A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Published by Orion Books, Phoenix on 1977
Genres: fiction, science fiction
Pages: 224
Goodreads

Substance D is not known as Death for nothing. It is the most toxic drug ever to find its way on to the streets of LA. It destroys the links between the brain's two hemispheres, causing, first, disorientation and then complete and irreversible brain damage.

The undercover narcotics agent who calls himself Bob Arctor is desperate to discover the ultimate source of supply. But to find any kind of lead he has to pose as a user and, inevitably, without realising what is happening, Arctor is soon as addicted as the junkies he works among...

This is the second Philip K. Dick book I’ve read and this one was only marginally less confusing than the first. But they’re confusing in a good way…I think. I like that you just get dropped into the story and there really isn’t much explanation of what’s going on unless it’s relates directly to what’s happening with the main character. I’m pretty sure this is the main reason I keep reading Dick’s work. I find it refreshing to not be told a bunch of information and to just hitch a ride with the MC instead. It’s great. I don’t feel like a lot of people do this these days. Or I haven’t read a lot that do.

The concept of A Scanner Darkly is both interesting and kind of sad. I wonder if it happens in real life. Not the science fiction-y parts, but the undercover narcotics agent getting addicts to the drugs he’s tracking portion. It was interesting to read from Arctor’s point of view since he doesn’t think he’s an addict. You’re getting a glimpse into an addicts mind. It becomes so easy to justify the drug use when you’re emotionally attached to the situation. It also makes me wonder how many drug addicts start out with the “It’s only a little bit” mentality and then suddenly are in too deep to escape. I love psychology, so just getting to read about Arctor and what’s happening, while understanding that he’s not a reliable narrator was great.

It was a bit hard to slog through the language, but I think that’s just a disconnect between when it was written and now. And also the fact that Dick just makes up some things that I then have to Google. Also it reads like it’s set in the 70s, not the 90s. It doesn’t detract too much from the novel, but it’s always something I’m aware of when reading.

Also, that ending. I felt so bad for Arctor and was not expecting it. Maybe I was expecting something along those lines, but definitely not that.

If the last to know he’s an addict is the addict, then maybe the last to know when a man means what he says is the man himself, he reflected.

A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from the inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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