Something tells me this is not the best starting point to enter the Philip K. Dick universe. By that I mean, the written book universe, I am familiar with the film adaptations of his universe. Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly. Hard to find a through-line in those, perhaps because each director had a strong vision of his own?
That was one reason I never picked up a Philip K. Dick Novel, the other was his extreme popularity. Can’t trust an author who is too popular. I was also under the impression that his vision fell more in the fantasy camp than hard-core sci-fi, and I was absolutely sure (based on his popularity) that he could not compare with my all time favorite sci-fi author, Stanislaw Lem. I like as much science and philosophy in my sci-fi as possible, a popular populist fantasier just won’t do. Maybe too, I had always thought of Philip as a hippie for some reason. Not a big fan of new-age fantasy I am.
So why did I pick up this book? I think of myself as open minded, and I need to act on that if I am to continue to do so. Also, I never actually read one of his books so I can’t continue to judge them. I picked it up, but the back of the book was no help at all:
“What is VALIS? […] a beam of pink light begins giving a shizophrenic man named Horselover Fat (who just might also be known as Philip K. Dick) visions of an alternate Earth where the Roman Empire still reigns.”
If that doesn’t sound hippie-dippie enough on it’s own, you can also add historical fiction to the mix? Ordinarily I would say no thanks!, but to uphold my personal creed, I disregarded the back and dove right in.
Mostly I kept reading, because when I started, there was no science fiction to be found. Just a story about drug addiction and a character named Horseloer Fat, which is intriguing in it’s own right. It was well written and the story pulled me in, but where is the sci-fi? This is the famous sci-fi writer? And then it got dense. Really deep (bit new-age-y, but intriguing) sh!t, hard to slog through and make sense of, started assaulting me. And it kept going like that, alternating between a well written story that pulls you in – intertwined with grandiose world cosmological answer to the universe type stuff. Then there was the pesky fact that Horselover Fat and Philip K. Dick might be one and the same, meaning the author is in there, certainly elements were autobiographical. Suddenly it was intriguing, fantastical, and philosophical. And I kept turning the pages. And suddenly it was over.
So all this, is just part one, of a trilogy? Also this is one of his last books? written right before he died? Perhaps they are just rantings of an old man? Also, this dense theologically-bent drug-inspired conspiracy rambling is the stuff super popular science fiction is made of? Ergo, my conclusion at the beginning of this post.
Maybe some of my assumptions re: Philip K. Dick were not that far of, but I won’t pass judgement until I read one of his other novels, and even then—just like my feelings about the book based on reading the description on the back—maybe the assumptions are correct but the conclusions are not.