Below the Threshold
Written by Allen Wold
(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition,
published March 1988)
Psychologist Dr. Jack Page treats patients
struggling with their fear of the reptilian Visitor invasion.
But, suddenly, those same patients are becoming accepting of the
Visitors...and Dr. Page wants to know why.
As the novel opens, clinical psychologist Dr. Jack Page receives
a call from his patient Emily Velasquez. Emily is worried that
she has just stumbled on to a conspiracy in their still
human-controlled hometown of Freeport in the otherwise
Visitor-occupied southern half of the U.S. Jack agrees to meet
her at a restaurant that evening to discuss it, thinking it may be
her schizophrenia talking. But Emily fails to show and Jack gets
worried. He goes to her apartment and finds a strange man there
who insists he has the wrong apartment. Jack calls the police and
they enter the apartment to find it unoccupied, but it has
obviously been searched through. The police fail to take the
disappearance very seriously however since she has not yet been
missing for 24 hours.
The next day, Jack learns that Emily, an interior decorator, had
visited a big client that same day, Vanessa Carpentier, the head
of local TV station WCTY. He learns that one of the
station's security guards had an accident on the stairs the
previous evening and was found unconscious. He and the station's
chief of security visit the man in the hospital and he remembers
seeing Emily come in the door as he was coming down the stairs.
Then he remembers only his feet in the air as he fell.
Later in the day, Jack is mugged by three men, but he beats them
and holds one to question. He learns that they are after some
pictures Emily took of the abandoned Regency Theater in town.
Jack lets the guy go and asks a friend of his, the assistant
city attorney, David Mallard, to help him get information on what
is going on. They learn of a Visitor TV
station in nearby occupied Northampton and their attempt to
purchase the Regency Theater as a broadcast center in Freeport.
Jack discovers that Emily accidentally left her photos in
Vanessa Carpentier's office during her visit. He asks about them
and Carpentier gives them to him. He discovers that three of the
photos show a clandestine meeting between local mob boss, Kline,
local politician, Oswald, and Visitor commander in Northampton,
Jack meets up with some local resistance leaders and they make
tentative plans to spring Emily from where they think she is
being held: a prison on the top few floors of a Freeport office
building. They manage to free Emily and grab stacks of
files, including information about experiments with
electromagnetic frequencies (ELF). Questioning Emily later, they
realize the prison is a testing facility and that the Visitors
may have performed some ELF testing on her. They learn about the
Visitor TV station in Northampton, located in Fairfield Mall.
Resistance leader Douglas Abbot and Jack pay a visit to the place in the guise of being
television equipment salesmen. They soon learn the station
director is Northampton's director of Visitor-human relations,
Dwight, and meet up with the assistant station director, a
Visitor named Hickory who recognizes Jack as the man they've
been chasing with their mob contacts in connection with Emily's
photos. They are in deep trouble, but Abbot's quick reflexes
allow them to fight off a couple of guards and escape into the
mall, where they finally make a clean getaway and head back to
After another mob altercation, the resistance movement gets help
from Carpentier in figuring out that ELF is being used by the
Visitors to plant some kind of subliminal message over
television broadcasts in Freeport, with the effect of lulling the
humans into being less and less concerned about the Visitors,
paving the way for an invasion of the city. They discover the
Visitors' broadcast tower must be on top of the Wagner building
They decide to take out the tower, but before they can get there
are stopped by the corrupt police lieutenant, LeGrange, and
Abbot is killed in a shootout before the others escape. At the
Wagner building, the small resistance force hits some obstacles
but ultimately succeeds in destroying the tower.
The novel is written in the style of a mystery
story rather than a typical sci-fi or adventure one, including the
use of both legitimate clues and red herrings. The book is also
divided into "file numbers" instead of chapters, presumably
like a detective's case files (though the major character who
performs most of the investigation is not a detective but a
clinical psychologist, an occupation which also maintains case
files of a different nature). Our makeshift detective, Jack,
even likes to guzzle Scotch, much like a hardboiled P.I. in a
noir detective novel drinks Scotch or bourbon.
The subliminal broadcasts over television used here is
similar to the premise of
"Switch on to Fear".
The Visitors may have learned from the earlier experiment and
have now expanded on it here.
The cover of the book features a Visitor soldier standing in
front of an "Our Friends" Visitor propaganda poster. But the
poster hanging next to it (only partially visible) appears to be
a poster for the 1982 movie The World According to Garp!
Notice also that the fence or wall upon which the posters hang
doesn't look real; I think the image is a mock-up.
The majority of the story takes place in the city of Freeport.
However, no state is ever revealed, despite many other details
such as street and interstate names, restaurants, major
buildings, etc. Although there are a handful of cities in the
U.S. with that name, I have not been able to find any city that
matches the details given. The book does reveal that it is in
the southern half of the country where the red dust is
ineffective. Highway US 18 is referenced as running through
Freeport but, in the real world, US 18 runs in the northern half
of the country, from Wyoming to Wisconsin.
Page 167 mentions highway US 47 into Freeport; there is no such
highway in the real world.
