Philip K. Dick for me is at once one of the most creative science-fiction minds of our times, translating cinematically into such notable movies as Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report, and yet often nearly inaccessible as a writer for his rather schizophrenic style. Of course, when you are dealing with often first-person themes of hallucinations, memory replacements, and drug use, the effect is understandable.

So, although I have read several of his works, I have been hesitant to dive into VALIS until my old friend, pop-culture fascination, peaked my interest. Although I purchased the book a couple years ago, it languished on my "to read" shelf (that I will say has finally been reduced in size due to my Metro commute, thank-you-very-much) until a recently. Akin to how I found Hyperion thanks to a reference in a movie-blog, VALIS has been featured a couple of times in this season of Lost as reading material for the mysterious, ruthless, and ever-intriguing Ben. With the producers' knack for dropping hints about the show on-screen, I figured it was time to dust off the book and see what fiction interests the fictionally diabolical.Here's the Wikipedia description of the novel:
    VALIS is the first roman à clef (a novel describing real-life behind a facade of fiction) science fiction novel. The novel, published in 1981, details the different hallucinations Philip K. Dick experienced in May of 1974. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick's gnostic vision of one aspect of God.
If you think by reading the one-line summary that the book is going to be weird, you are right. What I wasn't prepared for was the remarkably clearly-told story of a man slowly coming to realize that his insanity may just be in fact a rational man in an irrational world. It is trippy, crazy, intelligent, and surprisingly laugh-out-loud funny (when you are dealing with talking to 'god' sometimes the humor writes itself -- I was reminded often of Christopher Moore). Even more so, some of the observations (there is a lengthy appendix of notes) are remarkably fresh, fun, and stimulating -- and this is coming from someone who has read a LOT of religious and mythological history. I must confess I found the end surprisingly moving and disturbing, wishing there was a sequel. (There are two other books in his final 'god' trilogy, but are only related in theme.)

In short, a great 70's counter-culture companion piece to Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.

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