a stunning new novel from Richard Thieme available at Amazon in a single volume print edition and in three print volumes as well as three e book volumes for Kindle and Nook.
FOAM IS UNIQUE
What does it mean to be human? What is the human condition? Can a person be transformed by the power of love – even if they come from another planet?
These central concerns of the novel are also the concerns of the unusual protagonist of FOAM: extraterrestrial Jack Teufel, who appears in the sagebrush in Utah one day in a flash of light and travels to a city “somewhere in the upper Midwest” in the middle of a bitter winter.
The tale follows Jack as he practices being human by using the internet, cable TV, and other media, seeking to understand human beings, and wandering into serendipitous contact with a skein of characters whose diverse paths fold into a satisfying and unexpected unity.
At the same time, his more-than-human brain broadcasts his encounters to a vast galactic audience for whom “humans are the funniest species in seventeen galaxies … and one of the sexiest.”
A student of improv, Jack tries to always say “yes.”
FOAM’s disparate cast members include:
Heidi, with whom Jack hooks up at the bus station when he arrives in the Midwest, who is completing training as a masseuse and making money on the side with fetish sites;
Her favorite model, Roni, unbalanced by her lover Jimi’s transition into a male identity as Jimmy;
Her go-to guru for strength and support, Dr. James John Gillespie, who leads small groups to discover that the “paranormal” is normal;
Bobby Jakus, who knows Gillespie is right, as he already communes with discarnate spirits through automatic writing;
Bobby takes a job with janitor Juicy Fruit, where he meets Pancho Sanchez a hard core hacker who partners with Don Coyote (a righteous vigilante patrolling the mean streets of cyberspace) in pursuit of corruption in cyberspace and beyond;
Rupert Rapell, coping with a midlife crisis by having an affair with Carrie Fischetti at the bank where they work – and where Rapell does his fair share of corrupting more than cyberspace;
Bunny Isadora, a customer at the Oasis Café, who confronts Jack as a “walk-in Nordic” from another planet.
Dade the barista at the cafe who provides the illusion of stability in a coffee shop likened to purgatory.
By the time most major characters arrive at two climactic meetings – the men at Sex Addicts Anonymous and the women at Women Who Love Too Much Anon – Jack is in danger of going native and must choose between remaining on earth or returning to “The Skein,” a network of trans-galactic sentience, from which he believes he came.
The narrative is wildly satirical and laugh-out-loud funny as well as deeply touching as it explores the power of love to make an alien soul more human.
The novel draws on the rich experiences of the author, Richard Thieme, over a lifetime of exploring spirituality, religion, sexuality, technology, and the worlds of hackers, security professionals, spies, and in a serious scholarly work of history, the relationship between governments and UFOs.
Four appendices support the narrative – a short story, “Species, Lost in Apple-eating Time,” about the evolution of consciousness (published in anotherrealm and Mind Games); an interview with Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell about his life-changing experiences returning from the moon; an interview with Joe McMoneagle, a remote viewer in the Stargate Program; and an interesting idea from Bucky Fuller.
Praise for Richard Thieme
“Your mind is a door I didn’t know existed.”
“The depth, complexity and texture of Thieme’s thought processes break the mold.” – Brian Snow, Senior Technical Director, NSA (ret.)
“I quite liked your story. I’ve been reading science fiction lately and yours was right up there.” – John Updike, author
“Give me Richard Thieme. His mind is in orbit but his feet are on the ground.” – Dan Geer, CISO, In-Q-Tel (CIA)
“I am deeply grateful to you … one seldom finds one so sympathetic and discerning. Once on a snowy morning in Moscow, Boris Spassky declaimed four pages of Bullet Park in Russian. I was very encouraged as I am by you.” – John Cheever, author
“Thieme’s very imaginative writing has a complexity that raises the narrative to the fringes of slipstream. We’re left wondering what’s real and what’s not.” – Steven Pirie, The Future Fire, UK
“Thieme takes us to the edges of cliffs we know are there but rarely visit. He wonderfully weaves together life, mystery, and passion with creativity and imagination.” – Clinton C. Brooks, Senior Adviser for Homeland Security and Asst. Deputy Director, NSA (ret.)
Richard Thieme earned his ‘wings’ in cyberspace. He shares his intelligence – his brilliance, really – as he steers his starship through the stars.” – Jennifer Leigh Marais, science writer in South Africa.
“Beautiful descriptions and intriguing concepts” – The Fix (UK)
“Thieme is truly an oracle for the Matrix generation.” – Kim Zetter, author of Countdown to Zero Day.
