I was surprised I enjoyed rereading The World Jones Made, since I don’t remember thinking too much of it the first time around. Maybe I’ve built up a tolerance for Dick’s writing which has never been particularly great.*
Jones, a precog who can see one year into the future, is an interesting character in a world ruled by relativism where all absolute thought, in an effort to stamp out extremism and war, is forbidden. With his apparent proof of certainty, Jones becomes a demagogue, whipping his followers into a frenzy against the threat of amoeba-like aliens that have started to land on Earth. When it turns out these alien drifters are mostly harmless, something Jones didn’t initially know with his limited view into the future, he martyrs himself so as to blame his death on the relativists before he would have been exposed as a fraud.
The book’s two storylines don’t come together very well. The mutants being engineered to survive on Venus don’t have much to do with what is going on with Jones, but even Dick admitted the book would have been stronger if he had found a way to tie those two threads together.
In A Maze of Death a group of strangers all receive job transfers to a remote planet and await instructions as to the purpose of their colony. We have a mystery on our hands when those instructions don’t arrive, and the members of the group are murdered one by one.
The LSD-inspired plot that follows has a great ending when we find out the colonists have been in a simulated reality all along. They are actually crew members of a ship stranded with no hope of rescue, and so they enter these computer-created artificial worlds again and again, with an amnesia of their actual plight, in order to pass the time before their inevitable death in space.
The religion they all follow in their invented world was generated by the ship’s computer. It resembles Christianity, although with a logic based on the existence of a physical God.
Cast of characters
Ben Tallchief – Delmak-O’s naturalist
Seth Morley – Delmak-O’s marine biologist
Mary Morley – Seth’s wife
Betty Jo Berm – Delmak-O’s linguist
Bert Kosler – Delmak-O’s custodian
Maggie Walsh – Delmak-O’s theologian
Ignatz Thugg – Delmak-O’s thermoplastics expert
Milton Babble – Delmak-O’s doctor
Tony Dunkelwelt – Delmak-O’s photographer and soil-sample expert
Glen Belsnor – Delmak-O’s electronics specialist and the group’s leader
Roberta Rockingham – Delmak-O’s sociologist
Susie Smart – Delmak-O’s clerk
Wade Frazer – Delmak-O’s psychologist
Ned Russell – Delmak-O’s economist
Other things to know
How I Rose From the Dead in My Spare Time and So Can You – their religion’s holy book written by Communist theologian A. J. Specktowsky
The Intercessor – a Christ-like manifestation of the deity
The Mentufacturer – the God-like manifestation of the deity
Walker-on-Earth – the ‘Holy ghost’ manifestation that completes the deity’s trinity
The Divine Invasion has a funny set up. We find out Herb Asher was killed in an accident but is in cryonic suspension awaiting an organ transplant that will revive him. The Cry-Labs warehouse is close to an FM radio tower, and so as Asher dreams and relives the events leading up to the accident he also hears a faint muzak version of Fiddler on the Roof that no one else can hear. This gag comes up again late in the book during a farcical encounter with a cop when Asher isn’t sure what reality he is in.
Other than these brief moments The Divine Invasion is a mostly humorless story about a woman on a faraway colony planet who is impregnated by Yahweh who was driven there from Earth in 73 A.D. She travels back to Earth along with the Joseph stand-in Herb Asher and a reincarnated Elijah so that her soon-to-be-born son Emmanuel can overthrow Earth’s ruling powers and save mankind… or something along those lines.
It gets better in the second half when Zina transports them all to an alternate reality and there is some mystery about who/what Zina really is (Wisdom? A fairy queen? VALIS? Satan? Christ himself… which would make Emmanuel what?), but it still remains my least favorite book of the VALIS Trilogy.
Cast of characters
Emmanuel – the reborn savior
Elias Tate – Elijah reincarnated. Emmanuel’s guardian after Herb and Rybys die
Herb Asher – Emmanuel’s ‘father’
Rybys Rommey – Emmanuel’s mother
Zina – the young girl who is Emmanuel’s friend
Cardinal Fulton Statler Harms – Chief Prelate of the Christian-Islamic Church. Trying to use Big Noodle to verify St. Anselm’s Ontological Proof for the existence of God
Nicholas Bulkowsky – Procurator Maximus of the Scientific Legate
Linda Fox – intergalactic pop superstar, at least in the book’s beginning reality
Other things to know
Christian-Islamic Church – formerly the Catholic Church
Scientific Legate – formerly the Communist Party. One of the two ruling parties of Earth along with the C.I.C.
Big Noodle – Earth’s great Artificial Intelligence