Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Divine Invasion

Philip K. Dick
Completed 12/29/2017, reviewed 12/30/2017
3 stars

This is the second book in Dick’s VALIS trilogy.  It’s a standalone novel, but having read VALIS, the first book, adds a lot of insight into the plot of this book.  It once again deals with his schizophrenic episode of Feb-March of 1974, but more specifically, the theological and philosophical questions and ramblings that grew out of that experience.  The plot is way more complex and more science fiction-ish than VALIS.  I’ve read from numerous sources that this book was written in about a month, and it shows.  There are what I consider pretty big plot holes and the rambling goes on and on.  Still, I found it an enjoyable read, but not as tightly put together as VALIS.

The plot is very complex, so here goes my attempt at a summary.  Herb Asher is in cryogenic suspension and is dreaming about his life before being put in suspension.  He lived on a distant planet in a dome.  Yah, the divine being of that planet tells him to help his neighbor, Rybys Rommey, who is sick with MS.  There they meet Elias, who is really the immortal soul of the prophet Elijah who reveals that Rybys is pregnant with Yah by immaculate conception.  Yah’s plan is to return to earth as Rybys’ unborn baby, since he is really Yahweh, and usurp the demon Belial who has been ruling earth since 70 C.E.  Things go awry and Rybys dies, but the unborn baby, Emmanuel, is saved, but with brain damage.  The fight to regain earth continues. 

Throughout the book, there is philosophizing and theologizing.  A lot comes from Emmanuel and his companion Zina, who attempts to help him remember who he is and what his mission is, as well as from Herb and Elias.  The theology comes from Christian, Hebrew, Islamic, and Zoroastrian traditions.  I really don’t know much about the last two, but Dick is kind enough to let you know that’s where the ideas are coming from.  Some of this gets really dense, but is fairly readable nonetheless. 

Dick also once again retells his account of his 1974 episode that was either a divine revelation or a schizophrenic break.  Even though this book could be standalone, this incident is more understandable thanks to having read VALIS first.  In fact, there are times the book seems to be a further attempt at the fictionalization of the incident.  In VALIS, the narrator is himself and the main character is his split personality.  In this book, Herb Asher is the main character who has the incident. 

There is one part that is a little creepy.  Apparently, Dick had an obsession with Linda Ronstadt.  He incorporated that into the book via a character named Linda Fox who becomes the most famous singer in the galaxy.  He works her into the plot most interestingly, although it did seem to be a little deus ex machina-ish at the end.  Unfortunately, I can’t really elaborate on that because it would be quite the spoiler. 

I liked the book, but felt that VALIS was the better book, even though this has a more science fiction setting.  The bouncing back and forth in time was a little tricky and there’s a switch to a parallel universe which really adds to the complexity.  And it just feels to me like it’s a forced rather than a natural unraveling of the story.  I give the book three stars out of five.

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