2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monolith of literature
Best read after Dick's other phenomenological novels (such as Eye in the Sky, Three Stigmata, and Ubik) because of its complexity, Valis is destined to remain Dick's most controversial book. Here the author steps outside the conventions of fiction to inform the reader that he, Philip K. Dick, has had visionary experiences, information beamed directly into his brain from a...
Published on April 28 2004 by Doug Mackey
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Tragic Epitaph
Having read most of Dick's published body of work(and there are new things cropping up every year) I have to say that this book is nothing more than a sad statement of the self-destructive nature of Mister Dick. Philip K. Dick was a great, prolific talent in his day who had a knack for exploring the various aspects of human madness in both funny and provacative ways...
Published on Jan 15 1999 by Gill Cornell
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Tragic Epitaph,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)Having read most of Dick's published body of work(and there are new things cropping up every year) I have to say that this book is nothing more than a sad statement of the self-destructive nature of Mister Dick. Philip K. Dick was a great, prolific talent in his day who had a knack for exploring the various aspects of human madness in both funny and provacative ways while also including the most fundamental of fiction writing's ingredients -- plot. Yes, I know to you post-modern relativistic types that plot, like anything else that may dicate form to an art, is a vile and disqusting word. But simply put, the best of novels and short fiction has a discernable plot, with a long term goal that is either acheived or failed. And Dick, in books like Clans of the Alphane Moon, Eye in the Sky and, of course, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (oh my, does liking this last book make me a conformist?)manages to viably explore human madness and tell a good story at the same time. And don't be fooled by what you may have learned in college, my friends, but a well written, plot driven story that also holds valid intellectual content is much more difficult to craft than the splattering of thoughts that one finds in this book and others (such as the works of Henry Miller) like it. In fact, writing like this is the prose version of a painter who blindly throws paint from cans into a jet engine which in turn spaltters the paint on a canvas with no possiblility of form and content. Somehow this senseless splattering of colors is compared with well crafted works by the likes of Picasso and Dali. And so is the case with this book. It does not compare in greatness to any of Dick's ealier classics. We have been trained by professors and other intellectuals to be "open-minded" to formless garbage. That is likely because those who preach the merits of garbage can only produce garbage. Never be "open-minded", my friends. One needs a criteria in life to find purpose. Moderation is the only true evil.
Dick, unfortunatly, was a great talent who spent his last years writing moderate, evil swill. Put simply, he fried his own mind in the senseless abuse of drugs that destoryed other geniuses of his time. And the post-modern idiocy that is Valis is a mere reflection of lost brain cells, pshycotic flashbacks and a culture that is thankfully long dead.
1.0 out of 5 stars Nonsense,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)This book is utter nonsense. More an autobiographical meandering than an actual story, Valis by Philip K. Dick is loaded with more pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-theological insight than a first year undergraduate student. What's worse, these tedious ideas keep being repeated over and over again. It's a short book, but I feel like the book could do with some major trimming to make the experience less painful. I definitely won't be finishing this book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monolith of literature,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)Best read after Dick's other phenomenological novels (such as Eye in the Sky, Three Stigmata, and Ubik) because of its complexity, Valis is destined to remain Dick's most controversial book. Here the author steps outside the conventions of fiction to inform the reader that he, Philip K. Dick, has had visionary experiences, information beamed directly into his brain from a godlike extraterrestrial entity named VALIS. But he does so in such a way as to distance himself from the revelation. His dreaming, visionary alter ego, Horselover Fat, is another side of the character Phil Dick's psychotically split personality. Fat keeps a journal, the "Exegesis" (as Dick did in real life), in which he theorizes that we are all parts of a cosmic brain; everything, including ourselves, is information in this brain. He believes that the universe is an illusion but that God (or VALIS) is giving him glimpses of reality in the form of holograms produced by a beam of pink light aimed at his brain. When, late in the novel, as autobiography changes to science fiction and Fat is healed by the divine child Sophia, he "remembers" his true identity as Phil Dick, and Fat is incorporated and reintegrated in Phil's personality. You can call this a metafiction, but it transcends even that category, for the author neither tries to subvert the novel form nor to convert the reader to his fractured vision. Rather, it stands on the literary landscape a self-existent monolith, like those in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. More than any of Dick's other novels, it stretches fictional conventions to give the reader a virtually inexhaustible text that will simulataneously support and deny any interpretation.
