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Der dunkle Schirm: Roman (Fischer Klassik Plus)

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Orange County eingeschleust wird. Bob Arctor – alias Fred – ist Junkie und Geheimagent der Drogenfahndung, und damit er nicht auffliegt, beginnt er, auch mit Substanz T zu experimentieren, bis er merkt, dass seine beiden Identitäten gegeneinander agieren ...Viele schätzen ›Der dunkle Schirm‹ (1977) als den stärksten Roman Philip K. Dicks. Autobiographische Details zeichnen Orange County eingeschleust wird. Bob Arctor – alias Fred – ist Junkie und Geheimagent der Drogenfahndung, und damit er nicht auffliegt, beginnt er, auch mit Substanz T zu experimentieren, bis er merkt, dass seine beiden Identitäten gegeneinander agieren ...Viele schätzen ›Der dunkle Schirm‹ (1977) als den stärksten Roman Philip K. Dicks. Autobiographische Details zeichnen ein nur allzu realistisches Bild der Drogenkultur Kaliforniens in den 70ern, die in die Zukunft projiziert wird. 2006 wurde das Buch von Richard Linklater mit Keanu Reeves und Winona Ryder verfilmt.


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Orange County eingeschleust wird. Bob Arctor – alias Fred – ist Junkie und Geheimagent der Drogenfahndung, und damit er nicht auffliegt, beginnt er, auch mit Substanz T zu experimentieren, bis er merkt, dass seine beiden Identitäten gegeneinander agieren ...Viele schätzen ›Der dunkle Schirm‹ (1977) als den stärksten Roman Philip K. Dicks. Autobiographische Details zeichnen Orange County eingeschleust wird. Bob Arctor – alias Fred – ist Junkie und Geheimagent der Drogenfahndung, und damit er nicht auffliegt, beginnt er, auch mit Substanz T zu experimentieren, bis er merkt, dass seine beiden Identitäten gegeneinander agieren ...Viele schätzen ›Der dunkle Schirm‹ (1977) als den stärksten Roman Philip K. Dicks. Autobiographische Details zeichnen ein nur allzu realistisches Bild der Drogenkultur Kaliforniens in den 70ern, die in die Zukunft projiziert wird. 2006 wurde das Buch von Richard Linklater mit Keanu Reeves und Winona Ryder verfilmt.

30 review for Der dunkle Schirm: Roman (Fischer Klassik Plus)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    A Scanner Darkly can be described as follows: begin with Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, mix in a pinch of The Big Lebowski, a dollop of A Beautiful Mind, a scene from Crime and Punishment, the shadows and penumbra of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, whispered apprehension of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a hint of thirty year in advance anticipation of reality TV, stir in a portion of dystopian science fiction and mix it all together with Philip K. Dick’s weird genius. A Scanner Darkly can be described as follows: begin with Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, mix in a pinch of The Big Lebowski, a dollop of A Beautiful Mind, a scene from Crime and Punishment, the shadows and penumbra of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, whispered apprehension of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a hint of thirty year in advance anticipation of reality TV, stir in a portion of dystopian science fiction and mix it all together with Philip K. Dick’s weird genius. This is actually a very well written book; PKD delivers a mature, far from romantic glimpse of addiction and the drug sub-culture as only he could, a recovering, on again off again user himself and with mental illness added in. Still, this is a complete work by a talented writer and, minimalistic as it is, keeps the reader engaged. There is humor in the book, though it cannot be considered a comedy, perhaps a dark comedy as the subject matter, though painted with a mild sci-fi brush, is one of addiction and death. A reader of PKD’s works will notice the recurring theme here, as in several other works, of the idea of split personalities, of a protagonist coming to grips with multiple sides of his own ego. Another recurring theme, perhaps helped along by PKD’s own struggles with schizophrenia, is one of surveillance and, concurrently, helplessness while being watched. The pervasive paranoia and the multiple layers of theatrical irony are the elements of this story that will stay with the reader long after the book has been set down.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    I used to wonder how Phillip K. Dick came up with all the trippy concepts in his stories until I read A Scanner Darkly. That’s when I realized that the drugs probably had a lot to do with it. Originally published in 1977 and set in the mid ‘90s, the book tells the story of Bob Arctor. Arctor appears to be just another burned out druggie who lives with a couple of other dopers, and they spend most of their time getting high on Substance D and assorted other drugs. Bob is actually an undercover I used to wonder how Phillip K. Dick came up with all the trippy concepts in his stories until I read A Scanner Darkly. That’s when I realized that the drugs probably had a lot to do with it. Originally published in 1977 and set in the mid ‘90s, the book tells the story of Bob Arctor. Arctor appears to be just another burned out druggie who lives with a couple of other dopers, and they spend most of their time getting high on Substance D and assorted other drugs. Bob is actually an undercover narc for the Orange County CA sheriff’s department, and in the future, the cops undercover are in so deep that even their bosses don’t know who they really are. Arctor wears a special scramble suit that blurs his features and voice when reporting to his boss Hank, who also wears a scramble suit to conceal his identity. Bob has been trying to buy bigger quantities of Substance D from Donna, a spacey hash addict, so that he can work his way to the source, but he’s actually fallen in love with her even though she refuses to sleep with him. He gets a tricky new assignment when Hank orders him to start keeping tabs on a new target; Bob Arctor. Since he can’t reveal his identity, Arctor has to play out the fiction that he’s investigating himself, but his brains have gotten so slushed from Substance D that he’s having a hard time keeping track of who he actually is. Bob’s increasing confusion about identity and reality is the kind of theme that Dick specialized in, and Bob’s progressive meltdown is some of my favorite writing he did regarding that. However, while this has a thin veneer of sci-fi over it with the story being set in what was the near future, it‘s actually a chillingly realistic look at drug abuse. Dick spent a couple of years in the early ’70s where he ran with the Just Say Yes! crowd, and this book is a semi-autobiographical account of that time. Where it really shines is in its portrayal of the drug culture with long sections dedicated to things like an addict who begins seeing bugs everywhere or a botched suicide attempt that turns into a psychedelic eternity of recrimination for past sins. The long rambling conversations with Bob and his fellow druggies are darkly hilarious in that they show a kind of weird creativity while also being completely devoid of logic and apt to go in paranoid directions. For example, a problem with a car eventually leads to their certainty that the cops have planted drugs in the house and that the only solution is to sell the place. Dick does a masterful job of showing how people could end up living in a perpetual haze while ignoring the long term damage being done even as they see their own friends die or get turned into little more than vegetables by their own behavior. As he puts it, their sin was in wanting to play all the time but the penalty was far harsher than they deserved. On a side note, I also loved the movie version of this done by Richard Linklater that featured a hand drawn rotoscope process over filmed scenes to give it a feeling of realistic unreality. Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson give great performances as Bob’s druggie housemates, and Keanu Reeves was born to play the brain fried Arctor.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This was a fascinating story (if somewhat terrifying) about LA in the 90s (seen from the 70s) and the future is grim. In a lot of ways, PKD's predictions have not bourne out: we don't have scattersuits and no one was using cassette tapes anymore because of the CD. However, the long-term effects of hard drug use are not that off mark. I suspect that Substance D (or "death" as it is known on the street) would today be some kind of crystal meth like Heisenberg's on Breaking Bad, but ingestible with This was a fascinating story (if somewhat terrifying) about LA in the 90s (seen from the 70s) and the future is grim. In a lot of ways, PKD's predictions have not bourne out: we don't have scattersuits and no one was using cassette tapes anymore because of the CD. However, the long-term effects of hard drug use are not that off mark. I suspect that Substance D (or "death" as it is known on the street) would today be some kind of crystal meth like Heisenberg's on Breaking Bad, but ingestible with tablets. Its widespread use and devastating impact on users is certainly not understated. That being said, there is also a narrative about spies and counter-spies and how governmental institutions dehumanize agents and occasionally sacrifice then willingly. The overall feeling of the book was kind of like Fight Club meets Naked Lunch or something. I felt it was a great read and prefer it over "Electric Sheep" from PKD. I really enjoyed how he described the scramble suit using cubist painters, that was a nice touch. I also saw an interesting parallel to Fight Club with the split personality of the protagonist. I felt that his descriptions of people freaking out on LSD or D, particularly the bug episode, were extremely well done. I can't help but think that DFW's descriptions of addiction and delirium in Infinite Jest and The Pale King were at least partially inspired by PDK although DFW said he had never taken the hard stuff. I also have owned Linkletter's animated film of the book since the DVD was released and - although I have not watched in in several years - I recall it being quite faithful to the book and that the animation was groundbreaking at the time. I highly recommend both that one and A Waking Life by Linkletter (and Slacker of course!)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    “I have seen myself backward.” ― Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick's searing, hyperrealist tale of a specific time (late 1960s), a specific place (California), and a specific mentality (seek maximum happiness now since tomorrow you might die) set in 1994, enough in the near future for the author to inject massive doses of his signature wild imagination into the mix. As most readers will know, director Richard Linklater employed distinctive digital technology and “I have seen myself backward.” ― Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick's searing, hyperrealist tale of a specific time (late 1960s), a specific place (California), and a specific mentality (seek maximum happiness now since tomorrow you might die) set in 1994, enough in the near future for the author to inject massive doses of his signature wild imagination into the mix. As most readers will know, director Richard Linklater employed distinctive digital technology and animation in creating a blockbuster film based on the novel. In his Author's Note to A Scanner Darkly, PKD lists fifteen of the people he loved who lost life or sanity during those outrageous years. He also reveals something extremely personal to his readers: he is not in the novel, he is the novel. Intrigued? You should be. Here are ten hits of what this unique, drug-centered classic is all about: 1. Freak-Out: The opening scene features doper Jerry Fabin in a frantic battle with thousands of aphid bugs infesting his hair and every inch of his body. Unfortunately, Jerry is fighting a losing battle - even standing under hot water in the shower ten hours a day doesn't help. After suffering one particularly severe attack, Jerry admits defeat and is admitted into Number Three Federal Clinic. The psychic meltdown of Jerry Fabin is a haunting reminder to all of Jerry's friends of what can happen with too much dope, a reminder coating every page of the novel like a thick syrup. 2. Drugs and More Drugs: In addition to hash, heroin, cocaine, mescaline, LSD, speed and other familiar names on the list, there is the new prima numero uno drug of choice, Substance D aka Death or Slow Death. Among its many side effects is the risk of split brain phenomenon, where a user will develop two identities and have one side of their brain talk to the other as if two different people in conversation. And cut with bad ingredients, in a matter of months, Substance D can cause a sixteen year old girl to look like a scraggly old lady with grey hair falling out. But the supercharged high produced outweighs the possible side effects by far. Oh, wow! 3. The Setting: Sprawling air-conditioned Southern California nightmare, an unending repetition of McDonald hamburger stands, strip malls, gas stations and freeways. Main character Robert Arctor reflects: "They (McDonald's) had by now, according to their sign, sold the same original burger fifty billion times. He wondered if it was to the same person. Life in Anaheim, California, was a commercial for itself, endlessly replayed. Nothing changed; it just spread out father in the form of neon ooze." 4. War: It's straights vs. dopers since the dopers can't stomach the air conditioned nightmare and just want to turn on and drop out but the straights think all the neon ooze is as American as grandma and apple pie. And those straights include fully armed Birchers and Minutemen, city police and federal police, army forces and unidentified forces. If you are a doper and caught off guard, you will quickly be eliminated via jail or bullet or even worse, a federal clinic. In this war, the straights don't take any prisoners since, for them, dopers are disgusting filth, not even on the level of mangy dogs. 5. Scramble Suits: An underground cop will report gathered information wearing a futuristic scramble suit, a full body, head to toe covering, a piece of technological magic, rendering the wearer a vague blur. The police chief receiving this information will also wear a scramble suit. Thus concealment and secrecy are maintained on all levels. 6. Surveillance: In this futuristic world the police possess powerful technology to spy on dopers in all sorts of ways, including scanners that can zoom in and out in 3-D. Feeling paranoid? There might be good reason - smile, you are on candid camera. 7. Robert Arctor, One: Bob was once a straight, living with his wife and two little girls out in their three bedroom house, working as an investigator for an insurance company, but one day Bob hit his head in the kitchen and all instantly came clear in a flash: his entire life was a sham, nothing but a deadly routine and he hated all of it. Soon thereafter Bob gets a divorce and shifts into the doper life. 8. Robert Arctor, Two: To support his drug habit and live in his now rundown doper house, Bob takes on the job of undercover narcotics agent. The drug world, Arctor recognizes, is a murky world were dopers work for the cops and cops posing as dopers get hooked on dope and might even become full-time dealers. And Robert Arctor gets hooked on a bunch of dope, most notably on Substance D. Arctor escaped his drab, humdrum, straight family life but can he be sure his new doper life will turn out to be any better? 9 Robert Arctor, Three: Bob reports to his boss Hank in his scramble suit where he assumes name and identity as Frank. But, then, Bob has to deal with the crazy effects of Substance D causing his personality and identity to split in two. Oh, my spacey hallucinations! - an undercover agent living two lives with two different names experiencing split brain phenomenon. A custom-made phenomenon for the one and only PKD. 10. Dopers Friends: We are provided detailed glimpses into the inner and social lives of the two doper dudes living at Bob's house: supercool Ernie Luckman and supersmart Jim Barris. There is also Arctor's heartthrob - young, superfoxy Donna Hawthorne. Hey, wait a toker minute. Is Luckman or Barris or Donna what they appear to be? How many of them are also living a double life? As noted above, the drug world is a murky world. And that includes government agencies more than happy to slide into a sinister double life to achieve their goals. Read all about it. Remember PKD IS this novel. What a trip. “The tragedy in his life already existed. To love an atmospheric spirit. That was the real sorrow. Hopelessness itself. Nowhere on the printed page, nowhere in the annals of man, would her name appear: no local habitation, no name. There are girls like that, he thought, and those you love most, the ones where there is no hope because it has eluded you at the very moment you close your hands around it.” ― Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

