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Valis (VALIS Trilogy #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  15,127 ratings  ·  860 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
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Published August 3rd 2004 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1981)
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Glenn Russell

“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
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
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
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
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
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
Sean Wilson
"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
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
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
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
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

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-
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Hertzan Chimera
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
Josh Marcus
In his later years, Philip K Dick went a little crazy. Believing he had been contacted by God or some other intelligent system, he became a bit of a conspiracy theorist (maybe even on the level of those who think Dan Brown writes about history).
VALIS reads as a detailed account of madness. The first half is somewhat autobiography; the second - making up the major plot points - based on those very "real" psychic experiences. If you're a fan of PKD, you'll recognise many of his regular themes form
Sentimental Surrealist
One-third hilariously paranoid anti-Nixon raving (Ferris F. Freemont... 666... NIXON IS SATAN!), one-third fascinating theological discourse that'll bring you up to speed on gnosticism in a few hundred pages, and one-third astoundingly clever metafiction. The fact that there are people out there who don't love this book fucking astounds me.
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.
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.
"When we love others unconditionally without any expectation, we become Gods"

We ourselves are Gods, PKD put forward in his way: drugs , schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences.

“...with goods, life and death – protection and destructions – are one. This secret partnership exist outside of time and space”

Shiva ---> Buddha ---> Sankara ---> Christ ---> PKD goes along with his protagonist “Horselover Fat”.

What sort of a name is this, Horselover Fat?

PKD is himself the narrator of
Samantha Brockfield
Guess you could say I'm a Dick-head
Sebastian Melmoth
Valis is a strange book to reveiw.

I hated the beginning because none of it really made sense to me. Now, mind you, I'm the type of person who actively seeks out things written by mentally-ill people so it wasn't as if it was "too schizo" for me or anything. VALIS, like so many of PKD's novels, merely exhibited a complicated but viscerally fascinating plot told in his characteristically pulpy and scattered style.

About halfway through, VALIS turns on a dime and becomes incredible. It's fascinating
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
Ugh. This one just rubbed me the wrong way from start to finish.

Most of all I thought the plot devices were too cheap. It's like PKD just wanted an excuse to write his crazed musings and this was what he came up with. Unfortunately, the musings weren't enough to entertain or enlighten me.

Examples would be any conversation with another person about the exegesis stuff. I was really annoyed with the doctor at the mental hospital who was able to talk to Horselover Fat about God. I know VALIS might h
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
First of a Trilogy?? 15 134 Dec 15, 2014 07:23AM  
What is the deal with Horselover Fat? 8 82 Jul 20, 2014 03:19PM  
Who knows? 3 29 Jan 05, 2014 03:22PM  
Philip K Dick: What order to read? 3 44 Sep 28, 2013 11:02PM  
Philip K Dick: VALIS Group Read (Spoilers) 34 70 Aug 29, 2012 12:52PM  
  • Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick
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  • Downward to the Earth
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  • The Child Garden
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Pavane
  • Dark Benediction
  • Emphyrio
  • Bring the Jubilee
  • The Centauri Device
  • 334
  • Jem
  • The Stone Leopard
  • The Affirmation
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
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.” 7597 likes
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