A scanner darkly Hardcover – January 1, 1977
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|Hardcover, January 1, 1977||
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For me, "A Scanner Darkly" is PKD's missed at-bat. It begins with a solid premise that makes a few predictions about technology and social development (with the promise of accompanying commentary) that's flavored by scenes of drug use. However, it quickly devolves into psychology and thinly veiled (or not veiled at all) references to PKD's own experiences with drugs, at times eschewing the plot altogether. The flimsy narrative that desperately wants to connect the disparate scenes of drug use and altered perceptions grows more and more anemic as the novel progresses. By the end of the book, it's no longer a story complimented or accentuated by situational recollection; it's a pseudo-memoir with a strangled, dystopian ending tacked on to complete the symbolism. Or metaphor. Or... whatever it was.
I'm willing to accept that this book is a genuine 'misunderstood' classic and that I was just one of the saps who couldn't appreciate it for the masterpiece that is. That statement was made with no sarcasm, by the way; that's an honest assessment of my own limitations regarding the appraisal of this particular brand of literature.
For me, "A Scanner Darkly" works as a sci-fi flavored version of "Fear and Loathing." In terms of strange, surreal randomness, it's tough to beat. As an exercise in facing down his drug-induced demons from days gone by, I can only imagine the degree of success PKD felt he had upon completion of this novel; I hope it helped. This was clearly an ordeal he had to work through, which is made all the more sobering in the book's afterword (which, by the time you've taken the journey the story puts you through, is pretty brutal).
Many of his observations are still remarkably on point, however. Here are a few for good measure:
"If I had known it was harmless I would have killed it myself."
"The guilty, he reflected as he drove amid the heavy late-afternoon traffic as carefully as possible, may flee when no one pursues- he had heard that, and maybe that was true. What for a certainty was true, however, was that the guilty fled, fled like hell and took plenty of swift precautions, when someone did pursue: someone real and expert and at the same time hidden. And very close by. As close, he thought, as the back seat of this car."
"If you were diabetic," he said, "and you didn't have money for a hit of insulin, would you steal to get the money? Or just die?"
"To survive in this fascist police state, he thought, you gotta always be able to come up with a name, your name. At all times. That's the first sign they look for that you're wired, not being able to figure out who the hell you are."
"He liked that; he liked to get rid of time."
A word about the book quality itself. I had wanted the book with the movie cover on it (yes, I am one of those people!!) and the seller did not disappoint, some seller don't even return the book if the cover is wrong. The book itself was in a great shape and was delivered fast, sturdy packing and all!!
Top international reviews
There are sci-fi touches here for sure. The scramble suits, which make it impossible to recognise the person speaking to you, are the best example of this. However, for this book the emphasis moves away from sci-fi and rather tells the drug centred story and it just sets it in a near future. The story can be difficult to follow at times. However, it is a brilliant example of clever sci-fi and shows Philip K Dick at the top of his game. The end shows this in absolute clarity and leaves you thinking and wondering...what happened next. Arctor as a character works as you can feel for him at every stage. His friends are absolutely hopeless...yet you find yourself liking them in spite of themselves.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this when I was younger and again more recently. I found it thought provoking and enjoyable and believe that if you like clever sci-fi or even if you don't then you will really enjoy this. Highly recommended
The 2006 amimotion picture (the closest term I can construct that does the unique art style of this wonderful justice) captures the atmosphere of the novel almost perfectly, but the extent of Robert Arctor's downfall is most apparent in this prose.
Goes down as one of my favorite novels, and I even wrote my coursework on it.
In my opinion one of the most intricate and moving stories of Phillip Dick.
Philip K. Dick sets the book up to be part of the crime writing genre, undercover cop uncovers a dark conspiracy and moves towards a solution, but this gets lost within the first few chapters. The longer Arctor spends undercover, the more he loses his identity. His true identity seems even less real than his created one.
When Arctor is hauled in for questioning about his health and habits the pace of the book changes entirely. Soon Arctor is suveilling himself as well as the other suspects and loses sight of his assignment and his true self entirely. A whirlwind tour of the mixed up world of drugs and the people it attracts. When everyone else goes mad around you how long is it before you are forced to fall in line with them?
Or if you are the only sane person left, how do you know that you are not the only mad person in the room and everyone else is fine?
Dick weaves an incredibly dark narrative, drawing the reader into a world of addiction, paranoia and sin. The characters come alive from the instant they appear on the page and the world they are painted in is frighteningly not too far removed from our own.
Its not so futuristic & 'out there' Luke his other books; more Real Life than other books of his I've read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Funny and strange, I like it a lot.
Definitely would recommend it.