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Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,030 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Divine Invasions is the definitive biography of one of America's greatest novelists and science fiction's greatest ambassador to literary audiences. Philip K. Dick loosened the bonds of the genre, ultimately making his reputation as a literary writer who happened to write speculative fiction, and profoundly influencing such writers as Pynchon, Delillo, David Foster Wallace ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 9th 2006 by Gollancz (first published 1989)
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Aug 29, 2015 Lyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Philip K. Dick was a rock star.

He was not Eric Clapton, or Paul McCartney, or Mick Jagger anymore than he was Robert A. Heinlein or Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke – but he was the legendary underground icon whom they all respected and feared.

Most any article or story about Rock legends will invariably come around to the early personalities that they worshipped on their way up. In clipped but adoring reminiscences in Liverpool English, the listener will be regaled in awed hyperbole about this “
Erik Graff
Oct 03, 2014 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dick fans
Recommended to Erik by: Michael Miley
Shelves: biography
It has been customary for my old roommate and I to visit one another at least annually. I usually go in the fall, visiting the Bay area in order to delay the onset of winter by a couple of weeks. I travel light--just a knapsack and a satchel--because I know that my host will have many interesting books to read available during my stay.

In 1994 Michael was living in the Haight, in a avocado-green apartment building next to the more impressive mansion occasionally inhabited by the actor Danny Glove
M.L. Rudolph
Jun 05, 2012 M.L. Rudolph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1989. There are several ways to go about your discovery of PKD. You can read his best novels; you can read his best stories; you can scrounge around garage sales and on-line for old magazines with his earliest works; you can read essays and interviews by and about him in those old mags, and increasingly in the "mainstream" periodicals as his work caught on and the "mainstream" caught up; you can rent the movies made from his novels and stories then you can read the underlying works and compare t ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Answer the following True or False questions about the life of Philip K. Dick.

1) PKD's twin sister, Jane, died in the first months of her life from malnutrition and poor home care.

2) Later in life, PDK liked to imagine that his sister was living and a lesbian.

3) In high school, PKD's agoraphobia was at times so bad that he could not go to public events such as concerts. Later he was comfortable in only one Chinese restaurant that had very high sides to its booths.

4) PKS was on amphetamines from
Carla Remy
Apr 01, 2010 Carla Remy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My love for P K D grew in a bed of mystery. I don't understand his choices as a writer and this thrills me. Maybe it would be conceited to claim to understand most writer's choices, but usually, even if I'm in awe of them, at the end I can understand why they did what they did. But with Dick, it isn't that easy. It isn't easy to define him or why he's so powerful a storyteller, when his stories elude simple definition. So I fall back on the mysterious, the idiosynchratic, the inscrutable. His wo ...more
May 27, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable and quick flowing biography, well-suited for those readers of Philip K. Dick looking to learn more about his life and perhaps structure their reading of his books in a more purposeful/enjoyable fashion.

Personally, I know that I will continue reading his earlier and mid-period SF (probably up to UBIK [published 1969]) and really immerse myself in it before I move onto any of the other, later stuff, and probably never really dip into the non-SF works - but perhaps some of his essays
Scott Holstad
Jun 06, 2014 Scott Holstad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent biography of Philip K Dick to read. It was thoroughly researched and well written. It started from his birth to his upbringing to the beginning of his writing career, through the career, his relationships with his five different wives and with his three children, his bizarre experiences, and his death in 1982. It was a very comprehensive book. And it was fascinating. I never knew -- and still don't know how or why -- that Dick was SO very obsessed with his twin sister, who ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
DIVINE INVASIONS is a readable, revealing biography of the 20th-century sci-fi titan into whose mind we all most wish we could climb. Philip K. Dick’s brilliance is never in doubt, even as author Lawrence Sutin guides us through the labyrinthine emotional upheavals and relationships of his life. And boy, are they fraught, particularly when it comes to women. From his love/hate vacillations with his mother to a slew of girlfriends to all five of his wives, PKD’s life reads at times like a hormone ...more
Jul 24, 2013 Williwaw rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm unclear whether my two stars are really an evaluation of the book or an evaluation of Philip K. Dick's life. Dick had many bad habits: he ingested too many drugs; got involved with too many women (often they were half his age); over-analyzed his spiritual visions; ate bad food; didn't exercise; had several children that he more or less abandoned; wrote whole novels in two or three week stints, after which he'd collapse for several days.