  5. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    In 1971, Philip K Dick's fourth wife, Nancy, left him and took their little daughter with her. Dick was left alone in a four-bedroom house in Santa Venetia, ‘in a state of complete desolation and despair, and suicidally depressed’, as he later put it. In an attempt to surround himself with life and activity, he turned the property into a kind of open house for what he called ‘street people’ –drug-users that he knew through his amphetamine habit, although many of them were on much harder drugs In 1971, Philip K Dick's fourth wife, Nancy, left him and took their little daughter with her. Dick was left alone in a four-bedroom house in Santa Venetia, ‘in a state of complete desolation and despair, and suicidally depressed’, as he later put it. In an attempt to surround himself with life and activity, he turned the property into a kind of open house for what he called ‘street people’ – drug-users that he knew through his amphetamine habit, although many of them were on much harder drugs than he was. Dick's new housemates stopped him from killing himself, but a lot of them weren't so lucky themselves. ‘Toward the start of 1972,’ he remembered, ‘I woke up one day and noticed that all my friends either were dead, had burned-out brains, were psychotic, or all of the above.’ And these were people he had become very close to; indeed he thought he was in love with one of them. This was the genesis of A Scanner Darkly, in which Dick, grounding his metaphysical speculations in the real environment of the California doper scene, finally produced an out-and-out masterpiece. The novel's motivation is hinted at when its protagonist looks around at the drug addicts and drop-outs around him: In wretched little lives like that, someone must intervene. Or at least mark their sad comings and goings. Mark and if possible permanently record, so they'll be remembered. For a better day, later on, when people will understand. This is the colossal impulse of sympathy animating the book. Though it's obviously and openly about the California of the late 60s, Scanner is set, by genre convention, in the then-future of 1994, a distancing technique that Dick uses merely to blow up contemporary issues. Characters still use 60s slang, quote Timothy Leary, watch Easy Rider and listen to Hendrix and Janis Joplin on cassette; but they do it in a society where 60s paranoia about a ‘police state’ has been realised, where surveillance technology is advanced and all-pervasive, and where anyone, even your best friend, could be a narc in disguise. Our main character is one of them. As Agent Fred, he is responsible for infiltrating and monitoring a house full of drug addicts, using hand-wavy technology which means that no one, even his superiors, knows what he really looks or sounds like. His bosses tell him to focus on one guy in particular, Bob Arctor, not realising that Bob Arctor is Fred himself. The problem is that Fred/Bob is taking a lot of drugs in the line of duty, and he starts to become unsure of his real identity. As Bob, wandering about his house, he frets paranoically about the possibility of surveillance equipment in the walls; as Fred, he studies the tapes of Bob's activity and wonders who this guy is and what he's hiding. As the book goes on, the two increasingly fracture into separate entities. What's great about this is that Dick has always been fascinated by identity crisis and ontological instability; but whereas in previous books these are generated by sci-fi magic, here they are all rooted in a real evaluation of what drug addiction does to the human brain. Indeed he saw A Scanner Darkly as being, essentially, his great anti-drug novel, telling friends he wanted it to do for hard drugs what All Quiet on the Western Front did for war. I don't see it working quite that way; to me its genius is not located in its moral message, which is anyway not as strong or unambiguous as I think Dick thought it was. Unlike most of his other novels, it's also very funny. There is a great ear for dialogue in this book, with whole conversations reproduced very naturally – you feel like you're eavesdropping on these people as they crack jokes, talk bullshit, get confused, freak out, get high and negotiate relationships. “You want a ride where you're going?” “You'll bang me in the car.” “No,” he said, “I can't get it on right now, these last couple of weeks. It must be something they're adulterating all the stuff with. Some chemical.” “That's a neat-o line, but I've heard it before. Everybody bangs me.” She amended that. “Tries to, anyhow. That's what it's like to be a chick. I'm suing one guy in court right now, for molestation and assault. We're asking punitive damages in excess of forty thousand.” “How far'd he get?” Donna said, “Got his hand around my boob.” “That isn't worth forty thousand.” Scanner is full of great scenes, many of which can make you feel acute sadness and laughter all at the same time. It's also one of the best portraits of this milieu that I've read, and holds its own alongside other products of the 60s US counterculture – The Crying of Lot 49, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. In some ways the patina of science-fiction means it does a better job of explaining it all than any of them. And as the title warns you, it's not an upbeat tale. It spirals into a dark place, and then leaves you there. In a heartbreaking Afterword, Dick lists the friends he knew at that time and records the damage that was done to them. One of the names is his own. Most of the others simply say ‘deceased’. We really all were very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terribly brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief; even when we could see it, we could not believe it. […] These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. ‘You won't believe how screwed-up reality is actually, John, until you read SCANNER,’ Dick wrote to a friend; ‘I had no idea myself.’ You can feel that shock reverberating through the novel, alongside his curiosity, his sympathy, his horror. It's like all his gifts and obsessions finally had something real through which to be refracted – and the results may be dark, but they're also brilliant.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Be happy NOW, for tomorrow I will be writing. Take the cash and let the credit GO I'll write MY review tomorrow. Let US all be happy. And play AGAIN. ToMORROW. **** So, I wrote a review I was really proud of today during lunch. Four or five paragraphs. I liked it a lot. So, I was rather disheartened when my computer froze and I had to do a hard-boot to unfreeze it. Lost everything but the vague outlines of what I wrote. Even those vague outlines seem difficult to grasp right now. I'm kinda Be happy NOW, for tomorrow I will be writing. Take the cash and let the credit GO I'll write MY review tomorrow. Let US all be happy. And play AGAIN. ToMORROW. **** So, I wrote a review I was really proud of today during lunch. Four or five paragraphs. I liked it a lot. So, I was rather disheartened when my computer froze and I had to do a hard-boot to unfreeze it. Lost everything but the vague outlines of what I wrote. Even those vague outlines seem difficult to grasp right now. I'm kinda demoralized. Alas, I can probably make some bridge to how THIS loss (MY loss) of data...this unrecoverable review...this remorse over the ebbs of life dovetails quite nicely with some of the themes of A Scanner Darkly. But right now I just don't care. I'm still pissed about the loss and have a hard time seeing through the glass at all. **** So, I'm going to give review resurrection a shot: 'A Scanner Darkly' fits well on the addiction/drug/alcoholism as literature shelf. It needs no subsidy to sit next to Infinite Jest, Tender Is the Night, Under the Volcano, Less Than Zero, Naked Lunch, On the Road and the rest. This list is basically unending. It seems like all novels about drug abuse, alcohol addiction, etc.., almost inevitably become a form of science fiction. They surf those disjointed, dream-like spaces -- seducing man from the first time he got buzzed from eating, drinking, or smoking something deliriant. These dope trips aren't rational, they aren't lucid, etc., but they still have a certain narrative coherence. It is like science fiction was created (in the beginning) by some belladonna-infused deity and formed into a perfect literary template to explain/capture all the paranoia and weirdness of the trips highs and lows. It is impossible to read a novel about addiction without recognizing the author's fingerprints all over it. These novels are all memoirs of sorts. Their pages hold more truth than the Library of Congress. They are funky road trips through hell and PKD is the perfect acid artist for this vicious trip. **** As I read 'A Scanner Darkly', I was haunted by the open wounds in the dialogue, the festering beauty of his prose. These weren't scenes created ex nihilo. These pages all resonate like some haunted Totentanz. They chill like a Vanitas dream you can't quite escape. I can't remember what I wrote. The words, the melody, even the beat of what was once alive is now dead... and waiting for a trippy resurrection.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Who am I? : "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick I'm a big Pynchon fan, too, so don't get me wrong here, but it seems to me like the main difference between Dick's writing style and Pynchon's--or at least, the difference that mostly accounts for Dick being treated as a "pulp" author with some interesting ideas whereas Pynchon is considered a major "literary" figure--is simply that Dick tends to write in crisp, straightforward sentences If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Who am I? : "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick I'm a big Pynchon fan, too, so don't get me wrong here, but it seems to me like the main difference between Dick's writing style and Pynchon's--or at least, the difference that mostly accounts for Dick being treated as a "pulp" author with some interesting ideas whereas Pynchon is considered a major "literary" figure--is simply that Dick tends to write in crisp, straightforward sentences that just directly say what he means to say, whereas Pynchon's writing is (in)famously dense with allusion and rambling esoteric figurative expressions to the point where it can be an intellectual exercise in its own right just trying to figure out what the hell Pynchon is trying to say. All of which makes major Dick novels like “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” or “Radio Free Albemuth” sort of resemble, IMHO, what “Gravity's Rainbow” might have looked like if Pynchon had been working with editors who expected him to actually keep tight deadlines. I think Dick was really gifted as a wry satirist, too, and this is something I think he's often under-appreciated for. Probably my favourite single episode in all of Dick's stories I've ever read--and I was quite overjoyed to see this faithfully recreated in the film adaptation--is still the "suicide" sequence from “A Scanner Darkly”. In short, I don't think Dick was ever bad at writing--he just doesn't seem to have had any real interest in the kind of writing that people like James Joyce or William Burroughs (or Pynchon, for whom to my mind it seems that both Joyce and Burroughs were major stylistic influences) were famous for. If you're into SF, read on.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Re-read 5/15/19: I'm continually surprised, now with my third read, how much fun I have with this novel. How much fun I have with the bugs. Or how much fun I have with the missing gears on the bike. Or how much fun I have with Bob, Fred, or whoever the hell the main character is. :) By the end, he is entirely nameless. Freaky cool. I think, more than anything, I love the philosophy that is snuck in at random moments or explored in long stretches without a direct reference. PKD's afterward is very Re-read 5/15/19: I'm continually surprised, now with my third read, how much fun I have with this novel. How much fun I have with the bugs. Or how much fun I have with the missing gears on the bike. Or how much fun I have with Bob, Fred, or whoever the hell the main character is. :) By the end, he is entirely nameless. Freaky cool. I think, more than anything, I love the philosophy that is snuck in at random moments or explored in long stretches without a direct reference. PKD's afterward is very nice and also very sad, but the core idea is not lost. We were all just kids not wanting to grow up, but the punishment was entirely out of scope with that crime. This is, ostensibly, a novel about drugs, but it is also something much deeper. It is a novel about ennui, confusion, paranoia, and the senseless horror of living a world that cannot know what it wants, or if it does, refuses to give an inch when it comes to forgiving itself. You might say it is a hell of our own creation. Deep? Not really. Kinda obvious. But so obvious that we continually forget the fact and get caught up in our continual confusion until we utterly forget it. And then, when we have someone pipe up with the pithy observation that we're living in a hell of our own creation, we laugh and get a hammer and kill the poor fool or get him hooked on drugs or send him to a mental institution or we follow him around like some guru and shave our heads and no one pays him any mind anyway. Hello, Phil! Oh wait, you died right after you FINALLY got out of poverty when they made Blade Runner. You lived in abject poverty all your life... and now we have movie after movie after movie made from your legacy. Yep. Sounds about right. Welcome to the Empire. It never ended. Original Review: This is my second time reading this wonderful novel, and I see no reason to revise any of my initial impressions. It's still very enjoyable... Again. Maybe I have a soft spot in my heart for all those wonderful novels that either deal with the nature of reality, of conscious identity, of drug use, or just plain consequences of one's actions. Fortunately for me, I've got so many of my favorite themes in one novel. To me, it builds on the success of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and only mildly resonates with any overt SF gadgethood. Instead, it speculates wildly about the people who use and the people who suffer, showing us all how much worse the punishment is for what is, in effect, a victimless crime. A discussion about Pot? If so, it is rather early in the turning of the wheel. We're shown people having fun despite the darkness of their lives and despite the heavy consequences, whether by huge mental instability, outright madness, incarceration, brainwashing, and last but not least, inequity of justice. Maybe the last isn't as obvious until you read the author's afterward, or maybe it'll bash you over the head as you roam the fields. Either way, Death is only an inversion of self, and the faster a person runs toward fulfilling themselves through drugs or hedonism, the faster they lose everything that matters in their lives. PKD's dark universe and exploration of the mind falling apart, of draconian measures tearing harmless people apart, of the absolute irony of the end of the novel... all of it is a testimony of heartbreak in the midst of humor. I happen to know a bit about PKD's life. He wasn't the drug fiend that people made him out to be. He smoked some pot and dropped a few tabs of acid in his life, but he was also a man of his times. He WROTE as a man of his time. He was more interested in philosophy and the nature of reality, religion, and the mind that most writers, but that's not to say he was anything other than paranoid. He was. And that was the main feature of most of his great novels. Counterculture was his passion. So was questioning the fabric of reality. Some of his last novels exemplify this. A later brain tumor cannot explain away the devotion to these threads of themes, although I think we can all agree that it did make him a bit obsessive about it. Regardless, this was first and foremost a deliberate novel set out to deliberately show the blurred definitions between the norms and the abnorms, the crazies and the sane, the users and the clean. Everything was merely a reversal in the glass. Narcs and pushers were practically the same, and the funniest bits of the book had to be either the antics of the friends or the deliciousness of having our MC ironically persecute himself every step of the way. What a beautiful novel. Not my absolute favorite of his works, but it is crazy good. Now, off to re-watch the great Linklater film!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul O'Neill

