Customer Review

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Scan of the mind at the height of drugged confusion!, 20 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Scanner Darkly (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
A Scanner Darkly was recommended to me by a real sci fi nut of a friend and so when he proclaimed it "The best book I've read in years" I wasn't expecting much as his copy rested neatly beside various Star Wars novels and a Starship Enterprise bookend. What I didn't expect was one of the darkest, most interesting thrillers I've read in years! This book has a unique visual style and whilst Dick quickly forgets his ramblings of how commercialism has encapsulated the near future you are still aware of the edgy neon wasteland right through to the end. The Science Fiction in this novel is subtly intertwined in the life of the agent sent to investigate himself as he lives one life behind an identity destroying "scramble" suit as a Narcotics agent "Fred" and the other as an openly addicted Substance D doper "Bob Arctor". The fiction comes from this suit the 3d holoscanning equipment set up in the investigation and the Drug he's hooked on; Substance D or "Death" which has the clearly defind side affect of seperating the brains hemispheres leading to total loss of spatial awareness and personality segregation which isn't exactly helped by Freds double life. This book deals with the moral issues of drug taking from both sides of the fence and shows, through the entertaining dialogue between doper Bob and his circle of equally spaced friends that drug taking is fun but that you lose a part of yourself with every hit. The resultant consequences of these situations are for the most part predictable but its the scenes in which cop "Fred" watches doper "Bob" that keep you enthralled as Fred at first evaluates the actions of him and his friends living their lives through addiction to the tragic mental downward spiral as he becomes more and more suspicious of Bob Arctor. There are enough twists at the end to keep things at the right level of intrigue and the final chapter in which Bob Arctor reaches the end of his career is both tragic and satisfying. This is a book easily read in a few days but it will certainly stick in your memory for much longer and make you think twice about sparking that last joint you promised yourself. Even if you're no Sci Fi fan, which I may now be after reading this, you're in for one hell of a "Trip"
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Aug 2008 22:57:31 BDT
This is an excellent review, acknowledging that Philip K Dick was primarily concerned with people and their very human characteristics: fear, lonliness, paranoia, alienation, empathy... rather than the bric-a-brac of future technology. There is one point I would like to make however.... this story could have been set in 1969 Los Angeles. The characters, their dialogue, even the musical references to Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Timothy Leary, all smacks of the heyday of US hippie drug culture. Undoubtedly, there is a reason for this, whereby Philip K Dick is adopting a dual role: half-prophetic/half-commentator. The focus of the story, and Dick's fascination with "the divided self" is interesting when we consider his twin sister died in infancy. This theme reappears in many of his other works. The reviewer also makes a very astute point regarding the wonderful banter between the drug-addled characters. I think people often overlook the fact that Philip K Dick had a great sense of humour.

Posted on 21 Mar 2012 12:00:57 GMT
Pj Cooper says:
"it will certainly stick in your memory for much longer and make you think twice about sparking that last joint you promised yourself"

Sorry, I respect your opinions and the values you hold towards this book, but that comment there strikes me as a little silly. Marijuana for one thing has proven to contain absolutely no phisically damaging or mentally destructive properties that lead to trauma and there have been no such reports of such cases. Nothing wrong with not liking it or drugs in general, just saying if you wanted to get across an anti-drugs message(by the way, this book is a philosophy on the addict or "junkie", not an anti-drug message) then I think you were better off saying something like "think twice before sticking that next needle in or snorting another line".
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