Over Thanksgiving weekend I read three books.
In brief:

The Maker of Universes by Philip Jose Farmer.
I spent a lot of time in used bookstores locating all six books in this series, an effort I should have made twenty years ago when my tastes were simpler. I’m sure Farmer set out to write a pulpy adventure story on purpose, and it’s good for what it is, just not for me.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.
Proto-hippie diatribe as science fiction where the characters travel from plot point to plot point without encountering any challenging complications, pausing occasionally for Jubal Harshaw to vomit up a few pages of exposition.
I’ve tried Heinlein a couple of times and we’ve never clicked. I would have picked up Number of the Beast if they’d had it in the airport bookstore but three strikes and Robert is out.

VALIS by Philip K. Dick.
Neo-gnostic diatribe as science fiction where the characters stumble through the story like people do through life.
This is was I was looking for. It’s ironic that I liked VALIS so much and Stranger in a Strange Land so little. Not only was Heinlein a supporter of a young PKD, but both books share the same basic plot: Alien savior tries to save earthlings from themselves. But while Heinlein preaches about Utopian potential, PKD writes about flawed characters in a flawed world with a flawed god.
He writes himself in as the narrator under his own name and as the protagonist as “Horselover Fat”. The two versions of himself freely interact with the other characters, spreading the illusion/delusion.
PKD was insane. No really, he was schizophrenic, paranoid and suicidal. VALIS gives you a little taste of that. It’d be great to have his edge but if living like this is the cost, it’s not worth it.

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