O’neill – a Prestonite. Cartwright’s niece
Major Shaeffer – part of the Quizmaster’s teep Corps
Herbert Moore – a biochemist working for Verrick
Al and Laura Davis – Ted Benteley’s longtime friends
Keith Pellig – the assassin chosen by the Convention
Bill Konklin & Mary Uzich – Prestonites on board the ship to the Flame Disc
Captain Groves – the pilot of the ship on the way to the Flame Disc
Judge Waring – the judge who decides whether Benteley broke his oath to Verrick
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