“Richard Thieme: GENIUS!” – Thuthuka Sithole, a Zulu security researcher in South Africa
“Richard Thieme sees deeply into the nature of the human spirit and expresses with great clarity what he observes.” – Joel Garreau,, Washington Post
“You are a practitioner of wu wei, the effort to choose the elegant appropriate contribution to each and every issue you address.” – Hal McConnell, NSA analyst (ret.)
“Richard Thieme’s clarity of thinking is refreshing and his insights are profound.” – Bruce Schneier, author and security guru
“Richard Thieme teaches experts to see with ‘beginners’ eyes’ and hackers to think like philosophers. More than a great thinker, Thieme is an original soul. When you read Richard Thieme, you believe in the Matrix.” – Sol Tzvi, Senior Security Practitioner, formerly with Microsoft Israel, rock star, and entrepreneur
“Richard Thieme has inspired me to see myself and the world around me in a different light. His writing represents a glimpse into the inner workings of a most extraordinary mind.” – Becky Bace. NSA (ret.)
“Thieme’s writing illuminates unorthodox but deeply profound ways of understanding ourselves and everything around us.” – Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford University Center for Internet and Society
“Thieme’s words more than inspire, they teach us how to think. The reader is left reeling, dizzy with insight.” – Robin Roberts, CIA R&D (ret.)
“Richard Thieme is the real Enoch Root” – anonymous
A book that will prompt a “WTF?”, in a really, really good way – at least for some readers
January 10, 2016
Richard Thieme is not the sort of author who will appeal to everyone, but those who are willing or able to tune into his particular wavelength will find the FOAM trilogy to be worth the trip (choice of words intentional). As with Philip K. Dick, the plot is almost beside the point, being a delivery vehicle for ideas and insights which will linger independent of the story. Not that the story doesn’t also hold many charms, it’s just that this is not the sort of book where the story is all there is to it.
The plot is one consisting of many disparate characters increasingly intertwined in a six degrees of Kevin Bacon sort of way, but without the connections and intermingling seeming overly contrived. It’s the sort of story that might been seen if one were given the ability to observe what happens to those one interacts with daily in the hours when they are not in one’s presence. Truth is stranger and more complex than any fiction that humans can create, and Thieme’s book is one of those stories where the author’s view of the truth is put forward in the guise of plausible fiction – a more easily digested and familiar form to deliver the dose of “WTF?” (think of P.K. Dick or maybe Haruki Murakami) that is also provided gratis as part of the deal.
Richard Thieme is also a speaker, consultant and observer of the human condition (including time spent as a priest) in “real” life, and those who have interacted with him in those roles will find this book to be enjoyable on another level, as references familiar and obscure are woven throughout the tale. Much as an audience member who is also a musician can find pleasure in noticing the fragmentary riffs that a musical performer has appropriated from many sources and playfully inserted into an epic solo, those who have been exposed to Thieme’s work in other contexts will recognize recurring pop-culture touchstones and themes (pardon the pun) from various sources. We are all products of our experiences, and both Thieme and his characters rely on shared experiences and reference point to establish bonds and communicate – sort of like that Star Trek TNG episode where the alien species communicates by way of references to history, myths and legends, allowing a short phrase to convey not only direct meaning, but contextual reference and nuance derived from shared knowledge of the source narrative.
What’s it all about? It would be easy to tersely sum up the plot, but doing so would likely lead many to either dismiss it or flock to it, with both groups likely missing the point in the process. The context is the content. The best that I can say without prejudicing the prospective reader is that it’s ultimately about being conscious and being human, with the recognition of all the glories and flaws inherent to both conditions. Perhaps the most interesting character is the one that does not covertly appear – the overarching entity consisting of the interactions of all the characters and contexts presented, which is in its own way a character on a larger stage that is left to the reader’s imagination.
Should you read the book? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not the sort of book that will please everybody.
If you’ve gotten through this review and become at least mildly curious about what exactly could be in this book that I’m tap-dancing around, you might be the sort who will at least give Thieme a chance. You might like his style and ideas, or you might not, but books aren’t all that expensive, so how much have you really got to lose? Donate the thing to the local library or to a thrift store if it doesn’t meet your needs, or give it to a friend (or enemy) whose neurons need to be tweaked a bit.
If you are the sort of reader who would prefer a nice, neat plot summary filling in the usual check boxes in one of any number of familiar genres and formulaic templates, this book at the very least is going to prove difficult to pigeon-hole. Even for you folks, it might be worth giving this a chance. It might change your life, or at least change the boundaries of your choice of reading materials.