4.0 out of 5 stars Explains everything and nothing,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)I'm told this novel intersects with Philip K. Dick's biography in some interesting ways, but as someone who knows little about the man but has enjoyed a number of his novels and stories ("The Man in the High Castle" is one of my favourite novels in any genre), I found "Valis" to be an engaging work in its own right. Dick's themes here are the nature of religious faith, the pitiless contradictions of a universe supposedly designed by a deity, and the nonetheless remarkable consistency of religious revelations throughout all time. There are any number of plausible explanations for all of this: God exists and has manifested in numerous forms; religious faith is entirely unjustified, but is a more or less constant aspect of human nature; space-time does not exist, we are devolved aliens, and "God" is a satellite broadcasting laser-driven epiphanies and inspiring subliminally affecting films (and novels?). Lovers of SF will enjoy this immensely, but so will lovers of good literature, and those interested in the philosophy and psychology of religion. If, like me, you happen to enjoy all three then you're in for quite a treat. Of course, it's the nature of the material that "Valis" can offer no final answers, but it's the way Dick raises the questions that makes it such an appealing novel. There is a tenderness and humanity to the characters - quite an achievement given the "way out" nature of the material. With its insoluble theological-philosophical themes, drug-culture setting, and interestingly unreliable narrative viewpoint, I'm sure "Valis" would be right at home on the Literary Studies curricula of any number of liberal arts colleges. Not before time, too. Hollywood is so far the only "institution" that has caught on to the tantalizing genius of Philip K. Dick. It's about time the rest of them caught up.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bag of Mixed Nuts,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)Valis is the product of a few things: Dick's 1974 hallucinatory experiences, his belief that whetever the eye sees is reality on some level, and his own zany brand of writing.
The book is a mix of Dick's Gnostic philosophies, his interpretations of his 1974 experiences, autobiography, and a fictional story of schizophrenically-projected Horselover Fat (projected by none other than "Phil" who has written himself into the story ala 'Radio Free Albemuth'). So it's not really a fictional novel, it's not really an autobiography and it's not really a philosphical treastise.
However, it makes for a pretty good read, it would certainly make an odd member of anyone's book collection. In reading Valis tempting to say that Dick's mind was fried but by the end of the book it's clear it wasn't. He might have been on the wrong track in trying to explain what he saw in 1974, but from a spiritual viewpoint he's come up with some very novel and interesting ideas (and ideas were always Dick's forte). Valis is a tripped-out book but it isn't any worse than say 'Counter Clock World' or 'Flow My Tears' on the fried-brain meter.
In conclusion if you're a PKD fan, don't stay away from this one, welcome it with open arms and I'd suggest reading 'Radio Free Albemuth' and 'The Shifting Realities of Phillip K. Dick' edited by Lawrence Sutin before picking up this one.
4.0 out of 5 stars PDK at his strangest,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)Before this, he had written about a robot-hunter who suspects he may be a robot himself and a world in which people age in reverse, but Valis is the point where Philip K. Dick really got weird. Based on a supposed experience of the author himself, Valis is the story of Horselover Fat, a man who God (or some being of the sort) contacted using a pinkish ray of light. Fat is a 60s burnout trying to survive in the 70s and this encounter encourages him to write an exegesis, explaining the workings of the universe which apparently include a race of three-eyed creatures and an elaborate system of holograms. Fat is egged on by a group of friends including the Catholic David, the cynical Kevin, the cancer-ridden Sherri and a science fiction named Philip K. Dick, who freely admits he is also Horselover Fat (It will almost make sense after you have read it). Valis is part postmodern experiment, part philosophical treatise and even part science-fiction novel. For people who like their literature inventive, pensive and consciously bizarre (and that is how most Dick fans like their literature), Valis is sure to be a winner.
5.0 out of 5 stars "You cannot think about it without becoming part of it.",
By A Customer
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)I love works of art that divide people into two groups like some kind of Zoroastrian razor.
A lot has been said about this book in the reviews.
I think this is mind-altering writing. Really. You cannot read this book *and enjoy it* without having your attitude shifted.
