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VALIS (VALIS Trilogy #1)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  17,952 Ratings  ·  1,053 Reviews
VALIS is the first book in Philip K. Dick's incomparable final trio of novels (the others being The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer). This disorienting and bleakly funny work is about a schizophrenic hero named Horselover Fat; the hidden mysteries of Gnostic Christianity; and reality as revealed through a pink laser. VALIS is a theological detectiv ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Vintage Books (first published 1981)
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Glenn Russell
Aug 29, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

“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 a
Jun 20, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it
Imagine taking a walk in a bad neighborhood and sitting on a sidewalk bench. Besides you sits a disheveled homeless person with crazy eyes. Despite your best efforts the two of you strike up a conversation. Slowly, incredulously, you begin to realize that this crazy person is well read. No, this person is educated, well educated and though he goes off on wild tangents and makes seemingly ludicrous claims, his mind is a brilliantly tangled mess, a fecundity of original thought. And yet all the wh ...more
Will Byrnes
Nov 16, 2016 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
I was prompted to read this after it popped up in a season 4 episode of LOST.

Horselover Fat is both the narrator and a third-person character. He is our everyman through whom we are led in a contemplation of the nature of reality, god and sanity. Was Fat really the recipient of a beam of pink light that contained information from god? Or is he just a psycho who speaks both as himself and as his alter, and more real ego, Philip K. Dick? Is god reincarnated in a two year old child? Was earth once
Jul 05, 2012 RandomAnthony rated it liked it
If someone were to make the “You seem to like Philip K. Dick, and I want to maybe give him a shot, but I don't know where to start because he's written dozens of novels” statement my instantaneous response would be, “NOT Valis!” Then I would add I've only read five or six of PKD's novels and I'm giddy with the prospect of reading further into his catalog. But no, no, don't start with Valis, or else you may never pick up another PKD book and you'd miss out on his masterpieces.

PKD wrote Valis late
This book has everything except plot. I still love the fraking hell out of it. As a mind experiment gone horribly, horribly awry, I felt myself slipping into PKD's mindset and taking every point seriously, as you could just tell that he was. It felt like the ramblings of a man who had gone through something he couldn't explain and did his damned awful best to figure it out, but that includes religious horror, classical Greek authors, a ton of philosophy, and a life that is falling apart.
I've sin
VALIS: Reconciling human suffering with divine purpose
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
It’s often said that “one must suffer for one’s art.” They must have been referring to Philip K. Dick. He slaved away in relative obscurity and poverty at a typewriter for decades, churning out a prodigious flow of low-paid Ace and Berkeley paperbacks (sometimes fueled by amphetamines), went through five marriages, battled with depression, mental illness and suicide attempts, all culminating in a bizarre
Oct 10, 2007 karen rated it it was ok
enough, philip...
Jan 29, 2012 Greg rated it it was amazing
I semi-regularly freak out over my own consistency on goodreads. What do I do about reading a novel that is contained in a book with multiple novels, what cover do I choose, what about books that I read multiple times, do I keep the original date that I read it or update it to the newest date? So many stupid things to waste my time worrying about when there are so many other stupid things I could be wasting my time worrying about.

For my own peace of mind, I'll state here that I read this book f
May 04, 2016 Apatt rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
“Fat conceives of the universe as a living organism into which a toxic particle has come. The toxic particle, made of heavy metal, has embedded itself in the universe-organism and is poisoning it. The universe-organism dispatches a phagocyte. The phagocyte is Christ. It surrounds the toxic metal particle – the Black Iron Prison – and begins to destroy it.”

Nope! No idea what that means. I haven’t a clue! And there are plenty more where that came from. A couple of years ago I made a start on VALIS
Philip K. Dick had a series of hallucinations in 1974 which presented themselves as encounters with the divine, specifically with a gnostic version of the divine. From that point until the end of his life, his mind was the setting for an elaborate conflict between his basically rational nature and the intense, undismissable sense that he had received a true mystical epiphany. This novel is a fictionalized elaboration and exploration of that conflict, one which is faithful to the content of Dick' ...more
Sean Wilson
Apr 13, 2016 Sean Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, fiction
"The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three dimensional and not in space or time." Philip K. Dick, Valis

Valis... Have I just read the meaning of existence in a 1981 semi-autobiographical science fiction novel? It certainly felt like it. Saying that, I haven't quite gotten round to reading his thousand page, non-fiction Exegesis. One of Philip K. Dick's last novels before his death at the young age of 53, Valis is a philosophy book, a science fiction novel, a postmodern te
I hesitate to say this book disappointed me because it actually delighted me in a number of ways - its inventive first person/third person narrative voice, its delving into Gnostic philosophy, the funereal humor especially at play among the Rhipidon Society members. Phillip K. Dick gives his readers plenty to chew on, as usual, and the pseudo-autobiographical tone is intriguing. However, in this case I found his plot on the thin side.

