Tuesday, December 16, 2008
"Valis" by Philip K. Dick audiobook review
Philip K. Dick
Read by Tom Weiner
Approx. 8 1/2 hours
Audiobook published 2008
Valis is the first of Philip K. Dick's three final novels (the others are Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer) and seem to cover PKD's final days searching for the meaning of life within religion. This book fits not only into the science fiction category, but could also fall easily into the philosophy realm, because the book consists of the main character discussing the origin of God and the purpose of life while suffering through mental illness.
The reader, Tom Wiener, has a very pleasant voice that adds a bit of a feel of authority while reading through the many sections. The book covers times when the main character is locked up in a county mental hospital, writing and quoting from his exegesis (his book on trying to find God), hanging out with his friends and discussing theology and finally meeting what could be the messiah of our time. When Weiner reads the scripture-like quotes from the exegesis they sound like real scripture being read from a pulpit, which definitely makes listening to this book more interesting and easier to absorb the philosophies.
Valis takes place in the 70s in the United States, and may be semi-autobiographical. One hint at the autobiographical feel is that the book is written in both first and third person. In first person the narrator refers to himself as Philip the sci-fi writer and refers back to some of his books. When the narrator shifts to third person he refers to the character Horselover Fat. It is revealed that Horselover Fat is actually part of PKD's schizophrenic split personality and all his friends treat them as 2 different people and hope for him to be cured eventually. Another semi-autobiographical aspect is in the name Horselover Fat. "Horselover" is English for the Greek word philippos (Φίλιππος), meaning "lover of horses" (from philo "brotherly or comradely love" and hippos "horse"); "Fat" is English for the German word "dick".
Valis is about a group of friends' search for God, who turns out to be a virus, a joke, and a mental hologram transmitted from an orbiting satellite. The friends are very reminiscent of the friends in the book "A Scanner Darkly," especially in their very humorous dialogues about God. Basically the friends are all former stoners who have stopped doing dope and now have philosophy as their new drug.
The main character of the novel, Horselover Fat, is thrust into a theological quest when he receives communion in a burst of pink laser light. From the mental ward of a bay area hospital to the ranch of a fraudulent charismatic religious figure/rock musician where they confront the Messiah: a two-year old named Sophia. She confirms their suspicions that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the earth has been guiding their discoveries. who turns out to have a direct com link with God,
Truly, Valis is an eye-opening look at the nature of consciousness and divinity as PKD leads us down the twisted paths of Gnostic belief, mixed with his own bizarre and compelling philosophy. For an exciting sci-fi trip through theology and philosophy with some great humor thrown in pick up Blackstone Audio's recording of Valis by Philip K. Dick.