A chaotic tale of a quite insane man and his deranged, but very entertaining, "theories" of reality, religion and philosophy (or rather pseudo philosoA chaotic tale of a quite insane man and his deranged, but very entertaining, "theories" of reality, religion and philosophy (or rather pseudo philosophy). While this may seem to express a negative sentiment toward the book, I did like it quite a bit, it's just that upon reading it, one has to laugh at all the bizarre thoughts and half-thoughts expressed. If they are taken seriously, only irritation can come of it. It issome extent his own theories.
Be that as it may, the madness is hilarious and the tale very original. Everything from pre-socratic philosophy to religious mysticism, sci-fi technology, conspiracies involving aliens, psychedelics, insanity and history is mixed together in a giant confusing mess that continually evokes loud laughter. The warped mind of the author (or his alias "Horselover Fat") resembles that of a typical conspiracy theorist/schizophrenic in that it jumps from any opportunity of finding a "pattern" or recurring symbol to wild conclusions of the ultimate nature of reality and who's really in control. The aforementioned mix of a wide variety of themes is also typical of this kind of insanity, as can be seen in abundance on the more obscure parts of the internet (check out for example Timecube.com by "Doctor" Gene Ray, "Cubic and Wisest Human") as well as in more mainstream places such as YouTube.
Inserted into the story in most chapters are brief excerpts from the author's grand "philosophical" work on reality and religion. This takes the form of sporadic outbursts of statements, "conclusions" and mantras (all given without proper argumentation) in the middle of the story, all of which (at least I think it's all of them) are collected in an appendix. This reminded me of how Luke Rhinehart (in reality, George Cockroft) inserted excerpts from "The Book if Die" in The Dice Man. Just like Cockroft later actually released these collected in an actual book (which was not really written at the time The Diceman was published), it is my understanding that Dick's mystic/philosophical manifesto is to be released soon and that it will amount to several thousand pages! While that might seem a bit too much to take in, this book certainly caught my interest enough to make me want to read the rest of the trilogy of which VALIS is only part one......more
A very nicely told dystopian tale of an alternate history of America. In this world, costumed vigilantes started appearing in the late 1930s, fightingA very nicely told dystopian tale of an alternate history of America. In this world, costumed vigilantes started appearing in the late 1930s, fighting crime and protecting people. They had no super powers though, they were merely well trained and outfitted with weapons of various sorts. Political forces are a very important part of the story here as some of the "heroes" start working with the government in their foreign conflicts. The most important role in these is played by "Dr. Manhattan", the only super hero in the story to have real powers. And what powers he has! He got them from accidentally being trapped in a nuclear test chamber. The explosion seemingly killed him, but he somehow reassembled his body into a new form. He looks vaguely human (apart from the blue skin) but has godlike powers, being able to directly see the inner structure of matter and look at future and past events as if they were happening right now. His involvement helped America win the Vietnam war and later gives them the upper hand in the cold war.
The story moves between different time periods, from the 30s and the first appearance of masked vigilantes, to the 80s (the present when the book was written) where vigilantes have been outlawed with a few exceptions such as Dr. Manhattan. Focus is not on traditional super hero crime fighting, but instead on political struggles, particularly those concerning issues that were important at the time (such as the cold war, nuclear war, the third world war, in short: war and destruction and the end of the world) as well as personal struggles and developments.
Without getting into the details of all this too much, I'd like to finish rather quickly with an overall judgement. It's an interesting tale with a more realistic version of how the world would react towards super heroes if they did exist than the view seen in most super hero comics. I suspect this take on the issue was also far more original by the time this book was written, which should explain why it seems to have gotten far more praise than I'm prepared to give it. That's not to say I didn't like it, in fact I liked it very much. It's just that it contains too many elements of naive depictions of characters' psychological processes and has a bit of irritating pseudo-intellectual attempts at scientific and philosophical discussion concerning Dr. Manhattan and his powers to see into the future and past. This discussion is mixed with a bit of talk about human nature and the value of life which frankly, doesn't fare much better than the previously mentioned "philosobabble" of time.
