My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Divine Invasion was my favorite of the VALIS trilogy, a trilogy I really haven’t enjoyed as much as I do Dick’s earlier works. This book is DENSE, folks! It’s overtly religious in its themes, and it helps if one is familiar with Christianity, Judaism, and several other religions. Not necessary, but helpful.
In this book, Yaweh is returning to Earth to battle Belial, a Satan-type figure. He’s doing this through another virgin birth, I guess the second coming, in the form of Rybys Rommey, an MS-afflicted colonist of a distant planet. With her is Herbert Asher, who marries her out of pity, essentially, and to help facilitate this action. Earth is ruled by various religious and political organizations that seem inherently evil and find out through the AI that oversees Earth that Yaweh is coming. They therefore arrange an accident in an aircar, killing Rybys — but not her fetus — and putting Herb into cyronic suspension for 10 years. The prophet Elijah, in the form of Elias, accompanies them and helps to raise the child, Manny (Emmanuel), before putting him in a special school — because he’s brain damaged from the crash — where he is befriended by a young girl named Zina.
Then the madness starts. Herb is awakened while in suspension because he hears Muzak playing, initially Fiddler on the Roof, over and over again. On his former planet, he had enjoyed listening to a young singer named Linda Fox, who plays an increasingly important role in the novel. As Herb starts to interact with others (in his mind, which shouldn’t be cognizant), Manny and Zina start constructing their own worlds, and things just advance in a very confusing way. Now, I’m not completely stupid, but sometimes when I read Dick, I feel like I am and this is one of those books that left me feeling like that. It was hard to keep up with what was real and what wasn’t. It was also hard to keep up with all of the theological dialogue, and that aspect of it was less interesting to me too, although I know that’s where Dick was in his life at the time. Damn, this book is near-impenetrable at times! Herb befriends an unknown Fox in one world, and is hired to install audio equipment in her place. He thinks he’s going to get some, because this is what he wants more than anything else in the world, but she’s on her period and his chance is ruined. Meanwhile, Rybys sits at home, sick and miserable and making everyone else miserable too. Funny how his five marriages helped him construct one dimensional female characters. Manny and Zina disappear into her “realm,” where they discover Belial, who also happens upon Herb because he’s intent upon getting at Fox. Weird, I know. Makes no sense. I tell you, this book is crazy! Still, I enjoyed it to a certain degree, much more so than the other two VALIS books. This one seems a bit more “sci fi” rather than the straight out theological rant that makes up VALIS. And the scene when Herb is stopped by the cop is pretty funny, so there’s a little humor in the book to spice it up. If I were just getting into reading PKD, I certainly wouldn’t start with this one. But I do think it’s essential reading for any serious PKD fan and with that, I cautiously recommend it.