    God, how dark it is here, and totally silent. Nothing but me lives in this vacuum… Philip K. Dick’s darkly atmospheric novel about drug culture and how drugs affect society is a well written, impactful story. It’s a realistic view of how drugs affect the mind and relationships. The story follows the character of Bob and his friends, who are both using and selling a mind-bending drug called Substance D. We also follow Fred, a cop who works for a form of drug bust squad. The hook is that Bob and God, how dark it is here, and totally silent. Nothing but me lives in this vacuum… Philip K. Dick’s darkly atmospheric novel about drug culture and how drugs affect society is a well written, impactful story. It’s a realistic view of how drugs affect the mind and relationships. The story follows the character of Bob and his friends, who are both using and selling a mind-bending drug called Substance D. We also follow Fred, a cop who works for a form of drug bust squad. The hook is that Bob and Fred are the same person. Substance D alters the mind so much that Bob/Fred’s personality fractures and that’s the main narrative that we follow. Dick was a drug user himself. Because of this, he is able to paint a hauntingly realistic picture of the life of a drug user and the constant haze they live in. Written in 1977, it still holds up today and points must go to Dick for one of the best titles for a book, ever. Great opening The opening sequence had me hooked. It’s a perfect example of how to draw in an audience. It starts by showing how drugs have pretty much demolished Jerry’s mind, a great introduction to the events to come. Writing Dick’s writing creates such a dark atmosphere. For me, it’s the best thing about this book. It sucks you in and you can imagine what it’s like in the situation the characters find themselves in. Dick also writes the tragic elements of the story very well. Here are some of my favourite examples of what the writing is like in this book: Happiness, he thought, is knowing you got some pills. What did any man, doing any kind of work, know about his actual motives? To see that warm living person burn out from the inside, burn from the heart outward. Until it clicked and clacked like an insect, repeating one sentence again and again. A recording. A closed loop of tape. I resemble that worm which crawls through dust, lives in the dust, easts dust until a passerby’s foot crushes it. Notable issues The writing does ramble on in places. To me, I would have chopped some chunks out of this book to make it even shorter. His use of German irritated me whilst reading it also as Dick doesn’t always translate it into English. I know it doesn’t make a huge impact to the story and in fact it’s there to some something about the psyche of our main character but it irritated me all the same. Final thought A great book with a dark, ominous atmosphere which rolls off the page and into your head. The story is fascinating and echoes parts of the real world so closely that it’s scary! Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ Not even February and I’m already behind on 2018’s reviews. Good thing I didn’t tell myself I’d lose weight! The one thing I have always told myself is I need to read a Philip K. Dick story. Imagine my surprise when I cued this one up on the ol’ Fiat’s Bluetooth and heard that it was written by Philip K. Dick. I’m not sure one book can be a quantifier for his entire set of works, but in the immortal words of Larry David, this was . . . Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ Not even February and I’m already behind on 2018’s reviews. Good thing I didn’t tell myself I’d lose weight! The one thing I have always told myself is I need to read a Philip K. Dick story. Imagine my surprise when I cued this one up on the ol’ Fiat’s Bluetooth and heard that it was written by Philip K. Dick. I’m not sure one book can be a quantifier for his entire set of works, but in the immortal words of Larry David, this was . . . . . Whoops. I mean . . . . Since I listened to it, I don’t have any quotes to provide. I can tell you the story is sort of a “scared straight” type of tale – all about the perils of drug addiction. Our MC, Bob Arctor, is a small-time dealer looking to go big with the new drug of choice known as Substance D. He’s also an undercover agent known as Fred who is trying to bust a small-time dealer looking to go big known as Bob Arctor. Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. You see, one of the side effects of Substance D is that it causes your mind to break from reality. Bob is Bob when he is Bob, but thanks to Bob imbibing in some of his own wares he is also Fred trying to bust Bob when he is Fred. There’s a bevy of supporting characters that make this story more than worth the price of admission added in for good measure. Classified as “Sci-Fi” – a genre I don’t typically steer myself toward – would probably have been the right classification back in 1977 when A Scanner Darkly was originally published. Today? It’s pretty freaking realistic. Aside from the scanner suit, it’s like Philip K. Dick was a real soothsayer with regard to the future of drug use in America. 4 solid stars thanks, in part, to Paul Giamatti on the audio . . . . . Not interested in reading or listening to the book? Good news! There’s a real trippy film version that’s like live action with a cartoon overlay (wayback machine has teenie bopper Kelly saying just like the A-Ha video!) starring Keanu Reeves . . . . And an all-star supporting cast . . . .

