There are few names you can associate with Sci-fi who defined the landscape as much as Philip K Dick. Total Recall. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Minority Report. A Scanner Darkly. These are all landmark works that elevated the genre into the stratosphere. Yet creating these works took their toll on Dick and as the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick shows, the cost was deeply disturbing.
Dick’s sci fi was always littered with common themes: drug use, oppressive regimes, long over reaching concepts that were designed to make the reader question the nature of being, living and even the concept of reality. Like most trailblazers, he was a tortured individual, indulging in drug use and exhibiting erratic behaviour but where others had theirs curtailed, Dick’s delusions grew. In the late 70’s, under the influence of sedation, Dick had a self proclaimed revelation thanks to a woman delivering a package to his door wearing a specific necklace. A religious epiphany, in his words, these descended into numerous hallucinations coupled with schizophrenic tendencies.
Unable to restrain himself, Dick feverishly wrote his experiences down, sometimes doing so all throughout the night. The result sprawled into a 10,000 page monster, combing a million plus words complimented by drawings, with the intention of never seeing the public.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is an attempt to document a portion of this material and present it in an organised fashion. For fans this is an invaluable opportunity to see Dicks inner workings and thought process when it comes to his craft. However, this is not something to be taken lightly. Weighing in at just under a thousand pages and heavy enough to break a rhino’s skull, this is no small feat for the daunted. It’s just a fraction of the collected material as even the editor explains, releasing all of it may be financially impossible in physical form. Luckily there’s a digital version available with a hint that future versions may go down this route.
Exegesis reads as you would expect. High concept theological musings entwine with scientific and mathematical theories, creating sprawling conclusions that can be difficult to comprehend. The more narrative elements of his life, detailing his epiphany and day to day realisations are a lot more coherent, though not without their troubles. Every imagination of concepts has him denouncing previous work, believing it to be flawed in light of new disclosures. Eventually they descend into a blow by blow analysis of personality Dick believes himself to be connected to, and the deconstruction of God, the universe and subsequently everything.
Exegesis is a confusing read to pigeonhole. At its height, it’s a true insight of a legends creative visions. At its darkest, a terrifyingly voyeuristic descent into a level of madness difficult to comprehend. Fascinating reading, either way.