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A scanner darkly Hardcover – 1977
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Mind- and reality-bending drugs factor again and again in Philip K. Dick's hugely influential SF stories. A Scanner Darkly cuts closest to the bone, drawing on Dick's own experience with illicit chemicals and on his many friends who died from drug abuse. Nevertheless, it's blackly farcical, full of comic-surreal conversations between people whose synapses are partly fried, sudden flights of paranoid logic, and bad trips like the one whose victim spends a subjective eternity having all his sins read to him, in shifts, by compound-eyed aliens. (It takes 11,000 years of this to reach the time when as a boy he discovered masturbation.) The antihero Bob Arctor is forced by his double life into warring double personalities: as futuristic narcotics agent "Fred," face blurred by a high-tech scrambler, he must spy on and entrap suspected drug dealer Bob Arctor. His disintegration under the influence of the insidious Substance D is genuine tragicomedy. For Arctor there's no way off the addict's downward escalator, but what awaits at the bottom is a kind of redemption--there are more wheels within wheels than we suspected, and his life is not entirely wasted. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The great science fiction writer Philip K. Dick died in 1982, but his fame continues to grow—especially through films based on his work, like Terminator and Blade Runner. This dark but devilishly entertaining audio—read by the terrific Giamatti (American Splendor, Sideways)—offers Dick fans the complete book just in time to compare it to Richard Linklater's movie adaptation starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder. Giamatti is an inspired choice, managing to capture both the touching charm and the irritating obsessiveness of Dick's leading characters in a slightly futuristic version of Los Angeles: a drug addict named Bob and a narcotics cop called Fred—who might just be the same person, especially since they're both addicted to a drug called Substance D, which gradually splits the user's brain into two warring entities. Dick's book is not for the squeamish or those offended by strong language, but he and Giamatti make the degradation and despair of addiction poignant and often hilarious.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Strongly recommended for modern-day "intellectuals" who wonder what their friends would look like on drugs. The beauty of this book is that it seems almost plausible...
However, his real talent is creating fascinating worlds that provoke philosophical inquiry. And the world of A Scanner Darkly is fascinating, psychologically complex, philosophically rich, and deeply moving. If you have dealt with addiction yourself or loved someone who has, you will find that the parts of the book that detail Substance D addiction to be uncomfortable accurate and brilliantly resonant.
This book was written in the late 70s, takes place in the early 90s (their near future, our near past) with the general structure of a hard-boiled, noir novel of the 50s, laced with the argot of the 60s (that chick is on a heavy trip, ya dig?) and utilizing technology that is in our future, like scramble suits, which render the wearer nearly invisible by projecting thousands of identities per second (yet people still drive Oldsmobiles). Arctor, the protagonist is under cover for the Orange County Sheriff's department, tracking the purchase and sale of substance D (although hash is still in use) and so at risk of losing himself both morally and physically. However, this being Dick, that risk is described in part by quotations from the Bulletin of the Los Angeles Neurological Society (I chanced upon that on the copyright page, and no, it's not hard to understand the excerpts).
Arctor is more Philip Marlowe than Sam Spade. He lives with two house mates, Barris and Luckman, who are not very distinguishable, one from the other, but they function as the amusing Frick and Frack of the story (there is even a Freck, and I never quite figured out who is was supposed to be). There is also Donna, the femme fatale, a good looking cookie, always just out of reach of Arctor. Many reviewers emphasize the book's melancholy aspects; I found most of it to be very funny, in great, cynical fashion. I was going to quote a passage that illustrates just how petty petty crime can be, in which Luckman tells of how Donna came into possession of a huge roll of postage stamps and what she did with them, but it's too long. Suffice it to say that, in order to profit from the stolen stamps a stolen jackhammer is used to steal the entire stamp machine from the Post Office. And there is this wonderfully cynical maxim: "If I had known it was harmless I would have killed it myself".
Truer words were never spoken.
Very gripping story that moves slow at first few chapters, changes points of view on several occasions (Main character makes up 2 of the main characters?!?!?!).