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    The weird and trippy 1970s drug scene in California ala PKD Originally posted at Fantasy Literature If you were choosing any Hollywood actor to narrate an audiobook of PKD about dope users in Southern California in the early 1970s, who would you choose? Random House Audio got Paul Giamatti to read A Scanner Darkly, and who could better? I tried to distill the vibe of the book in the following passage I assembled on my own. Imagine him reading it if you will: Hey man, it’s not easy for a doper The weird and trippy 1970s drug scene in California ala PKD Originally posted at Fantasy Literature If you were choosing any Hollywood actor to narrate an audiobook of PKD about dope users in Southern California in the early 1970s, who would you choose? Random House Audio got Paul Giamatti to read A Scanner Darkly, and who could better? I tried to distill the vibe of the book in the following passage I assembled on my own. Imagine him reading it if you will: Hey man, it’s not easy for a doper trying to score and get high in a world of chickenshit straights with their dead-end jobs, not to mention narcs trying to bust you. You’d rather light up with some mellow heads and foxy chicks dropping tabs, grooving to acid rock, talking about random shit endlessly, and rolling joints. Once you flash onto this, man, and roll a fantasy number in your head, you’ll be fine unless you run into some psychotic paranoids with a grudge out to kill your buzz. Or even worse, you might get hooked on Substance D and your two brain hemispheres might split into Bob Arctor, doper extraordinaire, and Phil, undercover DEA agent. Things get even more messed up when you do surveillance on…yourself. It’s enough to drag even the most hip cat down. A Scanner Darkly is a deeply personal fictional depiction of PKD’s early 1970s living in Marin County (setting changed to Southern California in the book) with a bunch of stoners in a big house after his fourth wife Nancy left him. There are moments of hilarity (mainly centered on two crazy housemates named Barris and Luckman, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson in the Richard Linklater film version), tragedy, pure horror, and then long stretches where stoners just ramble on about random stuff. Bob Arctor is a minor drug dealer and user living in Anaheim with a few other dopers who spend their days trying to score dope, hash, mushrooms, and other chemical substances. Most don’t seem to have any gainful employment except Bob’s friend Donna, who is a dealer of psychedelic drug Substance D, aka Death. But unknown to them, Bob is also Fred, an undercover DEA agent assigned to spy on the house and track down the suppliers of Substance D. The problem is, the drug also causes the two hemispheres of the brain to bifurcate until the user has two separate personalities that are unaware of each other. And since all narcs use scramble suits to disguise their identities, the DEA doesn’t know that Fred is also Bob Arctor. Bob himself doesn’t recognize the situation, but suspects something is strange. Eventually Phil’s surveillance collapses after watching hours of himself and his roommates. His handlers discover his drug addiction and send him to the New Path rehab facility for drug addicts, but this is also loosely based on some real-life experiences of PKD. The story suddenly turns into One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as Bob becomes a brain-fried mental patient trapped in the facility, and an elaborate conspiracy is revealed, but this feels forced and not consistent with the main story of Bob Arctor and his stoner friends living their self-destructive, carefree and tragic lives. Since this is so autobiographical, you might wonder why it needs to be SF. In fact, PDK felt it would be hard to market it as a mainstream novel, so his editor at Ballantine Books helped him add SF elements, particularly the scramble suits that are integral to preserving the deception of Bob/Phil’s split personas. Of note, the inspiration for the scramble suits is explained as an accidental discovery by an employee of Bell Laboratories that was experimenting with “disinhibiting substances” and experienced “a disastrous drop in the GABA fluid of his brain”. This caused him to see an ultra-rapid series of modern abstract paintings from a Leningrad art museum projected on the wall of his bedroom via “lurid phosphene activity”. This is actually a real hallucination that PKD experienced in 1974 as part of his religious interactions with VALIS. But I digress. The language is pure 1970s hippie/stoner/counterculture slang, and the world he depicts is pretty close to what I imagine 1970s Southern California was like. And herein lies a problem. If you’ve never been a part of this subculture, these stoner conversations are just as ridiculous as the real versions they were based on. And while literature exposes readers to all kinds of unfamiliar worlds, this one can get fairly tedious at times. The junkie mentality is perfectly depicted in its total fixation on getting the next fix at any cost, and there is no hesitation to steal, betray, or even stand by idly as your other junkie friends choke on a piece of food, die from overdoses, or go through painful withdrawals. But for us straights who aren’t hip to the stoner life, you may have trouble feeling sympathy. In fact, the most powerful message is the afterword dedicated to all PKD’s friends who have suffered from their drug use, resulting in “death, permanent psychosis, and brain damage.” As he states clearly, “"some people were punished entirely too much for what they did," and "drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to move out in front of a moving car." This was rampant in the 1960s and 1970s and sadly still persists to this day, as depicted in drama series like The Wire and Breaking Bad. The 2006 movie version is directed by Richard Linklater, an indie filmmaker from Austin, Texas. It stars Keanu Reeves (Bob Arctor/Fred), Woody Harrelson (Ernie Luckman), Robert Downey Jr. (James Barris), and Winona Rider (Donna Hawthorne). It is done in digital Rotoscope, a process which animates live-action film footage, creating a unique look to the film (the earlier non-digital rotoscoping technique was used for A-ha’s classic 1985 video “Take on Me”, Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings and Wizards, and parts of 1982’s Heavy Metal. Considering the mind-altered states of the characters in the film, it is the perfect visual medium to depict their slippery grasp of reality. It makes each scene fresh and interesting to look at, and yet all the actors are unmistakably themselves. The casting of Harrelson and Downey are absolutely spot-on as Bob’s totally paranoid and ridiculous junkie roommates, and the bug-eyed looks and uncontrolled body ticks of Rory Cochrane (Charles Freck) are hilarious and scary. Having read the book before watching the film, I felt like all of the best scenes of the book were picked up for the film while the some overlong stoned conversations ended up on the cutting room floor. My favorite scenes in the book were done to perfection, like Freck getting pulled over, the discovery of the still-lit joint, the stolen mountain bike, the home-made silencer, and the clowning around of Luckman and Barris were brilliantly captured by Downey and Harrelson (I wonder, did PKD write the parts just for them, seeing into the future?). The screenplay (also by Richard Linklater) also interspersed more hints of the New Path rehab clinic earlier in the film to make the final part of the film more cohesive than in the book. It also made a crucial change in the real identity of one of the main characters (no spoiler from me, don’t worry), which made the ending more believable perhaps. And Keanu Reeves? Well, most people lambaste him for his wooden, emotionless delivery, but who better to play a conflicted, schizophrenic undercover cop and heavy drug user. He is perfect in the role. Another important decision was to modernize the language so it doesn’t sound like 1970s hippie slang, and still preserve the tone and intent of the author. I even think I detected the distinctive red stripe of a Costco superstore when they were driving along the highway. Far out, dude.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    My favorite PKD books tend to be those published in the 60s when he was writing wacky fun reality warping sci-fi like Ubik, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep etc. Of his 70s books that I have read Flow My Tears the Policeman Said is my favorite, whereas VALIS I could not (as yet) finish. I think the later PKD novels tend to be more serious and introspective though the weirdness is always present. A Scanner Darkly is one of his early 70s books and I find it My favorite PKD books tend to be those published in the 60s when he was writing wacky fun reality warping sci-fi like Ubik, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep etc. Of his 70s books that I have read Flow My Tears the Policeman Said is my favorite, whereas VALIS I could not (as yet) finish. I think the later PKD novels tend to be more serious and introspective though the weirdness is always present. A Scanner Darkly is one of his early 70s books and I find it more grounded than his earlier books, less insane and a little less fun to read. It is also semi-autobiographical and more melancholy than his other books that I have read. Set in the “near future” of 1992 (it was the future at the time) in a grubby, dystopian California where the general standard of living appears to be very poor and drug addicts possibly outnumber the non-addicts. The novel is mostly centered on Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics officer who lives among three addicts in a rented house and has a girlfriend who is a small time pusher. Bob’s cover is of course as another addict and his mission is basically to glean enough info form his junkie friends and his girlfriend to locate and arrest the producers of a powerful and popular drug called “Substance D”. The trouble is Bob is too deep under cover and has become an addict himself, consuming copious amount of this drug which messes up his head to the extent that he begins to have an identity crisis and lose his capacity for clear thoughts. As a police agent, Bob goes under the name Fred and always wear a “Scramble Suit” which prevent people from remembering his appearance so his true identity is known only to himself. This novel reads more like a thriller or drama about drug abuse than science fiction. The sci-fi elements like the scrambled suit and holographic photos seem to have been shoehorn in to make the novel legitimately sci-fi, because for some reason Dick did not want the book published as a “mainstream” book, possibly because sci-fi is his comfort zone or to avoid alienating his regular readers (just my conjecture). Fans of PKD’s weird goings-on will find enough to please themselves here I think. There are even some hilarious moments in the book such as the bizarre story of a motorized man-shaped block of hash told by one of the junkies. Dick is often criticized for writing inelegant prose, I never notice this myself as I have always liked his uncluttered prose, the right tool for the right job of telling his bizarre stories. Flowery or lyrical narrative style seems to be very unsuitable for his material. That said A Scanner Darkly seems to be more well written than his books from the 60s; on the other hand there is much more swearing in this book than I can remember from his earlier books. There is also a little bit of romance, considerable compassion, kindness, and sadness. Elements I do not usually associate with PKD’s works. The saddest part of the book is actually the author’s Afterward at the end of the book. I would recommend reading this novel then watch the 2006 faithful movie adaptation for maximum appreciation. Not my favorite PKD as there are dull patches here and there but overall a very worthwhile read and one of his more “important” novels. And now a mini-review of A Scanner Darkly, 2006 movie It is a good movie with a unique look and good performances by the actors. However, I wish the filmmaker Richard Linklater has shot the movie conventionally instead of employing the "interpolated rotoscope" technology to make the movie look like animation. On the plus side, the movie does look suitably surreal, like junkie's drug addled perspective. Unfortunately, the animated look puts an additional layer between the actors and the audience and causes an emotional disconnection.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    3.5 stars rounded to 4 after the epilogue. One day I figure out all of a Philip K. Dick novel. Ah, who am I kidding, lol. Truthfully, I like the challenge. Love the ideas. The guy was brilliant. But let me tell you, some of the situations and conversations I experienced in this book could possibly be the wildest I’ve come across – since reading my last Dick novel. In an epilogue, he offers his reason for writing A Scanner Darkly. It is poignant to say the least. He adds that there is no moral to 3.5 stars rounded to 4 after the epilogue. One day I figure out all of a Philip K. Dick novel. Ah, who am I kidding, lol. Truthfully, I like the challenge. Love the ideas. The guy was brilliant. But let me tell you, some of the situations and conversations I experienced in this book could possibly be the wildest I’ve come across – since reading my last Dick novel. In an epilogue, he offers his reason for writing A Scanner Darkly. It is poignant to say the least. He adds that there is no moral to his story. With drugs, there are only consequences. He tells this from personal experience. “I am not a character in the novel. I am the novel.” Maybe no moral, but definitely a message: Drugs take no prisoners. Fittingly, he named the drug in this book “Substance D” - death for short.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I've made it. I have finally reached the summit of the second Library of America collection of Philip K. Dick books, Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s. With my flag firmly planted atop the snow-capped peak of this book I can look back upon two weeks of paranoia, time travel, authoritarian governments and more experimental drugs than you can find outside of a Merck testing lab, with the self-satisfied air of a man who has plumbed the depths of speed-induced psychosis and made it through the I've made it. I have finally reached the summit of the second Library of America collection of Philip K. Dick books, Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s. With my flag firmly planted atop the snow-capped peak of this book I can look back upon two weeks of paranoia, time travel, authoritarian governments and more experimental drugs than you can find outside of a Merck testing lab, with the self-satisfied air of a man who has plumbed the depths of speed-induced psychosis and made it through the other side. What better reward could I ask for, though, than to have finally allowed myself to read a book I knew I would love from the moment I saw the film, A Scanner Darkly? I have wanted to read this book since the first time I heard of it, way back in the heady year of 2004 when I was working the front desk of a hostel in Prague and running a traveler's lending library of english-language literature. I was fresh off of Man in the High Castle and was handed a tattered paperback by a Welshman along with the benediction that this book would "utterly melt your mind." With a recommendation like that, I was immediately interested. Unfortunately that copy was soon lost among the ever-changing residents of the hostel and an opportunity was postponed. I've read nearly two dozen of Dick's books in the time since then but for one reason or another have never returned to A Scanner Darkly until now. The wait has made it even more delectable. Bob Arctor is an undercover cop investigating the sale of a drug known as Substance D, a heavily addictive drug its users lovingly refer to as Death because the end result of long term use is always either the big D itself or a fugue state in which the user's basic motor functions and cognitive abilities are stripped away, leaving a husk of a person behind. To infiltrate the organization making this drug, Arctor has become addicted to Substance D and is living in a bacchanal of a drug pad with 3 other users and attempting to make time with his dealer, Donna Hawthorne. He reports back to his office under the pseudonym of "Fred" and wearing a scramble suit to anonymize his identity, because no one knows the extent to which the police department has been corrupted by the drug syndicate, which leads to his superiors deciding that the user Bob Arctor is worthy of deeper investigation as he seems to have access to larger amounts of money than a man of his background should have and many hours where he simply disappears without a trace (of course, these are the times when Arctor is checking in with the department as Fred). So Arctor begins investigating himself in a move so biting it could have been culled from one of Kafka's nightmares. Sitting in a secret facility, reviewing hours and hours of surveillance tapes, and hearing all of the inane blather that only a house full of junkies can think is profound, Arctor's consciousness begins to fragment down the center until his cop persona Fred begins to suspect that Arctor is in business with some very shady people and becomes determined to bring him down. It's always a relief to me when a book manages to live up to the expectations I have, especially when it's a read I've been looking forward to for a number of years. The dialogue was spot on, so many of the conversations between Arctor and his roommates, Barris and Luckman, seem as though they could have easily been taken from real life. Especially considering that at the time he was writing this, Dick had essentially opened up his home in Berkeley to the ever-shifting tide of drug users, political activists, and wanderers that were all moving through the Bay Area in the early 70s. The paranoia that is a hallmark of every Dick work reaches its pinnacle here as Arctor races against his own failing mind to collar his crook in time, who just happens to be himself. This read ranks up there with Ubik, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as one of Dick's finest. It is easily worthy of the praise which has been heaped upon it, and it was really nice to find proof that one of Dick's books had finally been adapted to film in a manner that did justice to the source material. The only disappointment I feel is that I no longer have this book to look forward to, though I am certain that I will return for a reread at least once or twice in the years to come. Thus ends my Dick binge of 2012. I've made it through a good number of the author's books by this point and the only major work still remaining are his Exegesis books (VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which I will get to at some point down the road when my mind is on more firm ground than it is after devouring five reality-shifting books.

