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on 8 September 2014
The biographical section of this book is interesting and includes some snippets of information I could not recall reading elsewhere. However, I have some concerns about accuracy. There is some ambiguity regarding dates (1952 and 1953 appear interchangeable at one point). He also misnames the Scott Meredith Agency on at least one occasion. And he can also lack clarity at times. At one point he discusses Dick’s love life during his last few years and appears somewhat confused as to the names and circumstances of those involved. A more rigorous editor would no doubt have picked up on these points. But then the book wanders into more contentious realms. In the final sections Peake postulates various explanations for the anomalies in Dick’s life. As something of a sceptic I found some of his musings regarding Dick’s possible precognitive abilities extremely tenuous. Dick was a notorious self-mythologiser and much of his own anecdotal evidence is unreliable to say the least. Peake appears keen to stretch what I suspect is nothing more than coincidence, faulty memory, and self-deception into something mysterious and otherworldly. In particular, the theories regarding the properties of time and how they might explain Dick’s supposed abilities are fascinating but highly speculative. Peake also discusses the possibility that Dick was an alien abductee; another possibility that is diverting but fanciful (I say this as a firm believer in a widely populated, but impossibly large, universe). The sections dealing with possible neurological and psychological explanations are less contentious and perhaps provide a more elegant interpretation of what Dick experienced. Peake, however, favours his more exotic analyses. Personally I would have preferred a more balanced approach to the study of this apocryphal aspect of Dick’s life but at least Peake’s more colourful theories are never dull. In conclusion, this is a book that is by turns fascinating and frustrating, but is definitely worth a read for all Dick aficionados.

3.5/5
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on 5 September 2014
Brilliant book. Having only seen a documentary on Philip K Dick before reading this I feel that I know a lot more now having read this. It references all the other biographies and uses so many accounts of the key protagonists in his life that I can't help but think this is a pretty fair account.

The only downsides are that there may be too much of the author in this biography and in particular at the very beginning the author claims that Philip K Dick pioneered a style of writing that has the narrative jump from one characters perspective to another’s without announcing it to the reader. This of course is just the modernist style that Joyce and Woolf had actually pioneered previously. Philip K Dick pioneered so many ideas (and may well still be ahead of the times) that there is no need to resort to unsubstantiated claims.

If you like Philip K Dick, it's well worth a read. If you have read other biographies on him, this might well be a good way to find out where the truth might stand by comparing them. I intend to read other biographies for this very reason. All in all a fantastic read and great insight into the crazy world of Philip K Dick!
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on 23 December 2013
An interesting book about a fascinating subject. Fans of PKD and/or Peake need not hesitate. It is easy, however, to be irritated with this author - with all the information easily available, why can't he even be bothered to get famous people's names right? Anybody heard of bandleader Glen Miller? Or rock singer Neal Young? Maybe they are relatives of famous psychologist Karl Jung, from Peake's first book? Dick's classic novel Now Wait for Last Year is here constantly (banally) referred to as Now Wait for Next Year, even in the notes section and index.

Peake is equally casual with dates - a major problem when the writing time of any Dick novel is cited as evidence of the author's precognitive abilities. The first two thirds of the book are a straightforward biography of PKD, rather inferior to Sutin's Divine Invasions, though with interesting details. Often, however, one wonders why Peake has selected these particular details above others, as little is made of them. Neither does Peake exhibit a profound understanding of Dick's literary qualities, indeed his acquaintance with this author seems to be of a fairly recent date.

While the general scholarship fails to impress, the book scores in its final third, where Dick's ideas, especially centered around his famous VALIS experience, are seen in relation to newer mind/brain research, neuroscience and personality models. This makes for fascinating reading, as do the extracts from Dick's letters and his monumental Exegesis.

An entertaining read. 4 stars, with reservations.
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on 28 May 2016
Not usually one for autobiographies or biographies...the latter in particular as they're usually written by sycophants or people who for one reason or another wish to perpetuate myths. However this book is objective and balanced and has some fascinating insights into who the man is (or what his make up may well have been) behind the myth. I have found it particularly insightful into the relation between the author, his characters and their real life counter parts, both real and perceived... This may seem like a contradiction in terms, but who's to know?
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on 30 January 2014
This is a brilliantly researched account of the life and work of a truly intriguing person. May leave more questions unanswered but fascinating.
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on 1 January 2016
A tour de force of PK Dick's life I read this book in a single sitting. The cover is excellent and along with other books written by Dick or about him this one now proudly sits.
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on 20 October 2013
A stunning read which genuinely adds to our understanding of Phil. New light is shed on many key events in Phil's life (including the famous Pink Beam) and Tony skillfully negotiates Phil's penchant for 'elaboration' in order that we might stay true to the facts.

This book is in two main sections - the first gives us the life of Philip K Dick from cradle to grave and the second analyses what we might make of Phil's ideas and experiences. Tony Peake is ideally placed to explore and offer such interpretations as he has been (for a long while now) digging in areas which have now 'joined up' with Phil's many excavations. Tony has the advantage of all of the scientific breakthroughs which have taken place since Phil's death in 1982 (not to mention all the new publications which share new research). He puts these to good use - shedding new light old currencies.

The implications of this book are as far reaching as VALIS precisely because they take VALIS seriously.

The biography section is skillfully written, taking us through Phil's life. One feels his hurts when life is difficult - and one sympathizes with others whom HE obviously hurts. This is a real life with all of its faults and foibles. The story of a brilliant and gifted man struggling to earn a living and sometimes creating his own relationship problems.

A GREAT book about a complex, gifted, demanding, charming, brilliant, duplicitous, creative, loving, hurtful, highly intelligent man who happened to write fiction which playfully explored questions of the very highest order. PKD reached well past his own century. This 'biography' shows the man in all his complexity.

A must have for any serious PKD fan.
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on 19 November 2013
A concise, well-researched biography that attempts to understand what exactly happened to Philip K. Dick in 1974. I thought this particular book had a much more legitimate feel than some other PKD biographies I've read - the research was tighter, less biased and not so fabricated to fit the mystique of the man (there's already enough mystery with the hard facts!). And regarding his more 'mystical' experiences, this had sober, believable and authoritative 'Esoteric' and 'Neurological' theories. The author writes grippingly on a subject he's obviously passionate about.

As a huge PKD fan I did learn some particularities that I wasn't aware of previously.
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on 29 October 2014
Best Phillip K Dick book that I have ever read (yet!)
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Interesting and highly readable.
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