Lawrence Sutin probably deserves five stars for all the
Ben Loory
4 stars for biographical content, not for enjoyability. pkd has always been my favorite author, now i can't help but think of him as kind of a dick. which is kind of annoying. but whatever.

i don't know why i read this book anyway. learning facts about artists' lives is to my mind never a good thing. colors everything, adds an extraneous real-world slant to the works, which should stand on their own. my bad.

the big fault of this book, as far as i'm concerned, is this: pkd was manic-depressive and
Joshua Buhs
Perhaps too sympathetic.

Lawrence Sutin’s biography of Philip K. Dick is good—solid research and writing. I especially like the emo chapter titles. (“Phil’s Marriage Mimics ‘Reality by Coming Apart at the Seams, A Vision in the Sky Inspires the Most Brilliant Invasion of Earth Story Ever Written, and, Country Squire No More, Phil Moves to East (Gak!) Oakland, Gets Weird, and Finds a New Wife (1963-1965).”)

The story starts with Dick’s family life, which was especially gothic: his twin sister died
Oct 26, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This biography is very interesting. I knew very little about Dick's life beforehand. The writing's pretty uneven, though, and I'm not the sort of person who appreciates dewy-eyed enthusiasm for the era of recreational drug use (and subsequent self-destruction of the users).

I may need to make a pilgrimage to Dick's grave soon. Since I live in Colorado, I feel obligated!
Bruno Alves
Apr 27, 2014 Bruno Alves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, non-fiction
(Acessível em

Imagino que, na confecção de uma biografia, a questão da verificabilidade das informações sempre pose uma questão fundamental para o autor. Quando apostamos em traçar uma linha de vida a partir de depoimentos, correspondências e confissões, temos que acreditar que o que está sendo dito (ainda mais quando se referem a causos de uum passado distante) são de fato os acontecimentos que ocorreram. E aí temos outro problema fundamental: a memória,
Sep 07, 2011 Hadrian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A mildly informative biography on PKD that focuses a bit too much on his marriages and a bit too little on his fiction and a literary analysis thereof.
Keith Peck
Sep 06, 2015 Keith Peck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far this is the only bio I've read of PKD. Prior to reading this title, all I knew of PKD's life came in snippets: some biographies posted to YouTube, interviews, and the Exegesis. This book fills in those gaps and seems a comprehensive account of PKD's life. Though the overall tone is respectful, it doesn't shy away from recounting unpleasantness. In particular, the author quotes fascinating passages from the diary of a companion of PKD's mother, written during the turbulent late-60s/early-7 ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first major biography of Philip K. Dick. If I'm not mistaken, it was first published in 1989, and I read for the first time in about 1990. While I think Sutin is a fan, he hasn't written a hagiography. Sutin often points out Dick's contradictory, revisionist or confused accounts of events and relationships. Dick was a complicated guy, and not above giving a distorted picture of his own actions.

In re-reading, I was favorably impressed by the author's careful reading of Dick's works. He has f
Jul 11, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over the past two years or so, I’ve read the biographies of four writers- Kurt Vonnegut, Jerzy Kosinski, David Foster Wallace and Philip K. Dick- and have grouped them together in my mind, probably for no particular reason. Out of the four, or at least the depictions of them I found in the biographies, I liked Vonnegut the least as a person; Kosinski’s life was the most depraved; and life was probably the most difficult for Philip K. Dick (although Wallace was a close second in this category). D ...more
Allan Nail
Oct 04, 2013 Allan Nail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read literary biographies that often. In fact, I'm hard pressed to remember the name of a single one I've read. Part of the reason is I really hate the author-worship that surrounds so much of literature these days. The writer becomes so big, I can't help but think of them even when I'm reading their stuff. This is largely why I've never read David Foster Wallace, and likely never will.

