Thursday, February 10, 2011


Philip K. Dick
Doubleday, 1981 (my copy is from Vintage Books, 1991)
Size: Short (my copy has 241 pages)
Theme: Psychological drama
Narrative: mostly first-person
Main character: Horselover Fat
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: NO

This book is about a schizophrenic named Horselover Fat and his descent into madness. The plot starts with his attempt to deal with the death of a girl, who had been keen on committing suicide for a while. Death and suicide have permeated his life, due to his two defects, which he has been told several times he needs to change: a proclivity to try to save other people, and his history of drug use.

VALIS stands for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, and is supposedly an intelligence that interfaces with people for a specific purpose. The book is confusing enough that you cannot really be sure in the end if the characters have understood what is going on and what VALIS is, or if they simply made up an answer. In fact, confusing is one of the two adjectives I would use regarding this book. From start to about two thirds of the story, you are told of how crazy Horselover Fat is, his inability to cope with suicide and abandonment, and his psychological and religious ramblings. The plot hardly evolves and a lot of the text just seems to have been drafted during a sleepless night. I did not enjoy at all those first two thirds of the book. The story picks up after that, and starts actually developing some action and trying to explain some of the multiple existing loose threads, but it is too little and too late. The other adjective I would use is boring. The plot circles back on itself several times and there is really nothing new or extremely original. The characters are not deep or interesting, and the ending is less than thrilling.

I do not recommend this book at all (which is very rare for me), and would label is as marginally readable only because near the end you start feeling like there’s a purpose to it. Unfortunately, there isn’t.

No comments:

Post a Comment