Dick writes in such a way that there is always an elliptical dialectic between what is "real" in the context of the fictional reality and what is not real. In the end none of it is real, because it's just a science fiction book, or is it? The book's overtly autobiographical theme (the two main characters are "Phil" a science fiction writer and "Horselover Fat", which is a pseudonym which literally denotes the meaning of the names "Philip" and "Dick") adds a rather usettling third element to the dynamic. I find it dizzying to think that Dick's obsession with secret codes and subliminal messages and secret signs and societies may have led him to conceive of this book as a calling to an imagined elect out there who would read this book and have "anamnesis" triggered in their minds in much the same way Fat's was triggered by a fish sign on a prescription delivery woman's necklace. The tractate at the end of the book lies there like some kind of chunk of radioactive matter, somehow totally separate from any sense of fiction one could have had from the story itself. As if Dick really did write his own personal exegesis that he had wanted published but could not unless he made it into sci fi.
One of my private little delights is how Dick uses names in his stories....Eric Lampton? Ha Ha! Its so obvious and stupid but still its great.
I keep imagining this book as a film; some kind of cross-breed between The Man Who Fell To Earth (I recall this movie specifically in the way I imagine the film Valis from the book to have been presented) and The Dead Zone, which unfortunately in terms of comparison were based on books very much unlike VALIS. Maybe Stanley Kubric could have handled it very well, with access to the kind of significant budget that a film like that would take to do with success. Stanley Kubric is dead, alas.
Some movies kind of daze you for a while afterwords, and reality kind of feels a little different. Valis is one of those books that have that same effect, if you end up enjoying it.
*Its also crushingly depressing, as any suicidal rumination will tend to be.
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of sheer genius. And not entirely fiction.,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)This is not only a great written work (and a fun and gripping) read) which transcends genre, it is full of fascinating theological and philosophical insights. I've seen other reviews which describe the book as inscrutable or hard to penetrate, but I didn't find it to be so at all. It helps to have a little background with the Gnostic Gospels (both the texts and Elaine Pagel's analysis are fascinating reads), and/or some other background with nondualistic religious systems such as Buddhism, advaitin Hinduism, or "A Course in Miracles." It's not that you need these as references -- they just provide a background that helps Dick's ideas to feel more familiar.
Anyhow -- one of my favorite books, ever. It's hard not to view it as a book of revelation, as much as a book of fiction.
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)Valis is at once sublime and unsettling. From the schizophrenic changes from third to first person point of view ("I am writing this in the third person to gain much-needed objectivity", the narrator reminds himself as much as the reader) through the brilliant Tractates: Cryptica Scriptura that comprise the appendix, we see a work that goes beyond mere science fiction and attempts to wrestle with the insane story of life itself. This is a novel that seeks no less than the ultimate answers to life's biggest questions. Philip Dick in attempting to make sense of his own life gives us a work that is at once thrilling, empassioned, beautiful, funny, and sad.
This is truly one of the greatest (and least appreciated) works of American literature. I can't say it gave me all the answers, but it raised many questions and new ideas as well as inspiring me in my own writing. Isn't that what great literature is about? Thank you, PKD, wherever you are.
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody Understands This,
This review is from: Valis (Paperback)The first time I tried to read this, I made it to about page fifteen before giving up. I couldn't get past the fact that there were two characters (Dick and Fat) inhabiting the same body. Okay, I could understand that there was one guy with another guy living inside his head, but the other characters talked to both of them!
I picked it up a year later after experimenting with some mind altering substances, and what can I say? This book changed my life. This is the ultimate exploration of schizophrenia, not multiple personality disorder, but split personality disorder, the theme that dominates most of Dick's great works (Scanner Darkly, Flow my Tears).
This book is about identity, the ultimate philosophical question. Not the identity of the main character, but identity in general, what is it?
This is Dick's most important work, even though I found Palmer Eldritch and High Tower to be better overall fiction. As has been noted, this is almost a religious treatise, although the religion it describes is unique to Dick. The numbered notes scattered throughout the book and collected in the end are amazing enough to buy this book solely for the purpose of analyzing them. For example, his idea that we're all moving backward in time except for men like St. Paul is fascinating, and explains why Paul would have such a unique view of God that so few can seem to relate to.
Read Radio Free Albemuth first to warm up to the general concepts framed in a more conventional novel, then read VALIS to blow yourself away.
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Valis by Philip K. Dick (Paperback - July 2 1991)
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