Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “VALIS” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(VALIS Trilogy #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  27,833 ratings  ·  1,819 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 February 1981)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about VALIS, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Wiley Don't listen to Tom, he obviously doesn't get it. It gives a lot of hope in comparison to other novels, especially if you're familiar with the teachin…moreDon't listen to Tom, he obviously doesn't get it. It gives a lot of hope in comparison to other novels, especially if you're familiar with the teaching of the Gnostic Christians. The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer aren't true sequels to Valis, but they do stick to the same overall subject matter of it, the latter of those two is probably a bit underrated as most people simply can't understand PKD and what he's trying to convey in his most of his stories. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  27,833 ratings  ·  1,819 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of VALIS
Glenn Russell
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“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
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Imagine taking a walk in a bad neighborhood and sitting on a sidewalk bench.

Beside 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 whi
Will Byrnes
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was prompted to read this after it popped up in a season 4 episode of LOST.

Philip K. Dick - image from FutureConscience

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 reincarn
Update 5/13/17:
I had to dive back into VALIS because certain tales continue to resonate with me... and this one is still one of the very most important.

Who knows? Maybe I am just a crazy as PKD because I'm obsessed with the perception of reality, holographic universes, the edict of "As Above, So Below", and the nature of consciousness.

Or maybe I'm just a naturally curious person that happens to be heavily stimulated by PKD's intelligence, his humility, his sincerity, and his travails.

Any way t
Jun 29, 2012 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

Philip K Dick's life is divided into two parts by the crippling, yet weirdly productive, breakdown he underwent in February and March of 1974. He was in a bad way at the time. His wife and child had left him, he was strung-out and exhausted, and coming off pain medication from a wisdom tooth extraction. In this delicate state, he opened the door to a delivery girl who was wearing a gold pendant of the Christian ichthys symbol; as it caught the sun, Dick experienced a beam of pink light shooting
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 "time I will not get back but what is time anyway" stars !!

Fourth Most Fun Review Written in 2019 Award

Well this was quite the experience....

Was this

1. self-indulgent onanism
2. a search for meaning in the throes of micropsychosis
3. a genius exploration of technology within the realms of christian mysticism
4. self-indulgent onanism
5. an emotionally and spiritually empty book with some intellectual vigor
6. a roundtable discussion with Phillip K Dick, Paulo Coelho, David Mitchell and U
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
Brett C
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philip-k-dick
This was not exactly a tough read but required focus. There isn't much of a plot but it seems to be another semi-autobiobraphical account of PKD, similar to 'A Scanner Darkly'. This story is loaded with religious, spiritual, gnosticism, and other bizarre revelations. The overlying issue of mental illness is reflected in the main character and his cognitive processing. At points I was asking myself "Where is this going?" and then other point were clear and precise.

I read this very quickly and I
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
VALIS: Vast Active Living Intelligence System

Mind-bending? Oh yeah. Out there? Way out. But does it make you think about what you've read? You bet.

Horselover Fat (this really is the character's name) is taken to the psychiatric hospital after failing to correctly commit suicide. Fat has screwed up a lot to this point in life, or so it is described. Those psychedelic drugs of the 60’s didn’t help. His reasoning for attempting to off himself? Failing to keep a friend from doing the same. PS. His w
mark monday
 photo divided man 1_zpsfjiqpg1l.png

I/he looked in the mirror to find the face of God. We are all created in God's image, or so we've been taught, I/he thought. But I/he saw no God there; instead there was fallibility, weakness, hypocrisy, despair, and longing. A desire and a need to fool oneself, to compartmentalize so that one part can hide from the other. Where is this so-called God, I/he thought. Perhaps God is disguised somehow, in the background... or camouflaged in the foreground, a Zebra hidden in plain sight.

I/he look
Susan Budd
Long ago I formulated a theory I call “Bibliophilic Serendipity.” Certain books come to me at the right time. If they’re read too soon, when I don’t need them yet, they don’t have any effect on me. But once in a while they come at the right time.

Although I read science fiction in my teens, I had largely given it up by the time I went to college to study philosophy. I only returned to science fiction a few years ago. I discovered Philip K. Dick in 2017. I read The Cosmic Puppets and I was instan
Apr 23, 2007 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
Nov 24, 2011 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
J. Kent Messum
Hailed as a existential masterpiece by some, or panned as a taxing testament of non-stop drivel by others, VALIS is one of Phillip K. Dick's most renowned works, and one that mirrors the author's life experience rather closely. There are many aspects of this book worthy of five stars. Conversely, there are other parts that hover around the one or two star mark. So on average, VALIS is getting three stars; which deserves more explanation.

VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) is a specula
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“People suffering nervous breakdowns often do a lot of research, to find explanations for what they are undergoing.”

“The mentally disturbed do not employ the Principle of Scientific Parsimony: the most simple theory to explain a given set of facts.”

“‘The mustard seed,’ I said. ‘That grows into a tree so large that birds can roost in it.’”

“You hear the sound of a beer can so automatically you see a beer can.”

“I don’t know what to think. Maybe I am not require to think anything, or to have faith
Valis is a difficult and uncomfortable book to read. It is an intimate description of what might be a life-altering religious experience, which shifts the very notion of reality for the protagonist. Or it might all be sheer insanity brought on by grief, narcotics, and several suicide attempts. PKD tried to filter his experience through his alter ego, Horselover Fat, who tries to make sense of everything through an exegesis he writes, which corresponds with the ideas of Gnostic Christianity and o ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
It's almost unfortunate that Valis is so popular. Many people will be curious about Dick's writing, find out that this is one of his best books, read a little bit of it, and then throw it down and never read another Dick book. This very scenario almost happened to me. I read (and loved) Voices from the Street, but stayed far away from Dick's sci-fi for a long time after putting Valis down in confusion.

Trying to read this book as your first (or even second) Dick book is like skipping right to th

So said the Lord.

Like with A Scanner Darkly I just sat back and let the crazy flow through me.

Unlike A Scanner Darkly there was no epic emotional payoff at the end.

The ending was abrupt and the afterward was just more crazy. Hell, it sounded like it wasn’t even PKD that wrote it.

This was all food for thought and food for a straight jacket.

The Empire Never Ended.
Sean Wilson
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, philosophy
"The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three dimensional and not in space or time." Philip K. Dick, Valis ...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
Jul 17, 2011 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
Religion is a form of schizophrenia.

Consider: an attempt to make absolute sense of the world, fitting its endless random details into a coherent overall pattern. Which am I describing? It's no surprise that religious delusion figures so prominently on psychiatric wards -- they're categorically made for eachother. Beside the psychiatric ward in this novel, see also Anne Quin's The Unmapped Country, which I finished immediately before this, or pretty much any other example.

As a novel, this fits r
Jun 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: offal, religion
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
(Original review date: 29 April 2009)

One of the tasks of being human is to find a satisfactory answer to why we live in such an ostensibly cold and uncaring universe. Horrible things happen for no reason. Goodness is often rewarded with suffering, cruelty with success. Tragedy can strike at any time and there is nothing we can do about it. And even if we find an acceptable explanation for this chaos - through science or philosophy or religion - we then are tasked with trying to reconcile ourselv
Wanda Pedersen
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
Angie Dutton
Jun 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I made a promise to myself not to read two Dick books in a row, simply because I'd end up reading nothing but Dick. But this is definitely worth reading straight after Radio Free... even if it repeats the same information it does so in a way that actually expands the concepts further. ...more
Pam Baddeley
This book defies description. In fictional form, it is the writer's own experience following a strange event in 1974 in which he opened the door to a young woman delivering something and a flash from jewellery she was wearing was perceived by him as a pink laser beam delivering an epiphany straight into his brain. He became convinced that the universe was sentient, was split into ying/yang beings, that all life was really encoded information, that history since Roman times was illusory and there ...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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Book has blurb in wrong language 2 300 Jun 08, 2020 02:31PM  
The Name of the Group in VALIS? 1 5 Apr 18, 2019 02:25PM  
Science Fiction A...: * #1 Valis-- 26 34 Aug 02, 2018 05:25AM  
Philip K Dick: VALIS Group Read (Spoilers) 38 122 Jul 25, 2018 08:24PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Lazarus Men
  • The Pandarus File
  • The Eden Paradox
  • Time Chain
  • Matching Configurations (Quantum Roots, #3)
  • Prometheus Rising
  • Stand on Zanzibar
  • Down to Earth (Cosmic Trigger #2)
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld, #1)
  • Cosmic Trigger: Die letzten Geheimnisse der Illuminaten oder An den Grenzen des erweiterten Bewusstseins
  • Quantum Psychology: How Brain Software Programs You & Your World
  • Cordelia's Honor (Vorkosigan Omnibus, #1)
  • Downbelow Station (The Company Wars, #1)
  • Masks of the Illuminati
  • The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, #3)
  • Roadside Picnic
  • Nightfall
  • Idoru (Bridge #2)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Other books in the series

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

Related Articles

Alternate history is one of the most reliably interesting subgenres in the book game. As a kind of subset of speculative fiction, alternate...
159 likes · 20 comments
“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” 8963 likes
“When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.” 491 likes
More quotes…