“When has the government ever told anyone the truth?” (p.76)
The Divine Invasion was published in the same year as VALIS. It is the second book in the VALIS Trilogy, although there is only a brief mention of VALIS in the story. Like VALIS it addresses religion and philosophy, but it’s not as tightly structured or plotted as the first book. In fact, some parts of The Divine Invasion feel like they belong to a completely different story. According to Jonathan Lethem, one of the editors of Dick’s Exegesis, this book was written in only four weeks. It would be easy to say it shows.
The Divine Invasion tells the story of two distant-planet colonists, Herb Asher and Rybys Romney. We follow them on their journey back to Earth as Rybys is due to give birth to a son, Emmanuel. The book goes on to chronicle a battle between the forces of good and evil in which Emmanuel will play a major role. He is joined by a young girl called Zina, an old man, Elias, who acts as his guardian, and a kid goat. I kid you not.
“The goat leaped from their arms and ran off; Zina and Emmanuel watched it go. And as it ran it grew.” (p.230)
Dick fills the book with his religious philosophizing, questioning reality, divinity and our place in it all. He attempts, yet again, to make sense of his “mystical” experience(s) of February and March 1974 that led him to write VALIS as well as his mammoth Exegesis. This can make it feel a bit chaotic and random at times, yet it is bursting with ideas. I had a lot of fun reading it. Where else but in a PKD story can you discover that the name of Earth’s vast Artificial Intelligence System is “Big Noodle”?
Also funny, in a slightly uncomfortable way, is Dick’s inclusion and depiction of a character based on his unrequited object of obsession at the time, the singer Linda Ronstadt. This leads to some memorable lines:
“And yet-his ultimate move had fallen through because Linda Fox . . . it had been the wrong time. Her menstrual cycle, he thought. Linda Fox has periods and cramps? he asked himself. I don’t believe it. But I guess it’s true.” (p.209)
Bizarre! I enjoyed The Divine Invasion more than VALIS, despite VALIS being the tighter written and better structured book. I guess it’s because I like the eccentric side(s) of PKD. I like it when he is a bit bonkers and you’re not quite sure what the heck is going on. I like it when he messes with your head and leaves you wondering if this or that character is really experiencing the craziness or just dreaming it. I like big noodles, too.
Recommended, for those in search of a different flavor of ubik, the taste that keeps on changing.