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Valis by Philip K. Dick

Valis (1981)

by Philip K. Dick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: VALIS Trilogy (1)

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3,425492,213 (3.94)93
  1. 10
    Briefing for a Descent into Hell by Doris Lessing (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Spiritually-oriented narratives in which sanity and reality are brought into hypothetical opposition, both with science-fictional elements.

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» See also 93 mentions

English (44)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Wow, this was trippy. Even more so when you consider how autobiographical it's supposed to be. There's less of an ending than it just ends, but still. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Apr 9, 2017 |

“A question we had to learn to deal with during the dope decade was, How do you break the news to someone that his brains are fried?” So says the first-person narrator in VALIS, Philip K. Dick’s autobiographical novel of spiritual odyssey, a novel where the narrator begins by laying out the major issues he must deal with as he attempts to gain a measure of sanity along with a sense of purpose and the meaning of life: drugs, a desire to help others, the pull of insanity, suicide and death, time and place (Northern California in the 60s), split-identity (the narrator alternately identifies and disidentifies with one Horselover Fat), God and occlusion (he receives otherworldly messages via a beam of pink light prompting him to explore ancient Gnosticism) – all in all a 60s California-style version of the novels of Hermann Hesse, novels like Siddhartha, Damion and Steppenwolf. What a wild ride. For example, here is a list of what I see as the top ten conundrums we are asked to ponder:

One - Theophany
The narrator explains how a theophany is self-disclosure by the divine, in other words, a theophany isn’t something we do; rather, a theophany is something the divine – the God or gods, the higher powers – does to us. The intense pink beam of light experienced by the narrator’s persona Horselover Fat was just such a theophany. But, then, the question invariably arises: how are we to know if we received a true theophany or are suffering from an illusion?

Two - When your theophany goes against the grain of the conventional
One of the most fascinating and hilarious parts of the novel is the narrator’s therapy session with Maurice, a Hasidic Jew. In his session, Horselover Fat contrasts the ‘true’ God, the God of the Gnostics, the God of his pink ray of light, with the ‘flawed’ God of Genesis. Maurice’s reaction to such an esoteric explanation of the universe makes for lively reading, a highpoint of insight into the rocky spiritual challenges faced by our narrator.

Three - When your discover others share your theophany
Turns out, there are a number of other people who have had a similar theophany from the true Gnostic God. Horselover Fat’s encounter with these men and women challenges his very idea of sanity since he observes just how far zealots will go in their zealotry.

Four – How to deal with your theophany once it starts to wear off
From the novel: “They ought to make it a binding clause that if you find God you get to keep him. For Fat, finding God (if indeed he did find God) became, ultimately, a bummer, a constantly diminishing supply of joy, sinking lower and lower like the contents of a bag of uppers.” Darn, if only God were as readily available as drugs.

Five – When you encounter the many sides of you
As Harry Haller of Hesse’s Steppenwolf experiences the many facets of his personal identity in the Magic Theater, so, in the course this novel, PKD (yes, again, a very autobiographical work) discovers the many sides of PKD. How many versions are there? Feel free to round to the nearest dozen.

Six – The concept of time
Is someone or something playing a board game with time and we humans as mere players? Can time be abolished and transcended? If so, how do we go about it?

Seven – Zebra, that is, pure living intelligence, so called by Horselover Fat
Can an out-of-cosmos intelligence contact humans? This question is related to the possibility of a true theophany.

Eight - The presence of evil in the universe
Is there an answer to Kevin’s pressing question: What about my dead cat? In other words, why do bad things happen to good cats or why is there evil in the world?

Nine – The Exegesis
An exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of scripture or a sacred text. VALIS includes many entries from PKD’s thousand page exegesis published as a separate book. The question looms: would PKD have expanded his exegesis to several more thousands of pages had he lived to age 90? My own guess is definitely ‘yes’, since once you start to unravel the mysteries of the universe according to your own schemata, three questions pop up for every answer you offer. Ah, the mysteries of the universe!

Ten – What is VALIS?
Sure, it stands for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, but where does it fit into the novel? I wouldn’t want to spoil this question by providing an answer. You will have to read it for yourself. Once again, novel reading as a wild magic carpet ride. I recommend you hop on.
( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Way out there. Loved it. ( )
  Tracy_Tomkowiak | Sep 18, 2016 |
Is this a work of brilliance? It's possible. A better person might have had the patience and discernment to decide. I had trouble navigating an inpenetratable obscurantism that spreads through the pages like a plague. Gnostic preachings, archaic theological exegeses, rambling philosophical didacticism...very tough going. Not just because it was obscure or even difficult, but mostly because it was tedious. Might a good editor have been called upon?

I wouldn't be the first to suggest that PKD's books make better movies, despite his fertile imagination, penetrating questioning and infectious paranoia. Anyone who has Amazon Prime and has yet to watch the Amazon original production of The Man in the High Castle has a delicious treat in store.

A challenging question is What is Valis About? I'll give it a rough back-of-the-envelope attempt, no doubt insufficient. It's about a character and his alter ego, who is the author Philip K Dick by another name, and his struggle with his sanity. Or it's about the character and his understanding of the gap in history that followed the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, only to have history really resume in 1974; this character has mastered a wealth of ancient wisdom including the Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi. It's about a supra-human technology that reorients people with rationality against the predations of our irrational world. It's about a psychotic refugee from the drug culture who's trying to keep his bearings even in the face of the senseless deaths of friends.

If that sounds good to you, and you're a patient and persistent reader who is willing to try to separate the wheat from the chaff, have at it. There are morsels of good in there. ( )
  stellarexplorer | Aug 23, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dick, Philip K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Louit, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Masera, RubénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
North, HeidiCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pék, ZoltánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosvall, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weiner, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Russell Galen

who showed me the right way
First words
Horselover Fat's nervous breakdown began the day he got the phonecall from Gloria asking if he had any Nembutals.
Fish cannot carry guns.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679734465, Paperback)

The first of Dick's three final novels (the others are Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer). Known as science fiction only for lack of a better category, "Valis" takes place in our world and may even be semi-autobiographical.

The proponent of the novel, Horselover Fat, is thrust into a theological quest when he receives communion in a burst of pink laser light. From the cancer ward of a bay area hospital to the ranch of a fraudulent charismatic religious figure who turns out to have a direct com link with God, Dick leads us down the twisted paths of Gnostic belief, mixed with his own bizarre and compelling philosophy. Truly an eye opening look at the nature of consciousness and divinity.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Horselover Fat begins receiving what he considers to be divine revelations that imply extraterrestrial forces are interfering in the affairs of the Earth.

» see all 5 descriptions

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