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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 28 August 2011
I read this book in Greece by the beach and spent two days wasting the holiday just sitting in a camping chair with my eyes wide open unable to put it down and finding it difficult to make normal conversation. Things very rarely have that kind of effect on me, thankfully.

This book is the first in a trilogy, and although it does strange things to your thought processes, it's a lot more coherent than the other two. It throws you right into the middle of PKD's thoughts on madness and religion and philosophy and it's an utterly brilliant exploration of them, which I highly reccomend if you have a couple of days to spend thinking pretty weird thoughts.
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on 26 November 1998
Possibly the most complex of Dick's works it ranks, along with A Scanner Darkly, as his greatest achievement, blurring the boundaries between psychology, literature and science fiction.
After a series of mental traumas and breakdowns Horselover Fat (Dick himself)discovers a cipher hidden in the most banal representations of reality that unlocks the secrets to the universe. Completely confused Fat stumbles from revelation to realisation, constructing complex cosmologies on the way and dicovering the true purpose of the universe and the reasons for all the mistakes.
Along the way he utterly confounds therapists, friends, his own paranoia and the reader, eventaully stumbling on the secret purpose of Valis, the divine operator.
This is a classic rendering of the psychotic mind, the incredible truths it can uncover and the complete confusion and disorientation it suffers along the way.
If you like Dick read this book, it reveals him as fragile, vulnerable and fascinating.
And if you're interested in asking questions about anything, read this book - it won't answer any of them, but it sure as hell will put a different slant on the way you ask them.
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2002
You'll be able to tell from the other reviews here that this novel is one of those that people will either love or hate. I can appreciate and understand that. It is one of those books. Having said that, I think that if it's read with the reader forewarned that this is not a conventional sci-fi novel, then there is a greater chance of enjoyment.
I read this many years ago having borrowed the entire Valis trilogy from a friend thinking - "Philip K. Dick, yeah, he writes science fiction, therefore this must be science fiction". It is, no doubt about it, but it's quite unlike any other sci-fi I've read. The first time I read this, it was an effort and for the most part I didn't enjoy it much. I didn't really think that it was sci-fi then, and felt cheated.
Then I got to the last few chapters and it all began to gell for me. The exegesis which is liberally littered throughout the main body of the novel was re-printed at the end, and it all made sense to me there, when it hadn't in the piecemeal form.
Subsequently reading about PKD and the problems he faced from 1974 onwards just makes this book even more special. Once you realise that it's semi-autobiographical it almost becomes something different. This actually prompted me to read Valis again, and this time it completely blew me away.
I've read it again since that, and I think it was the most enjoyable yet. The only problem(??) then was having to continue on to read the Divine Invasion and the Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which complete the trilogy.
It's not a good place to start if you've not read PKD before, but it is one of his best (IMO). His dark wit shines through at times, and so do the moments of dark depression. It comes across to me as a work of love, and also a catharsis. Valis was certainly something that obsessed PKD for many years. I understand why, I almost find myself looking for signs of Valis sometimes, especially after a particularly unlikely coincidence or synchronous event.
All that said I'd just like to re-iterate that this is not a conventional sci-fi novel. It can be read on many different levels, but be prepared to jump into the deep end of the philosophical pool. Otherwise, stay down the shallow end and read Harry Potter or Dr. Who novels instead.
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on 24 September 2010
I think one has to be a fan and have some knowledge of Philip K. Dick to really enjoy this book. It is a highly autobiographical work and as such, is incredibly personal. Considering the subject matter; a man, himself actually, losing the people he loves and then losing his mind, how can one not be moved? And it is written so very tenderly and sincerely.

This isn't sci-fi. This is a book by an author who's other works are classed as sci-fi because he himself is lost in a world of hallucianation and alternative realities, who's unknowing drug abuse(see 'a scanner darkly') has left him able only to see the world and its people as few others can, and consequently, who's books are set in the future where his present reality and other imaginings can be credibly realised and manifested.

I love this book, largely because I love Philip K.Dick. I don't know how anybody with a soul can fail to think that he is just an excellent human being.

O.
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on 30 July 2015
What can you say about VALIS? It is a personal journey of a very different person based on childhood experiences, a possible 'walk in' or previous life and drug taking. Horse Lover Fat is the alter ego of PKD, so to have them viewed separately is interesting in itself. If there is a message to the book it is that the third eye people (stay with me now) are packing up and going home. This for those who do not study chakras is the third eye people or as there are some misunderstandings it is those according to PKD who have come from Sirus. Why? Well it is because Jesus is coming back so the world no longer need there control / input.

