Ah, how we love the paranoid fantasies of our Phil. As does Hollywood, considering how many of his works have been made into films.

Not much chance of that ever happening to this one, mind you (though they’ve done A Scanner Darkly now, so you never can tell).

This is kind of a prequel or counterpart to Valis, which I read a good number of years ago. In a similar way, Dick himself is one of the central characters, though it is not him who believes that an alien intelligence – the Vast Active Living Intelligence System – is communicating with him.

We are in an alternative America: instead of Nixon becoming President in 1968, an even more authoritarian, fascist figure called Ferris F Freemont does. His regime quickly takes on an extreme McCarthyite nature.

Valis sends a message of hope from beyond the stars. Or is it from another dimension? Or is it God? Nicholas Brady does not know, and neither do we. A significant portion of the book consists of him and his writer friend, Phil, discussing possibilities for what it could be that contacts him in dreams, and sometimes lends him lifesaving information and even healing powers. But no real conclusion is reached.

It’s an OK read, but is largely unresolved by the end: though not without hope.