These issues does bring the book down from the category of "works of genius" in which many seem to want to put it, and it's possible that I had too high expectations of it. In any case, it certainly is not brilliant, but definitely very good. The book is, in other words, highly recommended, but don't expect a masterpiece....more
This is just a brilliant work! Frank Miller at his best. The tale is one of a dark future where nuclear war looms in the not so distant future and mutThis is just a brilliant work! Frank Miller at his best. The tale is one of a dark future where nuclear war looms in the not so distant future and mutant gangs roam the streets. Batman is retired and so are all the other heroes. Bruce Wayne is an old tired man now and so is police chief Gordon. Events make Wayne put on the costume again and return to his crime fighting ways, an act which upsets Gotham and soon America at large. Two face has been released, seemingly cured but immediately returning to crime, the Joker comes out of a catatonic state upon hearing of Batman's return, and the police, the media, and regular citizens of Gotham have differing views on Batman and the justification of his methods. After a while, it becomes inevitable that the president calls in Clark Kent to try to talk to Bruce...
The whole tale draws you in like barely anything else in the world of comics. Miller is dark but also funny, there's a lot of satire in these pages told mostly in the form of media reports. We get to see shallow news reporters cutting of serious input, pacifist by-the-book liberals going one-on-one with more Batman friendly persons in live tv debates, and street interviews with ordinary people responding to their actions amidst the chaos the arises. When reading this book, one gets the feeling of watching live coverage of real life events as war and chaos erupts on the streets. Nothing is presented in black and white, the standpoint of the writer is never really apparent as you find yourself leaning back and forth between different views on the actions of vigilantes. There are parts which can be read as supporting Batman against the by-the-books cops and pundits as even the new Batman hostile police chief finally that Batman is "too big" upon being asked by subordinates if they should intervene as Batman tries to stop the looting and violence in the streets of Gotham, but the argument put forth earlier by the previous police chief Gordon, one which seemingly finally converted the new chief to this way of seeing things, is not that Batman is necessarily justified in his actions, but rather that his importance is so big that you can not simply claim he is not justified, or at least not that he should be opposed. This does of course constitute a stance, but not one in support of Batman, rather one of acknowledging that the complexity of the situation is such that it's impossible to be completely against Batman even in the light of his obviously illegal methods.
I may be reading too much into all this, but I think Miller is very good here at subtly pointing at the complexities of law vigilantism and the corrupt corporatism which is behind at least some of the people that Superman lets himself be controlled by. There are, in other words, lots of elements of politics and poignant satire of the serious as well as the mundane.
The book comes highly recommended to pretty much everyone whether you are a comic book fan (as I am) or not, and more specifically whether you are a big Batman fan or not (I'm not)....more
Sex, drugs, drugs, sex... more sex and more drugs bad sadly, no rock 'n' roll... Rock 'n' roll probably being the only thing missing, in my opinion, fSex, drugs, drugs, sex... more sex and more drugs bad sadly, no rock 'n' roll... Rock 'n' roll probably being the only thing missing, in my opinion, from the "story". I write "story" in quotes due to the almost complete lack of (or possibly, due to my complete lack of ability to discern anything resembling) a continuous chain of events, one leading to the next.
The most general thing I can say about the "structure" of the text is that it is a long string of bizarre scenes, hallucinations, tales and anecdotes mostly being focused on homoerotic sex (drugs actually take second place, something which I had not expected upon starting this read). The language is pretty straight-forwards and easily understandable. There are no tricky formulations and no cryptic passages. The tiny passages which compromise the bulk of the book are easily understandable in themselves (though they will pretty much constantly make you scratch your head and quite often laugh out loud at the sheer insanity) but it is still an excruciating read since it is nigh impossible to find much of a connection from one passage to the next. The individual pieces are often extremely enjoyable if you, as I am, are a fan of chaos and almost complete lack of structure. If you are the type of person to read a book or watch a movie without having any idea of what the hell is going on with a huge smile of your face, you'll love this.
If on the other hand, you are the type of person who wants to see meaning in a story, who wants to feel that one paragraph follows logically from the previous, who likes texts to be down-to-earth; or, for that matter, someone who takes offense at chapter after chapter describing groups of boys with huge erections, ejaculating over themselves and each other, people rubbing their greasy noses on others' shoes and shitting in shock all over their pants upon being kicked away, and stories about people having asses that start to talk, grow teeth and take over their hosts' bodies; don't even think about reading this......more