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VALIS (VALIS Trilogy #1)

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  12,884 ratings  ·  749 reviews
Valis is the first book in Philip K. Dick's incomparable final trio of novels (the others being are 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 dete...more
Audio CD, 7 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1981)
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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...more
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...more
enough, philip...
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
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...more
VALIS stands for vast active living intelligence system. it is also a trigger to my crazy. i am a perfect breeding ground for it: i read a lot of gnostic texts in university, and struggled against tipping points when i read the book within franny and zooey "the way of the pilgrim" and when i saw mike leigh's film, "naked" and it made me think many crazy things, like chernobyl means wormwood, and the disaster was the third trumpet.

when i first read VALIS, i embraced it. i could feel it insinuati...more
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...more
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
It's often said that "one must suffer for one's art". They must have been referring to Philip Kindred Dick. I mean, he slaved away in relative obscurity and poverty at a manual typewriter for over 20 years, churning out a prodigious flow of low-paid Ace paperbacks (using amphetamines to keep up the pace), and went through 5 marriages in the process. He was so poor he claims he "couldn't pay the fines on an overdue library book.” Many of his books were fairly forgettable, but the best of them are...more
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...more
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
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
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
Terence Blake

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-...more
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...more
Mike Philbin
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...more
Samantha Brockfield
Guess you could say I'm a Dick-head
Ben Newton
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...more
Wow! That's how I'll start my review on this book. Dick uses the vehicle of fiction to understand the meaning behind his spiritual experience. I have had a similar experience and a lot of what is revealed in Valis runs parallel to what happened to me, which is why I personally resonated with the story.

What drew me in was Dick’s use of first and third person in the narration. The reason for the switch was so that the narrator could be more objective about his spiritual experience. However, this...more
Olivia Z
“In essence, Fat monitored his own mind and found it defective. He then, by use of that mind, monitored outer reality, that which is called the macrocosm. He found it defective as well. As the Hermetic philosophers stipulated, the macrocosm and the microcosm mirror each other faithfully. Fat, using a defective instrument, swept out a defective subject, and from this sweep got back the report that everything was wrong” - VALIS, p. 37

I read VALIS as an attempt to take a break from the heavier lite...more
This was certainly the most difficult PKD book I've read so far. However, I think it is my favorite after Man in the High Castle. This is the story of Horselover Fat (aka Phillip Dick) and his wild/brilliant theories of gnosticism. Of course, this mirrors the final 8 years of Dicks life and how he increasingly "lost it" in the construction of an Exigesis. This book works on at least two levels; first, as the story of a man falling apart while being totally aware of it and second, as a sci-fi tak...more
I enjoyed it a lot. It is PKD's views on the nature of god, of course with a sci-fi bent. I loved the David Bowie stand in (Eric Lampton) and the 'Man Who Fell To Earth' references (the film VALIS) with the idea that PKD was receiving psychic messages from the film.
I found the book more interesting because of the unreliable narrator. Sometimes the book was written in the third person, sometimes the first. So, from the first chapter you realize that the narrator is PKD and he's out of his tiny l...more
Best Dick I've read, and I collected all of his novels after reading this one. It is a great story, funny and awful at the same time. Unpredictable, and complex. Experiences in a mental hospital truly realistic.
Horselover Fat is a man finding his way through a labyrinth that is reality - a multilayered series of palimpsests and maps of eras overlapping each other and throwing his perceptions into turmoil, but also allowing him to gain insight into religious experience. His journeys also seem to...more
I feel sort of bad about giving this one a low rating. However, the Goodreads definition of three stars is 'liked it', and I definitely can't go that far.

I did like that I got a sense of authenticity from some of the situations and characters (and, supposedly, it's pretty much autobiographical)...

... BUT: While the novel is certainly original, it's virtually plotless. And, well, to be frank, although there might be some brilliance to some of his lengthy elaborations about ontology, Gnosticism a...more
Kelly Maybedog
I just could not get into it. It felt just like A Scanner Darkly only not as interesting and characters not as likeable. There's only so much annoying and unlikeable drug addicted characters full of ennui that I can take. I know it's a science fiction classic and with my interest in SF and religion I should love it, but I just couldn't do it.
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime)
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.
Benjamin Donnachie
Valis is a difficult read but I stuck with it as I enjoyed many of Philip K Dick's other books. Sadly, Valis failed to meet my expectations and often felt like disjointed ramblings thrown together. Unless an avid PKD fan, you won't miss anything by skipping this one.
Garrett Cook
I reaccquired VALIS for a dollar in Portland, Maine at a bookstore dedicated to raising money for feral cats. It has launched me on a thorough investigation into the works of Phillip K. Dick that will likely leave me barking mad. And that's what it's for.
I think you should not mix drugs and book writing. Very confusing story, but the idea behind book was a good one.
I have not seen a religious cosmology as convoluted since I read The final volume of Dave Sims' Cerebus megaseries. You're at odds at how to treat this book: as an entertaining, pseudo-religious fictional memoir, or as a bona fide non-fiction Dickesian recollection.

PKD seems to be struggling with a weird kind of doubt, like a self imposed trial of Job, as he experiences these things and finds things happening in the world that validate his findings. To admit this is true is to admit madness, but...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What is the deal with Horselover Fat? 8 51 Jul 20, 2014 03:19PM  
Who knows? 3 23 Jan 05, 2014 03:22PM  
First of a Trilogy?? 14 119 Dec 21, 2013 05:19AM  
Philip K Dick: What order to read? 3 34 Sep 28, 2013 11:02PM  
Philip K Dick: VALIS Group Read (Spoilers) 34 62 Aug 29, 2012 12:52PM  
  • The Complete Roderick
  • Downward to the Earth
  • Dark Benediction
  • Bring the Jubilee
  • What If Our World is Their Heaven?: The Final Conversations
  • Behold the Man
  • Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick
  • Pavane
  • Emphyrio
  • The Survivors of the Chancellor
  • Cosmic Trigger: Die letzten Geheimnisse der Illuminaten oder An den Grenzen des erweiterten Bewusstseins
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Life During Wartime
  • The Child Garden
  • Jem
  • I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick
  • Star Maker
  • The Fifth Head of Cerberus
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. He briefly attended the University of California, but dropped out before completing any classes. 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 Memo...more
More about Philip K. Dick...
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? A Scanner Darkly The Man in the High Castle Ubik Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

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“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” 7112 likes
“When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.” 243 likes
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