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A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
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A Scanner Darkly (1977)

by Philip K. Dick

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4,665671,015 (4.03)107
Recently added byprivate library, Linden_Dunham, pcollins, jockoflocko, pfflyernc, sladdusaw, ruud
  1. 10
    Rubicon Harvest by C. W. Kesting (Aeryion)
    Aeryion: The world of Rubicon Harvest seems to be a mixed homage to both Scanner Darkly and A Clockwork Orange in the way the sub-culture of designer drugs are used and abused and how their importance interplay with the expression of self and the experience of perception on reality. The synthetic neurocotic Symphony makes Substance D look like Tic-Tacs. Rubicon Harvest deserves it's place among the medicated plots of these other great postmodern works of spec-fiction!… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
3.5 stars

Dick always did have a fascination for the workings of the mind, whether perceiving "reality" (We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, the basis for Total Recall) or identity (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner). This book combines the two topics in a story where many things are not what they seem.

From the back cover: "Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug called Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, he has taken on the identity of a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D--which Arctor takes in mammoth doses--gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize that he is narcing on himself."

Dick writes with authority about an addict's mind, lifestyle, and deterioration; as he describes in the afterword, he was one himself. That, to me, is the book's primary strength. Creating and maintaining a nebulous sense of menace is another.

Its weaknesses relate to the passing of time and its length. First, I can believe that the book was important at the time it was published, perhaps even groundbreaking. Given the almost 40 years of SF and scientific/tech advancements since then, though, it comes off a bit flat. I wish I had read this before reading similar novels or seeing movies like Total Recall or The Matrix, among others.

Second, it's inherently less interesting to watch or read about other peoples' highs/trips rather than live one yourself--a little "dude, that's deep, man" dialog goes a long, LONG way. I think the book would have done better as a tight, kickass novelette or novella. It'll be interesting to see whether my opinion changes after seeing the film of the novel. ( )
  pfflyernc | Jul 25, 2014 |
Favorite quotes:
- "Activity does not necessarily mean life. Quasars are active. And a monk meditating is not inanimate."
- "Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment."
- "There is no moral in this novel; it is not the bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were."

First off, the book had some really interesting plot devices. It was the first book I've seen where you lost track of who exactly the book was following, but not via bad writing, but through the excellent weaving of perspectives. It also served as a good commentary on the war on drugs, without being too preachy. The message could have been a bit preachy to those that are more for the 'war', but as one that's mildly opposed to it, it serves his argument well. I took that while he believes the war on drugs is heavily pushed-forward by those trying to end it, the consequences that are suffered by the users are much their own doing, regardless of the severity of said consequences.

With that said, the book moved very slow. That could have been because the life of a drug-addict is very slow, or just because he didn't happen to grab my attention like he did in [b:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep|7082|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|Philip K. Dick|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327865673s/7082.jpg|830939]; no one can really say which one it is. Either way, the book serves as a good means of presenting the reader with interesting perspectives, but not something that is altogether engrossing or makes for a 'must-read' book.
( )
  michplunkett | Jul 14, 2014 |
A Scanner Darkly is a classic novel by one of the masters of sci-fi, Philip K. Dick. In it, he tells the story of Bob Arctor who is a drug addict, getting high with his burnt-out friends on a dangerously addictive new drug called Substance D. At the same time, he is also Fred - an undercover narcotics officer whose newest target is Bob Arctor. Thus Fred/Bob must continue to maintain the pretence of informing on Arctor while keeping his own double identity secret. Yet, because of the large amounts of Substance D he consumes, it grows increasingly difficult for him to differentiate between the two identities.

The difference between fiction and reality, one's perception of it, and crises of identity make this a classic P. K. Dick novel but it really excels as one of the most unnerving and realistic novels of drug addiction written. Semi-autobiographical in nature, A Scanner Darkly portrays the drug culture of 1970s Southern California in which Dick was involved. The various tangential and darkly funny conversations Arctor has with his fellow addicts are evidence of this.

Dick thus does an excellent job of showing how people can descend into a drug-fuelled haze to the total exclusion of everything around them, as they and their friends descend further into a drug-addled state, as well as showing once again how fragile our senses of self are and how easily manipulated they are. Altogether, a frightening yet darkly funny and thought-provoking novel. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Romanzo dolente, la discesa negli inferi della droga (qui denominata M, morte) che spappola i cervelli e nel migliore dei casi rinchiude in comunità, dedicato a tutte quelle persone che Dick ha visto morire o perdersi. Straordinari i dialoghi, sempre più sconclusionati, tra Bob Arctor, il protagonista, e i suoi amici/controllati tossici. Senza dimenticare altri temi cari a Dick - il controllo poliziesco - e un'invenzione straordinaria, la tutadisinviduante. Uno dei migliori romanzi di Dick, di sicuro, a mio avviso, il più straziante. ( )
  gfonte | Mar 15, 2014 |
As Phillip K. Dick makes plain in the author’s note, A Scanner Darkly is an anti-drug book. A story about “some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did.” Which was “play,” or abuse drugs. Dick says the novel has no moral, but that it simply shows the consequences of drug abuse, which he says is a decision, not a disease. Dick includes himself in a list of friends that paid a high price for their fun.

Written in the 1970s, the book takes place in 1990s California, but has futuristic technology-based science fiction elements such as identity-blocking scramble suits and holographic cameras. Bob Arctor is a guy trying to get through life on drugs and he’s also an undercover scramble-suited drug agent. He yearns for more out of life but seems to have an inkling he’s not going to get it. One of his doper roommates appears to be out to get him and a girl he’s trying to get close to is standoffish. The drug Bob takes, Substance D, is also responsible for his split personality.

I read this on the recommendation of my son, who called the story excellent, but sad. It is that. ( )
1 vote Hagelstein | Feb 26, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burgdorf, Karl-UlrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gasser, ChristianAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ochagavia, CarlosCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Webb, TrevorCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
Here is the list, to whom I dedicate my love:

To Gaylene     deceased

To Ray            deceased

To Francy       permanent psychosis

To Kathy        permanent brain damage

To Jim            deceased

To Val            massive permanent brain damage

To Nancy       permanent psychosis

To Joanne     permanent brain damage

To Maren       deceased

To Nick            deceased

To Terry        deceased

To Dennis       deceased

To Phil            permanent pancreatic damage

To Sue            permanent vascular damage

To Jerri          permanent psychosis and vascular damage

... and so forth.
First words
Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.
Quotations
Robert Arctor halted. Stared at them, at the straights in their fat suits, their fat ties, their fat shoes, and he thought, Substance D can't destroy their brains; they have none.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679736654, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:52 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A drug dealer of the future periodically moves away from his spaced-out world to become an informer for narcotics agents until he becomes unable to separate his two personalities.

» see all 8 descriptions

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