  15. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    I've started and restarted this review a number of times. With that in mind, I'm going to take a page from mark monday (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13...) and share a multi-perspective review. The .gif summation: Recipe for A Scanner Darkly: 1. Take moderate amounts of the drug of your choice (recommend one with highly hallucinogenic and paranoiac qualities) 2. Allow to simmer while reading Less Than Zero 3. Stir in a random amount of a second drug (preferably one with potential for permanent I've started and restarted this review a number of times. With that in mind, I'm going to take a page from mark monday (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13...) and share a multi-perspective review. The .gif summation: Recipe for A Scanner Darkly: 1. Take moderate amounts of the drug of your choice (recommend one with highly hallucinogenic and paranoiac qualities) 2. Allow to simmer while reading Less Than Zero 3. Stir in a random amount of a second drug (preferably one with potential for permanent brain damage--current versions of the recipe recommend bath salts) 4. Allow to cook in brain pan on high heat 5. Watch Rush, the movie. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102820/ 6. Rinse and repeat until brain fully cooked The literary critic: Wandering, borderline incoherent narrative. Half-hearted attempt to tack on conspiracy theory at the end, which might have been effective had there been more building earlier. The story did surprise me in a couple of places, notably (view spoiler)[Luckman's unintentional drug trip (hide spoiler)] which, while genius, does miss the consequence point he seems to want to make; and in the plot twist at the very end. Like the main character, Bob Arctor/Fred, PKD seems of two minds about the book: does he want to tell a story of extreme consequences to deliberate recreational drug use, or does he want to tell a mystery noir, with undercover agents, spying, illegal drug running, and conspiracies? That said, character creation was brilliant. Each has his own way of interacting with drugs, his own purpose and own experience, and the intersections were fascinating. Barris with his experimental genius. Luckman with his pursuit of pleasure, Donna with her strangely drawn and arbitrary drug-use lines (ha-ha), and Charles Freck with his sad effort to self-medicate mental illness. I'm sure several of the conversations came out of real life; they are too absurd not to. The psychological evaluation sections were interesting, and a clever device to give the reader insight into the world and Arctor, although the mumbo-science passed through my own tired brain. Stylistically, the language was essentially prosaic, but occasionally a phrase would catch my attention and stop me in my tracks with meaning: "It will be a hindsight I won't even get to have. Somebody else will have to have it for me." "And then he thought, Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then, briefly. Under very specialized conditions, such as today." The personal: Been there, done that. I get PKD and his motivations, I really do. His Author's Note was quite powerful, especially when he says "these people wanted to keep having a good time forever." Except it his book skipped the good time, the gentle slide into drug dependency, the slip of control from choosing to needing, personal charm eroded into manipulation. Had he done so, my sympathy for the characters would have been greater and my connection to the story deeper. I would have enjoyed it more if there had been more than the tiniest shred of redemption, some elements of joy and abandon to show the sheer delight of the "children playing in the street." Three and a half tabs stars. Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    What a great book. I had read other works by Dick (Blade Runner and Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said), which were both good, pleasant reads, nice and compact. Nothing too heavy, not overly deep, but I could sense there was more to this author than that. This book has confirmed my suspicions and exceeded my expectations, and so Philip K. Dick has managed to take me by surprise even when I was expecting to be surprised by this author at some point. Before reading this book, I had no idea what I What a great book. I had read other works by Dick (Blade Runner and Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said), which were both good, pleasant reads, nice and compact. Nothing too heavy, not overly deep, but I could sense there was more to this author than that. This book has confirmed my suspicions and exceeded my expectations, and so Philip K. Dick has managed to take me by surprise even when I was expecting to be surprised by this author at some point. Before reading this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought this would be some dystopian novel, where drugs controls people and the drugs is controlled by the people who are supposed to be taking care of the people. Brave New World kind of thing. But "A Scanner Darkly" is much more personal, and feels much more profound as a result. It's not describing the collapse of a society but the collapse of a mind. Dick allowed me a tour in the minds of drug users in such a convincing way that if I would ever have had the desire to try hard drugs as an experiment, this book would have given me my fix. He is a safari guide with scars of lion attacks on his back, an eye missing and a sad look in the one remaining. In essence, a guide who knows and feels what he's talking about. And it shows. But despite the weight of this heavy topic, the author finds a balance between the gay and the sad, the asides and the profound, the thinking and the feeling, the despair and the hope. "A Scanner Darkly" lures you in with truly funny stories, and slowly shows the sadness behind them. This book is about drugs, this book is drugs. But only in the good way. I will need to return to this book or it's going to be very cold in Turkey. A must-read for anyone, everyone, and those inbetween and outside of those two. It also made me spin my own little fantasy reel, as follows below... __ I play a fantasy number in my head. I'm walking down a sunny street, with the hot summerheat beating down on me. People are hustling and bustling all around me, there's noise, NOISE, noise, make it stop. I'm being pushed and shoved down a street I don't want to be in to a place I don't want to go to, and I get angry looks. The stares are icy cold but the sun keeps beating and heating me, burning me up. In the corner of my eye, I see my salvation. A small alleyway, a neon-lit sign, "A Scanner Darkly", flash flash, illuminating the cool shadows. I'm going in, I think. It's what I should do, I know. Under the sign there's an open door, so getting in is easy. All I need is a little taste for adventure and one more angry look down from main street. Here I go. I'm in a long hallway. I hear laughter all around me, but there's nobody around, nobody I can see anyway, just voices of merriment. The voices feel real, and generous and sincere. I go further, intrigued, looking for the source of all this joy. The hallway is nice and cool, the beating sun is already half-forgotten. I keep walking, losing myself in a train of thought. I'm going left. Straight ahead. Left again. This tunnel is taking me places, I know it. I'm on to something here! A solution is around the corner, every passage gets me to thinking and then I reach a decision and take a corner and every corner takes me into a new direction and I have to start over again but not really. Returning is not an option, I'm starting to forget where I'm coming from, which way I went, but the solution is nearer to the end than to the beginning anyway so I have to keep on going and be patient, persevere, but the thought tunnels are starting to wear me down. They're not cool anymore. But cold. Relief I see an intersection with another passageway, running to my left and running to my right. I feel the relief more than see it, as a warm breeze wafts through it, through my hairs, through my fingers. This is passion and it feels good. There's bars that prevent me from going in, the only way I can go is straight ahead. Too much of this hot air would burn me anyway, the bars protect me. Even if I wanted to go in I couldn't, so after enjoying a bit of warmth, I find myself walking further through my tunnels of thought, leaving behind the warmth of the passion passageway, looking for a little laugh, an answer maybe, to any question, take a pick, then take a another turn around another corner. This goes on and on for I don't know how long until I reach a small room which I imagine is in the middle of all these tunnels. I know what it is. Insanity. A lonely, dark and cold and all other kinds of bad place, surrounded by tunnels of reasons and reasoning, circular and colliding. There's a chair in the middle of the room where I could rest, but no, I can't sit down, I'm too scared. Too scared it's too late. I turn around, run run run back out. Tap tap tap through the tunnels. Flick flick flick through the pages. They burn my fingers and soothe my soul. Light. A flower in a shoe. Hope. Upon leaving the tunnel system, back into the alleyway, I fish some stars out of my pocket. If you throw them high enough, they can warm up planets and souls. One, two, three, four, five. I throw them in the tunnels I hold so dear, hoping they bring warmth to the laughter and light to the questions. Thank you, "A Scanner Darkly", for having me as your guest.