Now, I like idea-driven novels. I require no literary equival
Well, that was weird. If literature is a way for us to commune with the minds of others, I guess those others don’t necessarily need to be sane. In fact, Philip K. Dick (and his alter ego, Horselover Fat) are both pretty up front about the fact that he/they are not mentally well.

Despite his mental illness and years of drug use, Dick can write! VALIS seems to be his dissertation on his mental illness and it is a pretty lucid and rational analysis of his own state. It kept me reading for 271 pages
Dec 23, 2010 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
A common saying is that there is a thin line between genius and insanity. PKD turns the line into a 4D hypercube and goes on at length about Gnosticism, WWII battles, history, politics, drug culture, and its still incredibly interesting. I won't pretend to judge on the nature of what happened to him, but his books are as interesting to think about as ever.
Sep 23, 2008 Matthew rated it liked it
It's a well known fact that science fiction authors often do their best work when they're straying into quasi-religious territory (think Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, etc.). It's also well known that crazy people make the best conspiracy theorists. So when Philip K. Dick, an extremely crazy, extremely talented sci-fi author writes a book about religion-as-conspiracy, it's a safe bet that some serious head-messing is about to ensue.

Someone (I think it was Ursula LeGuin) once remarked that Phi
Terence Blake
May 20, 2014 Terence Blake rated it it was amazing

I cannot review VALIS objectively, as it is a book that belongs to no pre-existing category, combining elements of autobiography, philosophy, science-fiction, gnostic theology, psychoanalysis,and existential self-construction. Like the recently published EXEGESIS it takes its origin in the need to understand and respond to the events of February and March 1974 (which Dick called 2-3-74). He was irradiated by a brilliant pink light emanating from a Christian fish-
Lee Foust
VALIS is an intensely rational portrait of a kind of madness, of doubling, doppelgangers, and split personalities, of reality, coincidence, and paranoia, of messages, everyday life, and divine intervention. That makes the novel sound a bit better than it actually is. The narrative is an odd mix of petty, personal problems--a friend's suicide, another dying of cancer, the (well, one half of) the protagonist's marital problems--and living gnostic revelation and knowledge. I mean, was God even poss ...more
Nov 09, 2011 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterworks, sf
The book that profiles the author's descent into madness. He both narrates the story as himself and is also another character, "Horselover Fat", who whilst we are told he is the same person, interacts with the narrator as seperate person. Presumably indicative of PKD's own split personality disorder?

I don't know how much of this we are to take as real, or at least PKD's genuine belief as to what's real, but we can either take it as the whole world being insane with messages and signs of rational
Jul 17, 2011 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
Yesterday I started AND finished one of PKD's most profound works. I literally could not put it down. Painful, REAL, bittersweet, funny as hell, bizarre, brilliant, utterly profound. I always find it hard to write about a PKD experience because they are all life-altering, and I truly mean that. I think most scifi folks love his work before 1974 because it's simply FANTASTIC WRITING. Everything after 1974, I believe, is for the die-hards only. For people like me, who have not only read a lot of h ...more
Apr 28, 2010 Ben rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
I'm a PKD fan but didn't like this one at all.

Yes, it has an interesting structure and the fractured POV of the protagonist/narrator is a pretty nifty device.

Yes, it is semi-autobiographical and was written as a way for him to deal with what was perceived as an encounter with some higher form of life but was most likely the manifestation of a psychological breakdown.

Unfortunately, much of the book is an utterly incoherent mish-mash of Dick's various philosophical ponderings from towards the e
You can see that Horselover Fat is based on PKD himself within the first few lines which gave me a lot of hope for this book as he did some of his best writing when he was out of his head. I can pretty much say I was let down. I don't mind a difficult read but this was painful at times and there were parts of PKD's psyche I really didn't want to see. I'm also not always enamoured of author's spiritual journeys disguised as something else even if the journey is into madness.

