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The Owl in Daylight by Tessa Dick

Last week, I got the most amazing submission yet at the Self-Publishing Review. Tessa Dick, last wife and widow of Philip K. Dick – author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the basis for the movie “Blade Runner, the short-story, “Minority Report,” and many others – submitted a novel for review and request for an interview. I am a huge Philip K. Dick fan and I’m currently working on a novel that is heavily-inspired by Philip K. Dick – a novel that I plan on self-publishing.

I’m especially influenced by his late novels, which were a mixture of science fiction and strange autobiography. Tessa Dick was married to him during the period when he had a visionary experience that led to his Valis trilogy: Valis, Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, as well as a fourth that was published posthumously, Radio Free Albemuth (my favorite of the group, for what it’s worth):

In the early months of 1974 Dick experienced hallucinations, dreams, synchronicities and Gnostic visions that he collectively referred to as “2-3-74,” shorthand for “February/March 1974.” Dick would spend the rest of his life attempting to unravel the meaning of these events in a thousand-page handwritten manuscript he came to call the Exegesis.

In an interview, Tessa Dick describes:

I submit that the evidence points toward something very real. There was the night when our radio would not stop playing, even when it was unplugged. There was the Xerox letter, which I held in my hands and read. There were strange cars stopping in the alley behind our apartment at all hours of the day and night. There was the yellow van that parked out front. Two men in workmen’s coveralls got out of the van and carried about a dozen cardboard boxes into the vacant apartment next door.

One strong possibility is that the electronic equipment in the vacant apartment next door was affecting both our radio and Phil’s mind. I know that I also had some very strange dreams during that time.

The novel that he was working on at the time of his death, “The Owl in Daylight,” was thought to follow the tradition of his late Valis novels.

And now Tessa Dick has reimagined what the novel might have been and it is a fascinating read, especially to those who love Philip K. Dick’s work. It reads as a kind of cousin to Philip K. Dick’s final novels, as written by someone who knew him best. As it says in the book:

Now you can read the novel that Philip K. Dick (VALIS, Bladerunner, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, UBIK) would have written, if he had lived long enough. This complete novel incorporates the preview edition (a condensed version of the first half of the story). Arthur Grimley stumbles through life as blind to reality as an owl in daylight. Under the influence of an alien implant and an amusement park computer, he slowly learns that life is a dream – literally….This mind-opening adventure will take you through Dante’s Inferno, Mozart’s Magic Flute, Goethe’s Faust and the prison that our own world has become.

It is amazing that Tessa Dick had to have this book self-published, as Philip K. Dick has such a huge fan base, with an emphasis on fanatic. I know, I’m one of them. And Tessa Dick’s Owl in Daylight is as close as you’re going to come to reading Philip K. Dick’s book fully imagined. It has many of the feature of all of Philip K. Dick’s work – the intellectualism, questioning what’s real and what’s illusion, which isn’t science fictional at all, but human.

If I have a criticism is that it could be longer with the ideas more fleshed-out, but that’s because this is my favorite genre of science fiction novel – the mixture of the totally fantastic with the totally real. Philip K. Dick fans will get increased insight into Philip K. Dick the writer, as the main protagonist is based on him and the book goes back in time to his younger days. But on another level, it is interesting to read the words of somebody who was within Philip K. Dick’s own world – which provides further insight in Philip K. Dick’s life in the seventies until the time of his death.

If this is all new to you and you’ve never heard about Philip K. Dick’s later mystic novels, The Owl in Daylight works as pure fiction as well, but for people who love Philip K. Dick’s writing, Tessa Dick’s Owl in Daylight is a fascinating addition to Philip K. Dick’s literary output and adds another piece of the puzzle to what was a very puzzling period in the writer’s life.

Read Self-Publishing Review’s interview with Tessa Dick.