Fiction Reviews


Valis

(1981/2001) Philip K Dick, Gollancz, 6.99, pbk, 271pp, ISBN 1-85798-339-4

This is no.43 in the Gollancz "SF Masterworks" series in which Dick, quite rightly, has featured a lot. Valis, so I am told, provides a fascinating insight into Dick's 'madness' toward the end of his life, but I've never really been concerned with that madness is, after all, a very subjective thing. As a novel it is as hard to quantify as much of Dick's work, and seems no more or less concerned with his themes of reality and displacement as his earlier novels and stories. The character Horselover Fats (implicitly and explicitly Dick himself) comes into contact with the Vast Active Living Intelligence System, and so begins a search for the structure of meaning and the dividing line between madness and sanity. Dick, sadly, died in 1982, and it is probably safe to say that Valis and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer were the best of his last few books. Highly recommended to all lovers of Dick, and SF fans generally especially those young enough, but adventurous enough, to be seeking a context for the SF they enjoy today.

On a general note, I'd like to congratulate Gollancz on the SF Masterworks series (as well as their 'yellowjackets'). This kind of idea has been tried before, but has often fallen foul of editors' idiosyncratic choices, making general recommendations impossible. Not so with Masterworks even the books I do not personally like (there are some) I would agree should be included, so I feel happy to assert that this is the best such series I've come across in four decades. Let's hope it continues.

Tony Chester


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