Despite this he can s
Jun 17, 2011 Melki rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion, offal
I know Philip K. Dick is a revered pillar of the science fiction community, but I truly despised this book. Self-indulgent, and packed with religious claptrappery, it was a chore to read. Female characters existed solely as a source of aggravation. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, in chapter 12, the main character/author forces his son to take part in a bizarre communion ritual...lovely. You don't even want to know what happens to the savior/child in chapter 13. If I want to read a ...more
May 11, 2012 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, books-i-own
If you like Dan Brown, this is much better and at least as believable. If you don't like Dan Brown, well, at least this is much better... Unfortunately, I grew out of the teenage existential angst over three decades ago.
Hertzan Chimera
Aug 12, 2012 Hertzan Chimera rated it it was ok
CURRENTLY RE-READING VALIS, but this was my initial (vicious, or empathy-free) review.

"It is about madness, pain, deception, death, obsessive delusory states of mind, cruelty, solitude, imprisonment, and it is a joy to read." quotes The Washington Post on the cover of VALIS. One can only wonder which of Philip K. Dick's books this review blurb was borrowed from. Horselover Fat (a kinky replicant of Philip K. Dick's name) is having woman trouble. He is having money trouble. He is having severe me
Dec 18, 2011 Riona rated it really liked it
Recommended to Riona by: Hlor U
I think I would have to read this a second time to truly understand it. Or maybe this is the kind of book where you just don't "get it", that's the point. In all honesty, I had been looking forward to reading this for so long that I came away slightly underwhelmed. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I did immensely, but I didn't think it was the PKD masterpiece everyone else seems to. I preferred Ubik and A Scanner Darkly. Maybe after a re-read a few years down the line my opinion will ...more
Maru Kun
When you spend your whole creative life walking the thin line that separates genius from madness then occasionally you are going to make a few missteps.

Philip K Dick walked that line longer than most and we should be grateful he kept it together enough to write some of the most intriguing works of twentieth century science fiction. This was not one of those works.

If you want to invest some time in thinking about the connections between theories of parallel worlds, Gnosticism, pre Socratic philos
Jan 01, 2013 Mel rated it it was amazing
The first few chapters of this were some of the best things I've read this year. It was like a beat book more than anything else. The religious and philosophy side of things I found interesting. I think if I'd come into this fresh I might have found it annoying but after 5 other Philip K Dick books in a row it made sense. I loved how he was trying to sort out if he was mad and how he could cope and couldn't cope with death. I think this may be my favorite of all the books I've read by him. It ma ...more
What a load of religious philosophical mumbo jumbo with no plot and a pretty scant story line. Maybe I just didn't have the patience to unravel the meaning behind it all but whatever, it was boring and I'm happy to move on to something else.
Graham Cope
“14. The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three-dimensional and not in space or time. The information fed to us we hypostatize into the phenomenal world.” -from the Tractate, VALIS

VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was published in 1981. It follows Dick’s A Scanner Darkly and precedes The Divine Invasion. It’s difficult to write a spoiler-free synopsis of this novel but here goes:

Quick Synopsis
Horselover Fat, a *friend* of the author Philip K. Dick, has a nerv
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
First of a Trilogy?? 15 142 Dec 15, 2014 07:23AM  
What is the deal with Horselover Fat? 8 89 Jul 20, 2014 03:19PM  
Who knows? 3 30 Jan 05, 2014 03:22PM  
Philip K Dick: What order to read? 3 57 Sep 28, 2013 11:02PM  
Philip K Dick: VALIS Group Read (Spoilers) 34 74 Aug 29, 2012 12:52PM  
  • The Complete Roderick
  • Behold the Man
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick
  • Dark Benediction
  • Life During Wartime
  • The Survivors of the Chancellor (Extraordinary Voyages, #13)
  • Jem
  • Bring the Jubilee
  • Pavane
  • Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy
  • The Stone Leopard
  • The Child Garden
  • The Centauri Device
  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy
  • Star Maker
  • His Master's Voice
  • Nova
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Di ...more
More about Philip K. Dick...

Other Books in the Series

VALIS Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Divine Invasion
  • The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

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“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” 8082 likes
“When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.” 377 likes
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