As PKD would say 'the empire never ended' but its time is nigh!
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on 14 April 2011
Always being a SF fan, i moved on to the Masterworks collection to broaden my reading horizon. For some reason Philip K Dick was someone i never got around to. Wow! This makes you rethink your life, your beliefs and your sanity. I struggled at first, and re-read chapters and loved it. Not something i recommend for the younger reader, and as you question your life, this is the time to read it.
I am working my way through the collection and already it has changed my tastes and some of them have made a large impression on me, not the least being this book.
Spaced out man that he was, he new how to write a book that captured all of your questions, that you never had chance to ask anyone!
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It is wonderful to have another PK Dick reissue, especially by SF Masterworks- who have produced a lovely selection (with great covers)...I wasn't THAT much of an SF fan- more of the borderline of Ballard/Burroughs/Vonnegut (which I found out was SF!!!)...The SF Masterworks imprint has lead me to excellent, neglected works such as Ballard's 'Drowned World' or Matheson's 'I am legend'...and most of all to the works of Philip K Dick.
I began with a selction of short-stories ('Imposter', 'The Exit Door Leads in', 'The little Black Box', 'We Can remember it for you wholesale'- all collected in 5 volumes)and this lead to novels such as the classic 'The Man in the High Castle'...and the realisation that William Gibson owed a little debt to Dick...
The previous re-issues, 'Now wait for last year' and 'A Scanner Darkly', were very much drugs novels- somehwhere between 'Naked Lunch' & 'Fear & Loathing'(with Dick's use of philosophy and his own brand of the future- which as the best SF- is here in the present)...Dick had a multitude of breakdowns- all detailed in excellent tomes on his work (the 'Pocket Classics' is a good intro to this)and this eventually lead to 'Valis'.
This is one of those postmodern texts that has the author as a character- something that has been done from Vonnegut to Martin Amis to Milan Kundera...It is the story of a vision and explores themes in all of Dick's work: we see the move from 'Do Androids...?' and 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch' to 'Now Wait...'and 'A Scanner Darkly' (of which portions of are re-worked)to this book.
The closest books to this are Burrough's 'Naked Lunch' and elements of Keroauc's 'Big Sur'- but really there is nothing else quite like it...WARNING- not to be read as an introduction; move from the short stories to earlier works like 'Martian Time Slip' to 'Ubik' to 'Now Wait...' to 'Scanner' (and everything else!!!). Ingest some Jean Baudrillard. Check the Philosophy section. And then read this maddening book about madness...one that you will have been glad to read...Now, can we have some more PK Dick reissues, notably 'Simulcara' & 'Palmer Eldritch'?
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on 5 August 2004
Firstly, I'd advise that anyone about to read VALIS would be better off already being familiar with some of the author's work. Having some background knowledge of his life would also be useful (as it is such a strongly autobiographical text). These, in my opinion, help you to digest more of the information and understand its significance.
Central to the book are the deaths of two women (Sherri & Gloria) and their impact upon the author, who suffers a breakdown as personal tragedies mount up. Page after page is dedicated to theological and/or philosophical theories, many created by the Dick himself, and are uniquely tailored to his personal circumstances. Other theories would appear to be virtually cut and pasted from copies of the author's Britannicas. Dick uses creating these theories as a form of 'catharsis'(as he states in the book) to help make sense of why such troubling things happen to him. That is my simplified perspective anyway.
At best, there are certain passages that have a wonderful, visionary quality. This is especially apparent when Dick describes his visitation from God(or Valis/St. Sophia/'zebra'); dreams he has had; or the Lamptons' motion picture (also titled) VALIS. At worst, some of the pages dealing with complex theories are mildly boring.
You'll probably find this rewarding if your familiar with Dick's work, if not A SCANNER DARKLY or THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, may be a better bet.
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on 5 January 2013
Valis is a brilliant book. Extremely readable, funny and completely mental. It deals with religious experience, insanity and.. rationality. Yes, the world we inhabit is crazy, because it is just an illusion. Beyond lies the ultimate Truth. Find out what it is with Valis by PKD!
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VINE VOICEon 31 January 2007
I read Valis five years ago, and it's visions and implications still live with me today. I can only think of a couple of other books that have had such a formative impact on my life. (If you were to ask me, I'd direct you to the Perennial Philosophy and the Doors of perception by Aldous Huxley, to an extent Quantum Psychology by Robert Anton Wilson, and the Bible. All, in my opinion saying the same things.) This book however impacted my life in a different way: it opened all kinds of doors for me, new ares of interest that I'm still exploring five years later, the sum of which have lead me to understand why Christianity, which was originally a force of good, pointing to equality and unity of mankind, metamorphosed into a hierarchical megalith of dogmatic evil.

The Empire never ended, it simply started to pose as its own enemy (in 312 AD to be precise!).

Read it if you're ready.
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