Freeport is a city in the southern, Visitor-controlled portion
of the U.S., though it has somehow managed to remain
human-controlled and largely Visitor-free through some kind of
agreement between the city, the Visitors, and the U.S. government
in the Northern States. How this was affected is never
explained. A number of naturalized Visitor citizens (former
fifth columnists) have also made their home here. Notice also
that the name Freeport plays metaphorically into the concept of
a city where the inhabitants are still free.
On page 1, Jack pours himself a double shot of Laphroaig.
Laphroaig is a Scotch whisky which has been produced since 1815.
It is the only whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince
of Wales (since 1994).
Page 6 mentions that the Visitors arrived 3 years ago, placing
the story near the time of "The Return".
Page 7 reveals that Jack has a number of patients diagnosed with what he
refers to as Alien Anxiety Syndrome. This may be another name
for the Post-Visitor Stress Syndrome
mentioned as a psychiatric condition in
Page 8 mentions that former fifth columnists who have become
naturalized U.S. citizens have become known as "Naturals"
Page 19 states that Emily's office was decorated in the style of
the David Hicks school. David Hicks (1929-1998) was a British
interior decorator known for using bright colors and mixing
antique and modern furniture.
Page 59 states that the Regency Theater in Freeport was a former
Loews. Loews was a chain of movie theaters throughout North
America started in 1914. It became the oldest operating theater
chain for decades until merging with AMC Theaters in 2006. Many
of the new, merged company's theaters still bear the Loews name.
Page 59 also describes the theater as "1920's gloptious". As far
as I can "gloptious" is not a real English word, but I did find
a few uses of it around anyway, with gloptious generally meaning
"lots of glop", which does seem to fit the description given of
the theater in the book "...painted plaster arches, columns,
false boxes, statuary..."
On page 77, Jack says that the Visitors wouldn't dare move on
human-controlled Freeport because "the Northern States would
retaliate immediately." How would the Northern States retaliate?
They didn't retaliate when the formerly free city of Los Angeles
was occupied. And even if the Northern States did retaliate, why
would it worry the Visitors overly? They've already conquered
most of the temperate portions of the world without much
trouble other than pockets of resistance fighting.
On page 88, Abbot pours Jack a glass of Glenlivet.
a single malt Scotch brewed since 1824 in the parish of
Glenlivet in Moray, Scotland.
Page 93 repeats the custom humans have adopted of avoiding the
wearing of clothing in the shade of Visitor red, as previously
established in The
Crivit Experiment, also written by Allen Wold.
Page 128 mentions that studies at the
University of Chicago have
revealed latent psi-talents in Visitor volunteers. The
university is a real world private university.
Page 144 mentions
Dewar's Scotch. This is a Scottish brand of
blended whisky which has been produced since 1846.
Also on page 144, Emily mentions that the old Regency Theater
was designed by architect Frank Hebson. As far as I can tell,
this was not a real person.
On page 148, Emily says that while she was held in the Visitor
prison, she was once forced to watch television, with her head
secured into place and eyelids propped open. This is similar to
the "programming" of Alex in the 1962 novel and 1971 film A
On page 150, Abbot refers back to Emily's statement about being
forced to watch television, but he adds that she was forced to
watch Gandhi. But she never mentioned that she was made
to watch that film! Gandhi is a 1982 biographical film about
Mahatma Gandhi who led a passive resistance movement in India
against the British overlords of the country during the first
half of the 20th century.
Page 169 mentions a
Belk store in a Northampton mall. Belk is a
department chain founded in 1888 and found almost exclusively in
the U.S. south.
Page 175 describes Jack and Abbot ducking into a County Seat
store to dodge the Visitors at the Fairfield Mall. County Seat
was a real world jeans outlet at shopping malls in 46 U.S.
states until it went out of business in 1999.
Like Wold's earlier novel
The Pursuit of Diana,
page 187 mentions a deconversion process possible on humans
who've been subjected to the Visitor conversion. In
this book, a Visitor fifth columnist brings special equipment to
aid in deconverting Emily.
Some residents of Freeport are envious of the lack of crime in
Northampton and the resistance members speculate that some
wouldn't mind being under Visitor control in order to have the
security from crime. But they go on to comment it would be a
system like that of Vlad Tepes. Vlad Tepes (real name Vlad
Dracula, "tepes" means impaler, for the way he often killed his
enemies) was a ruler of Wallachia (later Romania) in the 15th
century. He was known to deal very harshly with criminals and
thereby kept the country safe.
Having earlier killed Marty Patrushka, Jack tells his cohorts on
page 193, "We don't have Marty Patrushka to kick around any
more." This is probably a reference to Richard Nixon's famous
quote upon losing the California gubernatorial election in 1962,
"You don't have Nixon to kick around any more."
On page 199, fifth columnist Walter comments, "The days are past
when a solitary hero like Mike Donovan could penetrate a
mothership and single-handedly effect a daring rescue."
On page 225, Lewis reveals that the subliminal message the
Visitors have been broadcasting over television signals in
Freeport is merely the slogan they used when they first arrived on Earth, "The
Visitors are your friends." However, the actual slogan used in
the two V mini-series was
"The Visitors are our friends."
On page 232, Walter is able to guide Jack and the others through
removing their Visitor handcuffs by simply having them push a
large button on them and twisting the joint between the two
cables to the right. That's all it takes to escape from Visitor
handcuffs?! Apparently there's no key needed!
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