  17. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    I had a whole lot of fun reviewing this... http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres... But there is a serious side: In the novel, Fred’s mind and brain are regularly tested by police department psychologists, owing to the stress of both maintaining a dual identity, and taking drugs as part of his undercover life. Dick avoids the off-the-shelf cliché’s of ink-blots and electric shocks, as the author describes realistic test scenarios and recognisable neuropsychological tests. Worryingly for Fred, the I had a whole lot of fun reviewing this... http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres... But there is a serious side: In the novel, Fred’s mind and brain are regularly tested by police department psychologists, owing to the stress of both maintaining a dual identity, and taking drugs as part of his undercover life. Dick avoids the off-the-shelf cliché’s of ink-blots and electric shocks, as the author describes realistic test scenarios and recognisable neuropsychological tests. Worryingly for Fred, the results of divided visual field and embedded figures tests suggest that his cortical hemispheres are becoming functionally separate, as they gradually lose the ability to communicate and fail to integrate information. Here, the author melds science-fiction with science-fact, with an inspired reading of Sperry’s work on split-brain patients. Dick was fascinated by Sperry’s discovery that patients with surgically disconnected cerebral hemispheres (a treatment for otherwise untreatable epilepsy)seemed to show a dual or partitioned consciousness. Where previously it was thought that the right side of the brain was largely ‘silent’ and relied on the dominant left, new research suggested that each hemisphere “appeared to be using its own percepts, mental images, associations and ideas” (Sperry, 1993). In Dick’s novel, ‘Substance D’ induces a similar splitbrain disconnection (directly referencing Sperry in some passages), providing an explanation for the protagonist’s increasingly fractionated and incoherent self-consciousness. Far from being a fantastical notion of a far-flung plot, the idea that psychosis might result from a disengagement of the hemispheres was subsequently discussed in the scientific literature and is still influential today. Dimond (1979) for example, compared patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and split-brain patients, arguing that in both conditions “there is a fundamental failure of in the transfer of information between the two hemispheres”, suggesting “split-brain symptoms are present in schizophrenia”. Although the resemblances between psychosis and the effects of split-brain operations are no longer regarded so highly, clear evidence for differences in the structure and function of the hemispheres in psychosis remains (Gur and Chin, 1999; Pantelis et al., 2003). Perhaps ironically, ideas that many people might have dismissed as imaginative plot, turned out to be reasonable and well informed scientific speculation. It is from Bell, V. (2006) Through A Scanner Darkly: Neuropsychology and psychosis in Philip K. Dick's novel "A Scanner Darkly". The Psychologist, 19 (8), 488-489. You can see the whole article online: http://cogprints.org/5021/1/VaughanBe...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jan Philipzig

    Science fiction classic from 1977 that explores the complex and ultimately deadly interplay between capitalism, surveillance, mental illness and drug addiction, predicting the much more corporate controlled, disciplinary, panoptical, drugged society we live in today. It reveals the absurdity and hypocrisy of what would become known as the "war on drugs," as it uncovers the corporate roots of the whole cynical enterprise. One of my all-time favorites.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Britton Summers

    (EDITED REVIEW) I've been planning to re-review this book, but it seems that a lot of people really enjoy the old review...but I do hope that you guys can enjoy this new review, because I feel that I scratched the surface when I did my first review on this book. I'm not easily impressed when it comes to science fiction. I love the genre, yet I hate where the genre has gone, either becoming rip offs of older, superior material, or YA romps that focus on teenage drama rather than the ideas that (EDITED REVIEW) I've been planning to re-review this book, but it seems that a lot of people really enjoy the old review...but I do hope that you guys can enjoy this new review, because I feel that I scratched the surface when I did my first review on this book. I'm not easily impressed when it comes to science fiction. I love the genre, yet I hate where the genre has gone, either becoming rip offs of older, superior material, or YA romps that focus on teenage drama rather than the ideas that make science fiction so great, though I've seen authors such as Andy Weir who've managed to break that mold and try something new, but I have to search long and hard for those books and even Weir can't seem to escape his flaws. But then there's authors like PKD who reminds me why I love science fiction so much. He's one who quite literally cracks my head open with the twists and turns that define his work. Scanner is not a book that I'd lightly suggest from PKD, or any authors in general, much like how I wouldn't suggest VALIS lightly. But, unlike VALIS, Scanner is much more focused and straight-forward, getting weird but not losing sight of the story asides from a few tangents. PKD's involvement in kicking off the New Wave of Science Fiction is often overlooked, with many people crediting Michael Moorcock for starting it. It's true that he had a big role in starting the New Wave movement, but PKD was really the one who planted the seeds in the garden that would become the New Wave. But unlike Moorcock, who wants to get rid of the old tropes of classic science fiction and try something new, PKD embraces the tropes of old science fiction, while not being afraid to try something new with his work. Dick's work is more personal, while also spilling out imagination on every page. As for the book itself, I'd describe it as a much more somber and reflective version of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But while Thompson revels in the chaos of living in the moment and satirizes it, PKD is a somber old man, having lost many friends to 'living in the moment' in the form of drugs, as he attempts to reach out to his audience and warn them that drugs aren't cool, and he's not telling you this because he's the concerned parent that wants to keep you safe, he's telling you because he lived it, in fact to put it in his own words... "Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is “Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying.” But the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of the ordinary human existence. It is not different from your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place in days or weeks or months instead of years. “Take the cash and let the credit go,” as Villon said in 1460. But that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit a whole lifetime." A Scanner Darkly is hilarious, endearing, heartbreaking, and introspective. Dick knew that it was too late for him in the sense that the drugs and his increasing mental illness was taking its toll on him, but at least he wanted to tell other people of his and so many other people's stories, in a way to where it wasn't his story, but at the same time it was. As he put it. "They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The ‘enemy’ was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    In this novel there are two types of people, those who are addicted to substance D, and those who haven't tried it yet. Substance D is the ultimate high, and highly addictive. This book is the story of Fred, the narcotics agent, and Bob Arctor, the substance D dealer, who he is investigating. Of course, Fred and Bob Arctor are one person who is having his personality split apart by copious abuse of substance D. This book is simultaneously hilarious and heart breaking and it is a really excellent In this novel there are two types of people, those who are addicted to substance D, and those who haven't tried it yet. Substance D is the ultimate high, and highly addictive. This book is the story of Fred, the narcotics agent, and Bob Arctor, the substance D dealer, who he is investigating. Of course, Fred and Bob Arctor are one person who is having his personality split apart by copious abuse of substance D. This book is simultaneously hilarious and heart breaking and it is a really excellent portrayal of drug addiction. Supposedly this book is pulled heavily from Philip K Dick's personal experimentation with drug abuse and his friends who died. Accordingly the characters are brilliantly and believably depicted. And when they succumb to their sins, it is really sad. The book explores many themes including the interdependency of law enforcement and criminals, government surveillance and privacy issues, drug abuse and addiction, and mental illness. Philip K Dick is an excellent writer, and this book is some of his best writing. The plot is interesting and compelling. The characters are amazingly well done and believable. The prose is brilliantly rendered, in some places poetic even. The book was easy to read yet beautiful. I quick and quality read. I would characterize this book as science fiction of the proto-cyberpunk subgenre. This book has many cyberpunk elements that come up in the post Neuromancer explosion of cyberpunk literature. And certainly if this book were written in the 80s instead of the 60s it would be considered part of that genre. I read this book because I saw the movie trailer and it looked so awesome, but I never like watching movies without having read the book first.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pam Baddeley

