Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Agent of V.A.L.I.S., by Lavie Tidhar

Read this issue
(Surreal) Thomas knows this world is an illusion, a "Black Iron Prison." V.A.L.I.S. tells him he needs to escape, if he can only figure out what's real. (8,200 words; Time: 27m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"," by (edited by Jason Sizemore), appeared in issue 82, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Given the complexity of the story, it's worthwhile to step back and recall what Thomas is actually trying to do. He must "seek the woman who does not know herself," "seek escape from the Black Iron Prison," and "find the key."

Mary is clearly the woman who does not know herself. "A lot of my memories are soft, hazy, out of focus." The key is the cross Thomas is crucified on. "It was shaped like a key." And he escapes from the Black Iron Prison when he pushes the foam boulder away from the door of the cave. Now he can see reality, and the story ends.

The story is very rich with Christian allusions. The sign of the fish, Thomas's baptism, his reversed beatitudes, and of course his crucifixion and resurrection. There are probably a lot of Philip K. Dick allusions too, but I didn't see them. Perhaps someone can enumerate them in the comments.

Con: Obviously, Thomas sounds like someone having paranoid delusions. Nothing in the story ever eliminates the possibility that the entire thing is a delusion and that there's no actual speculative content at all. It gets really tedious reading through all the crazy-sounding paragraphs. An entire novelette from a delusional POV gets old.

Because almost everything is symbolic, there's not a great deal of actual action in the story, and much of the symbolism is opaque.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites

1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Since I haven't read Philip K. Dick and I only have a passing familiarity with the Christian references, a lot of the story was lost on me. It was still interesting to speculate about where, when, and what was really happening with Thomas. Things that made me wonder when this was included: a full glass pay phone booth, Johnny Carson hosting the Tonight Show, yet Mary has a Japanese car with an alarm. So the '80s, maybe? And what alternate reality are we in that President Nixon is the face that is suppose to be on a coin?