Whether you enjoy him or not, I think that it'd be difficult to argue that our dear, departed Philip K. didn't write some of the most jarringly original novels that ever made it to print. From a certain perspective, "The Divine Invasion" covers a lot ground that will be familiar to PKD fans: psychic meddling, conspiracies, an obsession with multiple realities. (Really was there ever a writer who got more millage out of the idea that life could be but a dream?) Even so, "The Divine Invasion's inclusion of overtly religious and supernatural elements sets it apart from most SF: this isn't Asimov imagining a religious pseudo-future for science; the author's interest in religion-as-such seems genuine and well-informed. It's obvious that Dick spent a lot of time with some very arcane texts and little-known heresies while writing this one. Folklore, Gnostic musings, and obscure Jewish creation stories abound here, but they're more than just window dressing. The fact that they're essential to the book's plot sometimes gives one the impression that PKD's doing his darndest to invent a genre that might be termed "hard fantasy." Esoteric as a lot of this might seem, much of "The Divine Invasion," which also has its share of interstellar space travel and cryogenic suspension, comes off as shockingly immediate. A two or three decades worth of spooky little kids in horror movies didn't quite prepare me for the decidedly unnerving spectacle of two ten year olds, Manny, our Christ analogue, and his mysterious, playfully seductive friend Zina discussing the fate of the universe in a run-down special-needs school. The plot of "The Divine Invasion" is, in places frustratingly twisty, and, this being PKD, you the author's not too keen to give the question "is this really happening" a straight answer. I suspect that many committed PKD fans will have to read this one more than once to figure out exactly what's going on. Still, at the heart of the book there's a serious theological debate about the potential character flaws of the Old Testament God and the role of play in His creation. The theology in this one is almost entirely Jewish: Jesus barely gets a cameo appearance here. But as the novel nears its end, Dick makes a convincing case that evil tends to be dead serious: a distinct lack of a sense of humor is one of true evil's hallmarks. Of course, that's you could say that that's a typically Phildickian argument, but it's one worth taking away. I should track down the first book in this trilogy next, just to catch up.