    This book, published in 1977 but set in an early 1990s California, falls into the SF category because of some of its trappings which, even now, have not come about, such as scramble suits which allow undercover agents to report to their bosses in person with both participants unable to see the true appearance of the wearer. This leads to an almost laughable situation in which the main character, Bob Arctor, who works for an anti-narcotics unit in Orange County is ordered to keep himself under This book, published in 1977 but set in an early 1990s California, falls into the SF category because of some of its trappings which, even now, have not come about, such as scramble suits which allow undercover agents to report to their bosses in person with both participants unable to see the true appearance of the wearer. This leads to an almost laughable situation in which the main character, Bob Arctor, who works for an anti-narcotics unit in Orange County is ordered to keep himself under recorded surveillance, evoking shades of Kafka. And the air of paranoia increases as it becomes clear that someone close to him is trying to assassinate him or cause brain damage. The scramble suits are necessary because law enforcement agencies have been compromised as is clear from the prevalence of a new, highly addictive drug, called Substance D and nicknamed 'death'. The drug is being supplied in vast quantities and seems to have a single source - it is derived from an organic material, not synthetic - and yet whatever it is grown from appears to be widely available. In this imagined 'future' drug taking is almost universal among the have-nots in society, people who don't have credit cards or live in gated communities. Those who have such privileges are termed straights and they view the rest of society as druggies and criminals who deserve what they get. Those whom Bob lives and moves among - he shares a house with two other men and has a girlfriend who takes cocaine, but also pushes the even more destructive Substance D - are suffering increasingly mental confusion, and increasing braindamage from the cocktail of drugs they are taking. The story actually begins with one character who suffers a permanent hallucination of being bitten by aphids - he goes to extreme measures such as standing under a hot shower for hours at a time to combat the pain - which are actually a product of the brain damage caused by Substance D and other illegal substances. Bob is not immune from this either: it becomes clear that he is slowly suffering a meltdown in which his sense of identity is destroyed, because Substance D eats away at the connections within the brain which allow a sense of one identity despite the different functions carried out in the two brain hemispheres. Extracts from research publications available in the 1970s emphasise that without those connections, there are in effect two 'voices' within the head, and it is this confusion which makes Bob, in his 'Fred' guise - which is the name he uses to report to his employers - view Bob Arctor as possibly being one of the higher level dealers of Substance D whom he has been trying to locate. The question of identity and of the nature of reality is a theme that comes up in quite a few of the author's novels; here it is put in question by drug taking rather than a breakdown of one reality into another. The book conveys well the mad logic of drugged up people, with disjointed and rambling conversations that lead to nonsensical decisions. His afterword makes it clear that it is based upon his own experiences and people he knew and on whom some of the characters are based: the role call of those left in permanent psychosis and/or brain damaged or dead is sobering reading. Interestingly, he calls drug taking a choice, though this is contradicted by the novel itself, where quite a few of the women talked about have been tricked or forcibly abused into taking D.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David - proud Gleeman in Branwen's adventuring party

    A dark, haunting masterpiece. A Scanner Darkly isn't just a great book, it's an IMPORTANT book! Phillip K Dick's A Scanner Darkly follows the journey of Bob Arctor, an undercover police officer (code-named "Fred") trying to ingratiate himself into the drug culture in an attempt to bring down the suppliers of Substance D, a highly addictive mind-altering drug that can eventually cause permanent brain damage. Tragically, Arctor himself becomes an addict, first only taking Substance D to earn the A dark, haunting masterpiece. A Scanner Darkly isn't just a great book, it's an IMPORTANT book! Phillip K Dick's A Scanner Darkly follows the journey of Bob Arctor, an undercover police officer (code-named "Fred") trying to ingratiate himself into the drug culture in an attempt to bring down the suppliers of Substance D, a highly addictive mind-altering drug that can eventually cause permanent brain damage. Tragically, Arctor himself becomes an addict, first only taking Substance D to earn the trust of the people he's trying to take down, then taking it more and more to relieve the stress of his job. Eventually, Substance D poisons his mind to the point that he truly believes "Fred" and Bob Arctor are two separate people! What follows is a sad but compelling portrait of a sympathetic hero's slow descent into madness. What makes this book so powerful is that PKD does such a masterful job of detailing the horrors of drug addiction. This book is a classic example of "show, don't tell". PKD doesn't simply hold us by the hand and tell us that using drugs is wrong. Instead, we watch the slow burn going on inside Bob Arctor's mind. Arctor becomes increasingly paranoid. He begins to suffer hallucinations and time distortion. Random thoughts having nothing to do with current events start popping up in Arctor's narrative with no explanation. And what makes this even more jarring is that while we understand what is happening to Arctor, he does not. By giving us a direct view into Arctor's slowly deteriorating mind, PKD perfectly depicts just how tragic the life of a drug addict truly is. A book with subject matter this bleak would be hard to get through without any lighter moments. Fortunately, PKD manages to inject a lot of dark humor throughout the story, most of which comes from Bob Arctor's bizarre roommate, Jim Barris. From his invention of "the world's loudest silencer", to his rather unique line of deductive reasoning in determining that his forgetting to turn on a tape recorder proves there was an intruder in the house, Mr. Barris provides laugh-out-loud moments that are far funnier than most books you'll find in the "humor" section. I labeled this book important, not just because of the powerful anti-drug message, but also because of how influential it is. Considering how many elements of this novel are still used in literature today, it's often easy to forget this was written back in the 70s (except maybe for Arctor's tendency to say, "I can dig it"). Writers like Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis owe a great deal of debt to PKD for showing them the way! An incredibly compelling and powerful novel, A Scanner Darkly does exactly what classic literature is supposed to. It makes you care about the characters, it invokes your emotions, and it stays with you long after you've put it back on the bookshelf!

  23. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    Edit: August, 2019 November, 2016 (I read this the first time four years ago, so, re-read re-write review below) 'A Scanner Darkly' by Philip K. Dick is a barely disguised expose of the world of druggies. The science fiction elements in the fictional plot are simply a platform PKD uses to write what is basically a polemical novel about the destruction of the body and brain from a hypothetical drug, Substance "D". The drug happens to mirror actual drug destruction from addictions. I liked the Edit: August, 2019 November, 2016 (I read this the first time four years ago, so, re-read re-write review below) 'A Scanner Darkly' by Philip K. Dick is a barely disguised expose of the world of druggies. The science fiction elements in the fictional plot are simply a platform PKD uses to write what is basically a polemical novel about the destruction of the body and brain from a hypothetical drug, Substance "D". The drug happens to mirror actual drug destruction from addictions. I liked the book, but it's a druggie book more than any other category or style or genre. It is a very clever accurate intelligent insider druggie book, which analyzes the slow slide of drug-ignorant people from the middle-class who become addicted to a new fictional drug. Their brains slowly rot into compost from extended use because they initially wanted a feeling or a knowledge of some kind temporarily induced by drugs. Fictional as this drug is in the story, many of its effects on addicts are clearly based on very real world observations of actual drug addicts. Reality isn't good enough or too painful or boring for many of the book's characters, and drugs are a fast and easy relief. Addiction sneaks up on them. PDK, who I adore and I'm a huge fan, I suspect has written a disguised self-analysis and autobiography in writing'A Scanner Darkly'. He introduces a science-fiction plot mechanism, the made-up drug called Substance D, to explore what I know is the real-life general world of drug use which I have observed in my real world. The fictional 'D' drug acts to bifurcate the brain so that the left hemisphere can't communicate or synthesize information with the right hemisphere of the brain. This bifurcation is an actual real-world condition, which in 1977, when this book was written, was being studied. Surgeons were cutting out the brain parts which allowed the two brain hemispheres to communicate. It was an experimental effort to save the lives of some epileptics. Later, scientists developed tests that allowed them to see the odd functioning of the brain after this surgery. PDK uses some of the real effects of this surgery to highlight how drugs, especially his Substance D (D is for death), can appear to reveal insight into the self while in actuality the drug is eating your brain. Personal insights and prejudices ahead: I grew up in an abusive home with addicted and mentally ill parents. Plus I was a young adult in the late 1960's and 1970's, so I know of the environment of the time period in which PKD wrote this novel. Being a child of addicted neglectful abusive parents as I was is HELL. I barely survived my childhood. Even though both parents died before I was 31, and my dad, the more responsible one, kept a roof over our heads, I. STILL. hate. them. Gentle reader, do you understand what I am saying as honest as I can? I am, as a result of my childhood, not a fan of consistent and constant use of illegal drugs or prescribed pain killers, although I am not, peculiarly I admit, a teetotaler or rigidly against occasional recreational use. I really appreciate aspirin and wine. I do not have an addictive personality as it turned out. I originally thought of drug use as strictly an issue of personal responsibility back in the day, but I did not know then about genetic inheritance or about Big Pharma manipulations. Today, I think if both sides of your family have addictions, for your own sake, don't drink or use drugs. Addicted people have altered neuron cells and brain chemistry, which sometimes is permanent, and emotionally-numbed brains, so they do not quite understand how their addictions destroy all of the people connected to them. Lies come easy to them due to no moral filtering left in their fogged thinking and desperate need. Do not make the mistake of trusting them closer than a mile away from your life, no matter their promises or pleas. Love them if you still have enough left, but don't be a fool. The person you once knew is more than likely destroyed. Permanently. Maybe I'm not the best person to write opinions about addiction because I don't have a true understanding of drug-addict addictions, maybe, except for being on the receiving end of addicted persons' activities and crimes. Maybe I don't have the classic addictive personality. Plus, I quit my addiction. I smoked cigarettes for 11 years, and it was a BITCH to quit, but when the benefits became less than than costs, I quit. I couldn't do it cold turkey, I had to substitute. I loved a certain brand, so I switched to a brand I hated, but with the same nicotine content. Over two years, I kept switching brands to lower and lower nicotine brands until the nicotine was down to 2 mm, which is the same as the gum. Then I went to the gum. To my complete shock and surprise, I needed to chew three pieces for half a day, while drinking coffee, and suddenly I was done with cigarettes. I got really good at spinning writing pens because I needed to have a pen in my fingers to play with. Later, I began knitting. Now I'm a medium-good knitter. My only other vice (that I know of - looking in my glass, darkly) is books, which seems to be about MY boredom, fears, angst, etc. with reality. The harms my book addiction has inflicted on others around me seem to arise from my being insufferably logical and very annoying because I urge them to read a favorite book a lot. Like most big city childhoods, drugs were in the air I breathed growing up, but seeing the living wreckage sleeping it off in city alleyways as well as the after-school parties where my friends woke up not remembering where their cars were or who the fathers were of their unexpected early pregnancies (goodbye college), drug culture did not appeal. Whenever I was bored, I read a book. Whenever I was angry, I ran around the track or the block. In high school and as a single young adult, and because druggies are ALWAYS pushers of drugs, I tried stuff promoted by friends and acquaintances and dates. The drugs often made me puking sick. Being by nature a cowardly social wimp, I learned how to dump druggie things down sinks and into potted plants and learned the names of clear drinks that appeared to be water, which I actually was drinking. I learned to hold capsules in my cheek, which I followed up by clapping my hand to mouth to laugh explosively, secretly spitting out whatever. As a result of my efforts to avoid the dreadful puking, head-spinning, digestive sickness, muscle aching and sweating suckness of drug use, I was shocked and entertained by the behaviors of my peers who were out of their minds with what they saw as pleasure, and I saw as good material for stories. Sometimes they were insane and unable to settle, off and running to do 'fun' stuff like tear up the school grounds (and my track, GD them!) with their cars, or sat around asleep for 4 hours while I read a book on the couch, watching them drool, piss, or shit or eat ten bags of chitos. Interesting. However, I was finished with being charitable when I came home and my roommate had my cat in a paper bag, trapped, and he was being forced to breathe hashish smoke being blown into the bag. He never was ok, but mental after that, and he ended up being put to sleep. The music stopped for me. I can still fake having charity to the addicted druggies out of politeness and sometimes caring. However, I get triggered, so. PTSD sucks. The title of this book, 'A Scanner Darkly', is actually referencing a Bible verse, a version which I have reprinted below: 1Corinthians 13     1  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.      4  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.      8  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  I thought I'd put the whole thing in there. The fact the verse is so much about charity, as well as seeing imperfectly in fact what we think we see perfectly, well. Ok, then. For the record, I'm not a teetotaler, or against recreational usage.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    I watched the Richard Linklater film version of this again over the weekend, and besides confirming that it's my favorite Dick adaptation it also reminded me how much I love the book. Besides being a perfect exemplification of out-there paranoia (the circular structure really turns the screw on this), like almost every book of his it's also firmly and tangibly rooted in the things and relationships of mundane daily life. This book gives me a paranoia contact high.

