Although Philip K Dick was hardly a household name in his own lifetime, his body of work (44 published novels and 120 short stories) has been steadily building momentum since Dick’s death in 1982. In the years since his passing, the legend of Philip K Dick has grown to the point that you’d be hard-pressed to find a SF writer or SF fan, that’s worth his or her salt, who isn’t familiar with at least some of PKD’s body of work. Today, PKD’s work has crossed the boundaries of genre and has gained the interest of philosophers, theologians, scientists, filmmakers, and of the literary academic community that resisted him for so long. Even if you haven’t actually read a PKD book or even know who PKD is, chances are you’ve been exposed to his work from the numerous films based on his books and short stories, or through the many writers that have drawn inspiration from the stockpile of paradigm shifting ideas interlaced amongst his texts.
So, as you might expect, the release of a new book, The Exegesis of Philip K Dick, was big news for the author’s growing fan base; almost as if the deceased author had broken through the veil of time and space to deliver one last work to the fans he never knew he would have. For many of us who have delved into the rabbit-holes that make up the PKD catalogue, there comes a time when the boundary between the “real” world and the world within the pages is not so easy to discern, and one might even wonder, “Am I a character in PKD novel?” Well, according to The Exegesis of Philip K Dick, the author wondered the same thing.
During the months of February and March in 1974 (termed 2-3-74 by PKD) PKD experienced an intense communication with a voice or frequency after a dark-haired girl (PKD’s favorite) arrived at his front door wearing a gold fish-sign necklace, an ichthys, that shot pink laser beams of information concerning the nature of reality into his mind via the pineal gland. In the following weeks, PKD experienced further communication in the form of surreal light shows induced by hypnagogic trances and tachyon bombardments. Over the course of years, and thousands of pages, PKD dissected these messages (as well as other messages sent to him by voices, visions, and dreams in the years following 2-3-74) through writing, diagrams, and meticulous analysis of his own work where he found more messages camouflaged within his own texts. Essentially, PKD performed an exegesis on the info he received as a theologian would with a passage in the Bible. Who was PKD communicating with? Sometimes he calls it an “AI voice”, other times he calls it “Zebra”, and other times he admits that he might just be suffering from brain-damage.
In short, Philip K Dick truly became a character in a Philip K Dick novel. With an extravagant premise such as this you’d think that the Exegesis might be as accessible as some of his novels (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Flow My Tears, A Scanner Darkly), but it’s not. The Exegesis is real, at least to its creator, and without the familiar constructs (plot, dialogue, story-arch) associated with his fiction and novels, the uninitiated reader is likely, and justifiably, only going to see the ramblings and scribblings of a madman. Even for the ardent PKD fan, reading through the Exegesis becomes a laborious task as you strive to understand and organize the elaborate concepts and theorems before PKD creates new ideologies and backtracks on his previous assertions.
Despite this book’s confounding nature, the text, with help from two very skilled editors, has a sense of timelessness; not only because the text jumps around between the future, 1970’s Anaheim, CA, and ancient Rome; or because the revelations and predictions displayed in the book often resemble current events; but because the text is an intimate and brutally honest exposé of the human condition. This collection of PKD’s thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, and countless questions makes the reader feel that PKD is right there in the room with you; as if a piece of him lives on within its pages.
The Exegesis of Philip K Dick is not a novel or an autobiography, but the baring and unraveling of an intensely influential and prolific writer and thinker as he attempts to analyze the nature of the universe through the prism of his own thoughts. In fact, the eight-thousand pages that this text was reduced from was never intended for publication, and would have never been published if it weren’t for the cult status the author has achieved posthumously. So, if you choose to journey the nine-hundred pages, be aware that within the world of The Exegesis of Philip K Dick there are no absolutes, no gift-wrapped “moral of the story”, or even a discernible plot or story-arch, only questions beyond questions. What the book does offer is the chance to peer a little deeper into the complicated psyche of one of America’s greatest novelist, and, perhaps, gain a deeper understanding of your own consciousness and its connection to the outside universe.