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Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,267 ratings  ·  69 reviews
"The only biography I've ever read that's as exciting as a spy novel . . . Phil Dick's life was as weird and mysterious as any of his science fiction books."--Robert Anton Wilson

With thirty-eight books currently in print and seven of his novels and short stories adapted into blockbuster films, Philip K. Dick is recognized worldwide as one of our time's greatest and most infl/>/>
Paperback, 352 pages
Published 2005 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1989)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,267 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  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 “bloke who could re
Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick: A revealing biography of PKD
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Philip K. Dick is certainly one of the most iconic, unusual, and hard-luck SF writers ever to grace the field. His books subvert our everyday reality, question what is human, and explore paranoia and madness, all with a uniquely unadorned and often blackly-humorous style. In classic starving artist fashion, he only gained recognition and cult-status late in life, and much of his fame came afte
Erik Graff
Dec 05, 2009 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
M.L. Rudolph
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 boo
Carla Remy
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 and
Scott Holstad
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 12, 2013 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
Sep 07, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
May 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Not a lot of sunshine in this biography of the science fiction writer. As a child, Dick suffered from a number of things both physical and psychological, including vertigo, obsessions, phobias and difficulties with swallowing. Following the divorce of his parents, Dick lived with his mother, with whom he had a difficult relationship. As an adult, he became addicted to speed, lived in poverty, married five times, and wrote unusual science fiction novels (the Village Voice referred to Dick as "a poor m ...more
Allan Nail
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Fantasy Literature
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
5 stars from Stuart, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE

Disclaimer: just so you know, some of the books we review are received free from publishers

Philip K. Dick is certainly one of the most iconic, unusual, and hard-luck SF writers ever to grace the field. His books subvert our everyday reality, question what is human, and explore paranoia and madness, all with a uniquely unadorned and often blackly-humorous style. In classic starving artist fashion, he only gained recognition and cult-status late in l/>Disclaimer:
Lennox Nicholson
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the finest biographies I have ever read. Impeccable coverage of Dick's extensive works.
Now that Philip K. Dick has become close to a household name since his death in 1982 (due in great part no doubt to movies like Bladerunner, Total Recall and Minority Report being based on his fiction), the tragic tale of his life has likewise become better known. Even casual Dick fans, as I was until recently, know of his twin sister Jane and of his 1974 nervous breakdown; of the poverty and lack of recognition he endured, as well as his reputed discomfort with being a science fiction writer.

Ben Loory
Dec 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
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!
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: venustas, 01
Excellent for the PKD fan, though very sad in parts
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: pkd fans
Lawrence Sutin is a PKD fan (fanatic) and expert who did the research & interviewed the relevant people. If you're a PKD fan you should probably read this.
Michael Perkins
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Lifeless style. Reads like an extended Wikipedia article.
Jasmin B
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Philip K. Dick was no doubt a great man of mystery but also a man of immensely beautiful and of immensely brilliant mind, for he delivered to us so many wonderful and mind-blowing science fiction novels that shall remain with us for many years to come, probably all the way until the end of our life times. I remember reading one of his novels many years ago when I actually started reading science fiction novels for the very first time, and I remember how shocked, how confused, how lost I was when ...more
Rene Bard
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you, Lawrence Sutin, for a phenomenal biography. This book practically read itself to me at osmotic speed, as I was reading it. There are many great reviews on goodreads so I'll keep this short: I'm glad that I waited to read this until after I had read most of PKD's oeuvre. Sutin's success at displaying the linkage between PKD's biography and his stories left me deeply satisfied, but also heartbroken. PKD died relatively young, and he is missed by all of his readers. Thank God he wrote as ...more
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 gothi
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a biography, this book by Lawrence Sutin is superbly written. It's incredibly detailed - the sheer amount of background information alone is truly impressive. Mr. Sutin did his homework to the point of Supreme Geek status. It is as complete as a biography can be; detailing all 53 years of Dick's life and not just on the surface, but on the workings of his mind as well. What I liked best, however, is the absolute lack of sentimentality and effusive praise for his subject matter, as is often th ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 parti
Dec 17, 2007 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
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