What is VALIS? This question is at the heart of Philip K. Dick’s ground-breaking novel, and the first book in his defining trilogy. When a beam of pink light begins giving a schizophrenic 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, he must decide whether he is crazy, or whether a godlike entity is showing him the true nature of the world.
The first book in Philip K. Dick’s final trilogy (followed by The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), VALIS encapsulates many of the themes that Dick was obsessed with over the course of his career. A disorienting and bleakly funny novel, VALIS (which stands for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) is about a schizophrenic man named Horselover Fat (who just might also be known as Philip Dick); the hidden mysteries of Gnostic Christianity; and reality as revealed through a pink laser. VALIS is a theological detective story, in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime. Taking place in the same universe as Dick’s soon-to-be-published Exegesis, VALIS is a dense novel, but one that is absolutely essential to understanding the author’s off-kilter worldview. Much like Dick himself, the reader is left wondering what is real, what is fiction, and what the price is for divine inspiration.