Philip K. Dick
VALIS and Later Novels
A Maze of Death • VALIS • The Divine Invasion • The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
"What this volume ultimately tells us is that Dick was not a science fiction writer, but instead he was our writer. Some science fiction readers have chided him for valuing the fiction over the science, and he certainly did not write your typical space operas.... Dick was our writer because he was deeply concerned about human matters and about spiritual survival in an ever more materialistic and media-driven world. That should be good enough reason alone to be in anyone's canon."
— San Francisco Chronicle
This volume, the third in The Library of America gathering the novels of Philip K. Dick (1928–1982)—following Four Novels of the 1960s and Five Novels of the 1960s and 70s—brings together four books from the later phase of Dick’s career, when religious revelation, always an element of his fiction, became a dominant and irresistible theme. Here, Dick moves beyond the constraints of generic science fiction, producing the works responsible for his growing reputation as an irreplaceable American visionary.
The collection opens with A Maze of Death (1970), a darkly speculative thriller that foreshadows Dick’s final novels. Mysteriously summoned to the planet Delmak-O, a motley group of colonists attempts to survive together in a hostile new world. Along the way, they are forced to confront not only one another, but also the nature of the God—or “Mentufacturer”—who determines their destiny. Dick’s life was changed utterly by a psychic break he later referred to as “the events of 2-3-74”: his sense of everyday reality fell away, and he experienced what he came to believe was a mystical revelation. The writings of the remainder of his career attempt in various ways to understand and explain this visionary experience.
In VALIS (1981)—at times close to a memoir of what he went through—he creates a harrowing self-portrait of a man confronting a “Vast Active Living Intelligence System,” torn between conflicting interpretations of what might be gnostic illumination or mental collapse. In The Divine Invasion (1981), the life of a solitary off-world colonist is hijacked by a local alien, who turns out to be the Yahweh of Judeo-Christian tradition. Returning to Earth with his pregnant wife in tow, Dick’s hapless Herb Asher finds himself thrust into the middle of an apocalyptic war between Good and Evil. Conceived as a sequel to VALIS, the novel is a powerful exploration of divine revelation and its human consequences.
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982), Dick’s last novel, is by turns a theological mystery story, a roman à clef, and a starkly disillusioned portrait of contemporary California life. Based loosely on the career of Bishop James Pike, Dick’s close friend and a kindred spirit, the novel’s title character gives up his comfortable place in the church hierarchy in a tragic quest for enlightenment. Seeking an ultimate and shocking truth behind the sacred texts of his religion, he leaves behind a wounded world—a world that his daughter-in-law, one of Dick’s most fondly delineated characters, must begin to piece together.
Jonathan Lethem, editor, is the author of eight novels including Gun, with Occasional Music; The Fortress of Solitude; and You Don’t Love Me Yet. Motherless Brooklyn, his fifth, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and has been translated into twenty languages. Lethem is also the author of two story collections, The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye, and Men and Cartoons; a novella, The Shape We’re In; and a book of collected essays, The Disappointment Artist.
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