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Philip K. Dick
Narrated by Tom Weiner, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 8.5 hours

Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928. While attending UC at Berkeley, he dropped out rather than take ROTC training. He went on to write some 36 novels and 5 short story collections. He won the 1962 Hugo for The Man in the High Castle and the 1974 John W. Campbell Award for Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. He died of heart failure caused by a stroke in 1982.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: UBIK
SF Site Review: Ubik: The Screenplay
SF Site Review: Human Is?
SF Site Review: Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
SF Site Review: The Zap Gun
SF Site Review: The Simulacra
SF Site Review: Lies, Inc.
SF Site Review: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
SF Site Review: Time Out Of Joint
SF Site Review: The Game-Players of Titan
SF Site Review: Minority Report
SF Site Review: Now Wait For Last Year
SF Site Review: Dr. Bloodmoney
SF Site Review: Beyond Lies the Wub and The Father-Thing
SF Site Review: Second Variety
SF Site Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Martian Time-Slip and A Scanner Darkly
SF Site Reading List: Philip K. Dick

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Gil T. Wilson

Valis Valis is the first of three novels written by Philip K. Dick near the end of his life. These are often referred to as the Valis Trilogy and include Valis, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Valis, which is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, seems to reveal PKD's search for the meaning of life within religion during the later part of his life. Not easily categorized, the work could be classified as science fiction, philosophy, religion, or even an autobiography. For all of these topics come into play as the main character examines the origin of God and the purpose of life, while suffering through mental illness.

The reader, Tom Weiner, has a very pleasant voice that adds a feel of authority while reading through the different sections of the book. He ably handles various scenes, such as when the main character is locked up in a county mental hospital, writing and quoting from his exegesis (his book on trying to find God), hanging out with his friends and discussing theology, and finally, meeting what could be the messiah of our time. When Weiner reads the scripture-like quotes from the exegesis they sound like real scripture being read from a pulpit, which definitely makes listening to this book more interesting. His narration also makes it easier to absorb the many philosophies and ideas presented.

Valis takes place in the 70s in the United States and may be semi-autobiographical. One clue to the autobiographical slant is that the book is written in both first and third person. In first person, the narrator refers to himself as Philip, the sci-fi writer, and also refers back to some of his books. When the narrator shifts to third person, he refers to the character as Horselover Fat. It is revealed that Horselover Fat is actually part of PKD's schizophrenic split personality and all his friends treat them as two different people, hoping for a cure. Another semi-autobiographical hint is in the name Horselover Fat. "Horselover" is English for the Greek word philippos and the English word "fat" is translated as "dick" in German. 

This story is about a group of friends' search for God, who turns out to be a virus, a joke, and a mental hologram transmitted from an orbiting satellite. The friends are very reminiscent of the friends in the book, A Scanner Darkly, especially in their very humorous dialogues about God. Basically, the friends are all former stoners who have stopped doing dope and now have philosophy as their new drug.

The main character of the novel, Horselover Fat, is thrust into a theological quest when he receives communion in a burst of pink laser light. His search takes him from the mental ward of a Bay Area hospital to the ranch of a fraudulent charismatic religious figure/rock musician. There they confront the Messiah: a two-year old named Sophia. She confirms their suspicions that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the Earth has been guiding their discoveries and, as it turns out, has a direct com link with God,

Truly, Valis is an eye-opening look at the nature of consciousness and divinity as PKD leads us down the twisted paths of Gnostic belief mixed with his own bizarre and compelling philosophy. For an exciting sci-fi trip through theology and philosophy, with some great humor thrown in, pick up Blackstone Audio's recording of this PDK classic.

Copyright © 2009 Gil T. Wilson

Gil T. has spent a quarter of a century working in radio and has lots of spare time on his hands and reading or listening to books takes up all that time. Check out his blog to find out what he's up to at any given moment.

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