"I asked, 'Haven't you read them?'
"'I don't read science fiction,' Nicholas said, 'I just read serious writers like Proust and Joyce and Kafka. When science fiction has something serious to say, I'll read it.' He began, then, to talk up the virtues of Finnegan's Wake, in particular the final part, which he compared to the final part of Ulysses. It was his belief that no one but himself had either read it or understood it.
"'Science fiction is the literature of the future,' I told him, when he paused. 'In a few decades they'll be visiting the moon.'
"'Oh no,' Nicholas said vigorously, 'They'll never visit the moon. You're living in a fantasy world.'
"'Is that what your future self told you?' I said. 'Or your self from another universe, whatever it was?'"
"Radio Free Albemuth" was published after PKD's death in 1982, though he wrote it in 1976. It was originally titled "Valisystem A," and was his first attempt to write about his "supernatural" experience in 1974. During his lifetime he submitted "Radio Free Albemuth" for publication, had it rejected, and later rewrote the novel as "VALIS."
"Radio Free Albemuth" is largely autobiographical, and details his experiences with VALIS, an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System. In the novel he writes about himself in the first person, but also relates many of his early life experiences through the character of Nicholas, a kind of surrogate PKD. As the narrator and Nicholas come to grips with Nicholas' transcendent experiences, the mythical Ferris Fremont rises to the presidency of the US, and begins attacking American civil liberties.
Anyone wanting to read this book is encouraged to view the video below, which outlines the life and times of Philip K. Dick. After watching the video I was shocked at just how autobiographical "Radio Free Albemuth" was.
Of the two books, "VALIS" and "Radio Free Albemuth," I'd be hard pressed to say which one is better. "VALIS," of course, is deep, but that very depth can be off-putting for those approaching PKD from more conventional sci fi authors. "Radio Free Albemuth," on the other hand, offers a more literal approach to his experiences, and is also more in line with the books he saw published in the 60s and early 70s. Where "VALIS" is poetry, "Radio Free Albemuth" is prose. Where "VALIS" is the gnostic gospels," "Radio Free Albemuth" is the Epistles. Both books anticipate PKD's later attempt at "Exigesis" in different ways.
In relation to PKD's other books, I would say that this one ranks near the top. At the time of writing I have read 15 of his books, and there are still others I'd like to read if I get the chance. I'd probably rank "Radio Free Albemuth" somewhere below "Lies, Inc." just because that book is So. Fucking. Weird, but above more derivative efforts like "Martian Time Slip."
I would highly recommend this book. I've been searching for it for a long time, and I'm glad I finally found it. It isn't the easiest reading, but those in search of easy reading probably won't be reading PKD anyway.