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VALIS

(VALIS Trilogy #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  24,034 ratings  ·  1,535 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)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  24,034 ratings  ·  1,535 reviews


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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
...more
Lyn
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
...more
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.

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 reincarnated in a two year old child? Was earth once
...more
Bradley
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
...more
RandomAnthony
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
...more
Warwick


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
...more
Jaidee
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
...more
Stuart
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
...more
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
...more
Manuel Antão
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1994
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


Access Denied Prototype: “Valis” by Philip K. Dick



Is Phil Dick talking about regressing back to former time periods, or the much more radical notion of previous structures existing in the sub-strata of reality and emanating forward, like the notion of ancient Rome, a proto-fascist state, The Black Iron Prison of VALIS, falling forward through history. I think for Phil Dick - sensing these things - was no mere matter of psychological th
...more
Greg
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
...more
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
...more
Apatt
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
...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
...more
nostalgebraist
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
Brett C
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
...more
Tao
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
...more
Lena
9DD7CDB2-C110-49F4-AE21-72137DEE704C.jpg

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.
...more
Sean Blake
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, fiction
"The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three dimensional and not in space or time." Philip K. Dick, Valis
Sara
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
Wanda
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
...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
Nate D
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
...more
Maureen
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
Amber
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
Malum
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
...more
Melki
Jun 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion, offal
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
Terence Blake
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
VALIS: ESTRANGEMENT vs ALIENATION

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
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
Matthew
Sep 23, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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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

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