But Philip K. Dick is different and I'm willing to make an exception here. Oh, I'll make other excepti
Jan 23, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is from the wiki article on Lacan, which I was attracted to because of the discussion with the double and the other within PKD:
"The big Other designates radical alterity, an other-ness which transcends the illusory otherness of the imaginary because it cannot be assimilated through identification. Lacan equates this radical alterity with language and the law, and hence the big Other is inscribed in the order of the symbolic. Indeed, the big Other is the symbolic insofar as it is particulari
Apr 08, 2016 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, period.
Imagine the difficulty author Sutin must have had.

He had to summarize all of Dick's major works, which he did astonishingly well. Then he had to describe Dick's writing techniques, which he showed us better than anyone has ever done before or since. He also had to re-assemble the guy's whole life from interviews with drug-addled near-transient hobos, ex-wives who hated him....etc. And finally he had to describe the strange and singular phenomenon of Dick's professed experience of living two com
Roderick Mcgillis
Aug 08, 2015 Roderick Mcgillis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading this biography of Philip K. Dick, I kept thinking of William Blake. Both Blake and Dick experienced the world in vision, both forged a system rather than find themselves imprisoned by another, and both found themselves charged with lunacy. This portrait of Dick is compelling and intriguing. He is an original.
Jan 16, 2015 Piotr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book about one of my favorite writers. It is full of scenes from life of Dick. The author doesn't asses but concentrate on facts. The book gives you a knowledge how crazy and brilliant Dick was.
Cameron Kunzelman
This book took me a very long time to read. It is a very specific and fine-grained historical account of PKD's life. I liked it.
May 21, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So this is really the best Philip K Dick novel... it's all in there.
Dec 17, 2007 Rupert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tiny princess anne
Really well written biography of a supremely interesting life. Mind blowing to read the poetry dealing with spirituality that Dick wrote when he was only five and six. Makes me wonder what he would have created in this era of more open ended non genre writing. In the fifties he had his "mainstream" novels versus his "science fiction" novels, but if he could have felt free to blend more the results would've been interesting. Not that he didn't already leave us one of the richest bodies of contemp ...more
I usually judge the authenticity of a biography on how willingly the author shows the subject's warts, this book has a whole lot of warts. And it really makes me wonder if PKD is someone I would like in person.
But, still it was a fascinating life, how much of this man's life and work was determined my his relationship with his mother is a little disturbing. Can an artist ever be free from their upbringing?
Sep 12, 2013 5 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
not a pretty picture. be prepared to appreciate dude's genius despite his many shortcomings.

many spoilers—read PKD's best works first (ie Man In The High Castle, Ubik, A Scanner Darkly, Martian Time-Slip, The Zap Gun, Counter-Clock World, Valis and maybe even some others...)

Also, and in much the same way as PKD's fictions:
This book may have reality-altering properties.
philip k dick is a writer that has spoken to me probably more than any other, so this was an essential read for me to both gain a deeper understanding and de-mythologize the man himself. he was often not a good person, especially towards women, but I'm grateful his writing gives us a picture of his extraordinary life and investigations into the nature of reality.
Jan 24, 2012 Phillip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philip-k-dick
I highly recommend this biography of Philip K. Dick that leads to and focuses upon PKD's mystical experience in 2-3-74. The author presents things in Dick's life that might have contributed to the 2-3-74 event. He posses possibilities of what it could have been or meant. He also describes Dick's literary output and evaluates the value of each piece.
Dec 19, 2010 Alissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An honest and gripping portrait of the greatest American science fiction writer and imagination of all time. I was particularly please by how Sutin dispelled myths that PKD was simply "insane" and "paranoid." He looked deeper into PKD's spiritual writings and philosophy, was never dismissive, but also did not sugar-coat anything.
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