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A Scanner Darkly (1977)

by Philip K. Dick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,6151441,196 (3.97)1 / 160
Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, Fred takes on the identity of a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D--which Arctor takes in massive doses--gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize he is narcing on himself.… (more)
  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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 Name that Book: Found: Futuristic undercover cop3 unread / 3JaquieF, September 2021

» See also 160 mentions

English (134)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  German (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (142)
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What happens when the illegal drug you’re taking splits your personality? That’s exactly what happens to Bob Arctor, a drug dealer addicted to Substance D, street name “Death.”

Fred is a narcotics officer assigned to monitor’s Bob’s activities. Only one problem. Bob and Fred are the same guy. Arctor’s situation becomes even more complex when the police set up holographic surveillance equipment in his house where he lives with two other junkies, Barris and Luckman.

Meanwhile, Arctor continues to buy Substance D from a young woman named Donna Hawthorne in hopes of getting to her dealer, but instead, falls in love with her. Eventually, Arctor’s addiction destroys his brain and lands him in a rehab center engaging its own nefarious activities.

While not my favorite Philip K. Dick novel (that's a tie between Ubik and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said), he does a phenomenal job of portraying the brutal reality of drug addiction and its devastating effects on the mind and body. Dick’s invention of the “scramble suit” is a clever plot device that allows Fred to go unrecognized among this fellow officers and eventually, to Barris who attempts to betray Arctor to the police in Fred’s presence. Buckle up for a wild ride. ( )
  pgiunta | May 2, 2024 |
Layers of narrative wrapped up in a fair bit of drug addled rambling. Not a particularly enjoyable or edifying experience, but only to be expected with PKD. ( )
  CraigGoodwin | Mar 23, 2024 |
An update of sorts of Naked Lunch, and a better anti-drug PSA than Trainspotting. A very clear-eyed portrayal of the phenomenology of drug usage, culture, abuse, paranoia. Reminded of Infinite Jest's.

PKD would definitely get "canceled" on sight if it were published today, wouldn't even get printed probably. PKD and his gang probably considered themselves enlightened and progressive in this respect by their contemporaries standards, but even then there's a lot of wild lines about women in the book, and I don't consider myself 'woke.' At the same time, it's very funny, which is sorely missing from most modern SF. Also was surprised by the fact that some slang terms from that era are still in use.

I found that quite a few lines were clunky and blunt, but at the same time interspersed with beautiful lyrical turns. In this sense the tone is all over the place but it's never jarring. So it was all fun and games till chapter 13 hit me like a brick. If you've read any of PKD's biographies, the book starts to read like a straight memoir. This is one of the most honest and raw description of the religious experience I've encountered while being the best condensation of the 2-3-74 event, which must have been hell to edit down to a few pages. Tbh, made me quite emotional. Now, I'm a big PKD fan and so was primed for being captivated by this section, considering him a secular martyr of sorts and a tragic figure, all the same I was hit very hard by it

I liked the movie fine, but found the book very different. The main thing missing from the adaptation is the paranoid atmosphere and the elegiac manner of the narration from the POV of an older PKD remembering all the lost children on the way. The scramble suit effect was good though. ( )
  avv999 | Feb 16, 2024 |
An interesting paranoid near-future fantasy, based around addicts, dealers and the undercover cops. These groups overlap and intermingle and, like the characters, the reader is left unsure which is which. The plot is satisfyingly multi-nested, although Dick never seems to want to stick with any particular view too long. I feel he is more interested in displaying the mental state that intense drug use can cause, rather than creating a pat, neat plot (although I may be wrong).

The last section is dedicated to the people that he used to know and has lost (in various ways), who simply wanted to have a good time through taking drugs. It is somewhat heartbreaking.

Not for everyone, but definitely an interesting, satisfying book. ( )
  thisisstephenbetts | Nov 25, 2023 |
This book, published in 1977 but set in an early 1990s California, falls into the SF category because of some of its trappings which, even now, have not come about, such as scramble suits which allow undercover agents to report to their bosses in person with both participants unable to see the true appearance of the wearer. This leads to an almost laughable situation in which the main character, Bob Arctor, who works for an anti-narcotics unit in Orange County is ordered to keep himself under recorded surveillance, evoking shades of Kafka. And the air of paranoia increases as it becomes clear that someone close to him is trying to assassinate him or cause brain damage. The scramble suits are necessary because law enforcement agencies have been compromised as is clear from the prevalence of a new, highly addictive drug, called Substance D and nicknamed 'death'. The drug is being supplied in vast quantities and seems to have a single source - it is derived from an organic material, not synthetic - and yet whatever it is grown from appears to be widely available.

In this imagined 'future' drug taking is almost universal among the have-nots in society, people who don't have credit cards or live in gated communities. Those who have such privileges are termed straights and they view the rest of society as druggies and criminals who deserve what they get. Those whom Bob lives and moves among - he shares a house with two other men and has a girlfriend who takes cocaine, but also pushes the even more destructive Substance D - are suffering increasingly mental confusion, and increasing braindamage from the cocktail of drugs they are taking. The story actually begins with one character who suffers a permanent hallucination of being bitten by aphids - he goes to extreme measures such as standing under a hot shower for hours at a time to combat the pain - which are actually a product of the brain damage caused by Substance D and other illegal substances.

Bob is not immune from this either: it becomes clear that he is slowly suffering a meltdown in which his sense of identity is destroyed, because Substance D eats away at the connections within the brain which allow a sense of one identity despite the different functions carried out in the two brain hemispheres. Extracts from research publications available in the 1970s emphasise that without those connections, there are in effect two 'voices' within the head, and it is this confusion which makes Bob, in his 'Fred' guise - which is the name he uses to report to his employers - view Bob Arctor as possibly being one of the higher level dealers of Substance D whom he has been trying to locate.

The question of identity and of the nature of reality is a theme that comes up in quite a few of the author's novels; here it is put in question by drug taking rather than a breakdown of one reality into another. The book conveys well the mad logic of drugged up people, with disjointed and rambling conversations that lead to nonsensical decisions. His afterword makes it clear that it is based upon his own experiences and people he knew and on whom some of the characters are based: the role call of those left in permanent psychosis and/or brain damaged or dead is sobering reading. Interestingly, he calls drug taking a choice, though this is contradicted by the novel itself, where quite a few of the women talked about have been tricked or forcibly abused into taking D. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Einer der eigenständigsten amerikanischen Autoren ..., der das meiste der europäischen Avantgarde wie Nabelschau in einer Sackgasse erscheinen läßt.
added by rat_in_a_cage | editSunday Times
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionscalculated
久志, 浅倉Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burgdorf, Karl-UlrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gasser, ChristianAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giamatti, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
North, HeidiCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ochagavia, CarlosCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Webb, TrevorCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
浩生, 山形Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.
Era uma vez um tipo que passava todo o dia a catar piolhos. O médico disse-lhe que não tinha piolhos.
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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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Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, Fred takes on the identity of a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D--which Arctor takes in massive doses--gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize he is narcing on himself.

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