  25. 5 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    I read this years before it ever became a movie (which I have not seen) and I thought A SCANNER DARKLY was both funny and thought provoking. I would read this book again.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    The authors note at the end of the novel is really powerful. In it PKD talks about how many people play with drugs and end up paying too high a price for the choice. It's well said and resonates deeply in the context of just having finished this novel. Even if you don't read this, pick it up in a book store and read the authors note at the end. It gives a perspective on drug use that most people haven't considered. The story itself is fantastically written and wonderfully weird in true PKD The authors note at the end of the novel is really powerful. In it PKD talks about how many people play with drugs and end up paying too high a price for the choice. It's well said and resonates deeply in the context of just having finished this novel. Even if you don't read this, pick it up in a book store and read the authors note at the end. It gives a perspective on drug use that most people haven't considered. The story itself is fantastically written and wonderfully weird in true PKD style. I really enjoyed it, although parts of it made for uncomfortable reading, also in true PKD style. Well worth reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Written in the 70s and set in the 90s this is Dick’s semi-autobiographical description of drug use, abuse and addiction. It’s set in Orange County in California. The main protagonist is Bob Arctor, who lives with a group of drug users. Arctor is also an undercover police agent called Fred. Also central in this book is a drug called substance D (a new, very addictive drug also called D and Slow Death) and Fred is tasked with trying to find a way to the suppliers. Fred/Bob become increasingly Written in the 70s and set in the 90s this is Dick’s semi-autobiographical description of drug use, abuse and addiction. It’s set in Orange County in California. The main protagonist is Bob Arctor, who lives with a group of drug users. Arctor is also an undercover police agent called Fred. Also central in this book is a drug called substance D (a new, very addictive drug also called D and Slow Death) and Fred is tasked with trying to find a way to the suppliers. Fred/Bob become increasingly blurred as Arctor becomes addicted to D. The periodic battery of tests conducted by Fred’s superiors increasingly show his cognitive fragility. The novel charts the decline resulting from addiction and how a person can become a shell of their former self. Fred/Arctor goes into a rehabilitation unit (he is now called Bruce) and spends his days doing straightforward manual tasks. There are other characters in the book. Arctor’s housemates, Fred’s work colleagues, Donna (a dealer and friend of Bob) and various characters at the rehab centre. However I found all of them pretty two dimensional. The counter argument is that the real character is the drug, but it also meant some of the interactions were rather stiff. There are vignettes of drug use and psychosis and extended reflections on the type of mental health problems caused by drugs. Anyone who has spent any time with addicts will recognise the chaotic lifestyle and fractured conversations. Another issue I had with the book was the ending. The descent into madness felt far too precipitate and the whole section at the end was very rushed and would have benefitted from extension. The attitude to women was also an issue to me as most of the female characters are there as sexual foils and the threat of sexual violence pervades. There are lots of questions about identity and the nature of reality. Interesting as parts of this are the whole felt a bit flimsy and insubstantial to me’ rather than a dystopian future it seemed stuck in a very typical past.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Will

    I like P.K. Dick, but this just plain sucked. No narrative tension, the writing is awful (I would quote some of it as proof, but I already got rid of my copy), and the most potentially exciting elements of the book (drug subculture and its lingo and take on friendship, multiple identities) are handled with the zest and elegance of a cut-rate rectal exam. Does that analogy even make sense? I don't think so, but neither did this book. I've heard this was the first book he wrote after he kicked I like P.K. Dick, but this just plain sucked. No narrative tension, the writing is awful (I would quote some of it as proof, but I already got rid of my copy), and the most potentially exciting elements of the book (drug subculture and its lingo and take on friendship, multiple identities) are handled with the zest and elegance of a cut-rate rectal exam. Does that analogy even make sense? I don't think so, but neither did this book. I've heard this was the first book he wrote after he kicked drugs - which I certainly hope is not true because the book is decidedly un-hip for all its attempts to be otherwise. Usually Dick's weaker writing is forgivable because you can see him grasping at too many ideas; he's trying to cram so much into one story that his prose cannot contain the inventiveness. But with "A Scanner Darkly" you can see him trying to cash in on his drug experiences and years of paranoia but coming up with nothing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Well, that was ... different. I hadn't known (or didn't remember) that this was a story about drugs and addicts and perception and human personalities/identities. But it is. Boy, is it ever. We follow a guy called "Fred" (spoiler alert: his real name probably isn't Fred). He meets a woman called Donna and a few other junkies. Fred, as we are shown, is a cop and trying to get to a major supplier in California. You see, the book takes place in a dystopian futuristic American society where the war on Well, that was ... different. I hadn't known (or didn't remember) that this was a story about drugs and addicts and perception and human personalities/identities. But it is. Boy, is it ever. We follow a guy called "Fred" (spoiler alert: his real name probably isn't Fred). He meets a woman called Donna and a few other junkies. Fred, as we are shown, is a cop and trying to get to a major supplier in California. You see, the book takes place in a dystopian futuristic American society where the war on drugs was lost. Most people are addicted to one hard drug or another. Newest monster on the block is Substance D and "Fred" is slowly but surely caught in its net as well. The drug makes you lose touch with reality, amplifies paranoia and slowly but surely eats away at your brain. Then there is Fred's superior, Hank (probably not his real name either) as well as the stressful job that are not helping Fred to stay clean. Drugs / the junkie life, it turns out, is not a topic I like to read or watch fiction about. I'm interested in the scientific side, what it does to a human's body etc, but that's about it. I, unlike many others, don't mind weed when you're 18+ years old. Once you're 18, your brain is fully developped so the weed can't have any negative side effects - though you shouldn't drive since your reaction time is severely reduced. In fact, I despise how a relatively harmless drug is villified while stuff like alcohol and cigarettes are socially acceptable although far more people die because of those every year and far more families get torn apart by alcoholism. Anyway, it's the hard drugs I will never support. Crystal meth, cocaine etc. And I'm sorry if people can't understand this but I don't really have much sympathy for junkies. There are exceptions (like sex slaves that are forced to take drugs and thus become addicted for example) but, generally, we all make our own choices and have to live with them. I've seen addicts and experienced what they are doing to their families and friends first-hand and I don't support it. They are no victims to me - especially after they refuse help or go back to the harmful ways. Reading about a cop who turned into a junkie, about his junkie friends and other undercover DEA cops was hard. And slow despite the book not being too big. I felt as if this could have been a short story. But that might be just me. What is clear is that PKD knew what he was writing about and that he had a great way of realistically bringing this sick, unhygienic and awful world to life. I also agree with him that substance abuse is a choice, an action, not a disease. The author addresses a lot of important topics in this novel, most important of which is the substance abuse itself, of course. But he also talks about a passive way of life (watching others go hiking instead of doing it yourself, a burnt out society - considering when this was written and what many do nowadays, this is eerie), giving up because it's easier than working for a better life/society, some individuals shamelessly using any system to their advantage even if it means hurting/killing others (yes, we're talking about the drags of society as well as organized crime), crime and punishment. The twists in here weren't too much of a surprise for me, I had expected one and guessed the other, but it was still a nice mindfuck and I can imagine how it might shock some readers (or used to). The underlying tone of paranoia ("It isn't paranoia if they are after you") and how these people all fuck with other people and their minds, the cruelty, the downward spiral ... and yes, I, personally, read the ending as almost hopeful ((view spoiler)[after all, it seemed like Fred got at least some of his brain functions back and was working to bring down the "clinic" (hide spoiler)] ). Though hopeful for what, I'm not sure (well, I know story-wise, but if you think about the character continuing). "The Future Is Blue" indeed. :D So no, I didn't enjoy it but I recognize it for what it is and what it means and I respect that topics usually only get talked about if they appear in fiction, too, as not too many people are interested enough in non-fiction. This is a taboo-breaker and I respect it for that.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    5/10 I seem to struggle with classic sci-fi, the last few have fallen flat for me. I like sci-fi but I felt like I was too sober for this one. I need to have had a road trip with Hunter S. Thompson for a few months beforehand to get into the mindset. I think there were a lot of interesting ideas on this and the way drugs take a hold on someone's life. But I just didn't enjoy reading it and I guess that's why I read, for enjoyment. It's a good job it was short and I was able to plough through it. 5/10 I seem to struggle with classic sci-fi, the last few have fallen flat for me. I like sci-fi but I felt like I was too sober for this one. I need to have had a road trip with Hunter S. Thompson for a few months beforehand to get into the mindset. I think there were a lot of interesting ideas on this and the way drugs take a hold on someone's life. But I just didn't enjoy reading it and I guess that's why I read, for enjoyment. It's a good job it was short and I was able to plough through it. Any longer and I'd have been looking at that dreaded DNF shelf with a keen eye. Some friends of mine really like this and I've read they're reviews with interest as I struggled through what they really enjoyed. I wouldn't be in a big rush to read anymore PKD in the near future but maybe down the line if I'm compelled to try some more classic sci-fi.

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