A Scanner Darkly Paperback – May 23 2006
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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 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
A Scanner Darkly follows the story of Bob Arctor, a junkie and dealer of Substance D, and Fred, the narcotics agent assigned to monitor and eventually bust Bob for dealing. What Bob's junkie friends and Fred's superior officers don't know, however, is that Bob and Fred are the same person, Substance D-induced split personalities inside the same brain. As the novel progresses, Bob and Fred—who initially are aware of each other—both begin a slow descent into paranoia and madness, becoming completely split in the process. Bob, swinging between highs and withdrawals of Substance D, grows increasingly paranoid that someone's out to get him as first his most prized possession and later his car are sabotaged. Fred, suspected by his bosses of playing his undercover role a little too enthusiastically, tries to avoid their probing questions and neurological exams.
As the novel progresses, we find out the identity of the saboteur, and discover several layers of undercover police operations working at increasing expense to Fred's sanity. Towards the end of the novel, Fred is so burnt out by the excessive amounts of Substance D he takes to deal with the mounting stress that the police check him into a rehab clinic—but even this is not as innocent as it seems.
Overall, A Scanner Darkly was interesting and well-written; it also provided a vivid account of the paranoia and softening grip on reality that often accompany the abuse of hallucinogens.Read more ›
** 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.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a terrible book, filled to the brim with nothing but psychobabble. it is one long acid trip, a bad one! Read morePublished 19 months ago by Ally
This book was very disjointed. It drags on and on and is filled with meaningless drug-addled content that doesn't further the story. The characters are flat and quickly forgotten. Read morePublished on July 9 2013 by Lindsey
There is just no comparison for this book. It so so human. It exemplifies the simple thoughts each human has on a daily basis and then takes it into a realm of drug use and... Read morePublished on May 21 2013 by Samantha K Krewulak
I thoroughly enjoyed this fictional drug sci-fi novel. I found it hard to put down until it was finished. Twist ending.Published on March 19 2013 by vp
This book is one of my all time favourites, I've read it over and over again.
The world described by M. Read more
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... Read morePublished on June 5 2004 by Doug Mackey
This is not an SF novel. This is a story about Dick's drug-addicted friends and their sad fates. The book consists of a series of anecdotes and scenes that range from the absurdly... Read morePublished on April 19 2004 by Storm
Dick's tragic satire on drug enforcement skewers drug users, enforcement, treatment, and organized crime with equally scathing ferocity as cogs in an out-of-control system of... Read morePublished on Dec 24 2003 by Joseph M. Futrelle
I got this book from the library. I'll be forthcoming:
If you read it as a novel it's a horrid incorent horribly edited read. Read more