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A Scanner Darkly Paperback – May 23 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 23 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400096901
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400096909
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.5 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #480,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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, --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

America in the near future has lost the war against drugs. Though the government tries to protect the upper class, the system is infested with undercover cops like Fred, who regularly ingests the popular Substance D as part of his ruse. The drug has caused Fred to develop a split personality, of which he is not aware; his alter ego is Bob, a drug dealer. Fred's superiors then set up a hidden holographic camera in his home as part of a sting operation against Bob. Though he appears on camera as Bob, none of Fred's co-workers catch on: since Fred, like all undercover police, wears a scramble suit that constantly changes his appearance, his colleagues don't know what he looks like. The camera in Fred/Bob's apartment reveals that Bob's intimates regularly betray one another for the chance to score more drugs. Even Donna, a young dealer whom Bob/Fred loves, prefers the drug to human contact. Originally published in 1977, the out-of-print novel comes frighteningly close to capturing the U.S. in 1991, in terms of the drug crisis and the relationships between the sexes. But the unrelenting scenes among the addicts make it a grueling read.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have always felt that PKD was the type of author who could really blow me away with his mind-expanding ideas. Unfortunately his other novels that I previously read struck me as overrated, as the ideas failed to gel into coherent stories. However, he hits the bullseye with "A Scanner Darkly" which has to be one of best novels. Taking place in a dysfunctional near-future, the story revolves around the new drug called Substance D. (The only glitch in this book is that PKD places the story in the 1990's, and PKD's vision of the future from back in the 70's is a bit distracting in its inaccuracies). Substance D causes a disconnect between the left and right sides of the brain, causing a split personality syndrome in which both of the user's selves are active simultaneously and compete with each other. The main character, Bob Arctor, is an undercover cop who poses as a dealer, and his undercover self has been assigned to watch his dealer self. At first he realizes the bureaucratic mistake, but as he falls deeper and deeper into the world of Substance D, Bob can no longer perceive the difference between his two selves and descends into a schizophrenic nightmare. Bob's deteriorating state becomes a very disturbing tract from PKD on the nature of one's identity, the destruction of the self through drug abuse, and the reality or un-reality of the self's replacement. Also, in PKD's future the drug war becomes a class war, as the "straights" need the users as a class of non-persons to manipulate and to experiment on. This may just be the way users see the world, and PKD shows us that it may not be a farfetched conspiracy theory. This is a truly troubling look into the world of damaged and ruined minds, from a man who just may have been there himself.
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Format: Paperback
"Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair. The doctor told him there were no bugs in his hair."

This semi-autobiographical story by Philip K. Dick is the story of Robert Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent assigned to spy on Arctor's household. Living in his scramble suit as "Fred", out to catch high-level dealers of Substance D, this is the story of the slow and surreal breakdown of a human into the two co-existing yet conflicting hemispheres of the brain. Under the influence of the very drug he set out to catch users and dealers of, he undergoes increasing confusion about reality. His progressive meltdown and the final stages of identity shift - especially when the surveillance cameras are set up and we see Bob/Fred's degeneration as his consciousness weaves in reality and out films - made for absolutely fascinating reading.

Comedy. Tragedy. Horror. Loneliness. And the final recognition of everyone as "a lump of flesh grinding along, eating, drinking, sleeping, working, crapping", makes this is a heartbreaking fantasy film that keeps rolling not just in the characters' but also the readers' heads. One is left wondering if Fred hoped in vain that - unlike himself who could see only darkness when he looked into himself - the scanners at least would see clearly and not darkly, or would all be lost with no knowledge gained.
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By Rose TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 2 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This was my very first PKD novel. I love science fiction and I had heard his were great. It seems I picked the wrong one for sci-fi as there is only a fictional stoner book here. It was a really good book, but I almost felt stoned myself just reading it and I have to assume PKD was stoned writing it.

** Spoiler Alert ** This is the story of Bob Arctor, a narc who is living with his two stoner buddies, hanging out with their stoner friends, trying to date a stoner girl named Donna. Everyone is hooked on this new drug called Substance D, even Bob, and this is really bad stuff. Eventually, it separates your brain into it's two halves and thinking seems to become impossible. The far-gone end up in a drug rehab to live out the rest of their days. Some of the luckier ones get shipped off to a farm to work.
Most of the story is made up of the ramblings and ridiculous conversations people have when they are high. Paranoia creeps in, a little back-stabbing, some destruction of personal property....I assume the normal lives of junkies. However, all is not what it seems in this book. I thought it might be just a tale to warn of the dangers of excessive drug use, and perhaps that is part of it, but I thought the end result would be death so I was very pleased at the ending of this book. The vicious circle created by unscrupulous people to get rich off the lives of people who thought they were just taking drugs to have some fun. Sounds like a scheme the Government would try to pull off if they thought they could get away with it.

If you're looking for a good story and it doesn't have to be sci-fi, and you can handle the junkie conversations, this is one I would definitely recommend.
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Format: Paperback
Among Dick's 45 or so novels, A Scanner Darkly is his dark night of the soul, and is based on one of the lowest points in his life-his involvement with drugs and hard-drug users in 1970-72. Although Dick's characters had rarely been two-dimensional before, in this novel they clearly take on flesh, and for him it was a breakthrough. The dialogue is street talk of the late 1970s, gritty and realistic; the setting is Southern California, and though nominally science fiction, the sf elements are minimal. The conversations of the characters reflect, often humorously, their derangement and deterioration from the use of drugs. The main character is both a narcotics agent and an addict of the hallucinogenic Substance D, nicknamed "Death." The split in his personality finally brings him to a crisis and entry into a drug rehabilitation center. The whole story is told with great compassion, which makes the pessimism somewhat bearable. On the whole this is not a happy book. But it is compelling, real, and incredibly deeply felt. Most readers of PKD, I believe, tend to rank this near the top of the list of all his books.
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