A Scanner Darkly (book)



A Scanner Darkly, by Phillip K Dick – I have so many friends who adore Phillip K Dick, I’m always willing to give him another chance. This is the third (and not my last) Phillip K Dick book, but I’m sorry to say it didn’t grab me. A story of drug culture that is very close to Dick’s heart, since it’s basically autobiographical (he’s quoted as saying that he saw everything that happened in the book, whether in real life or in a drug trance); it’s also the first book he wrote on drugs other than amphetamines. Complicated!!! But it rambles on and on and on, and for so many pages I really wondered what was happening. It was only when I read the Wikipedia summary that I realised that I basically did get all of the details of the book (or maybe those are only the details we mortals are entitled to). In a way it’s a relief, but I also wonder why he spent so many words getting that gritty story down. Was it for the sake of its sheer grittiness? Dick definitely does gritty well. He definitely deserves every award that there ever was for grittiness. Wow!

The start of the book is interesting, as it recounts the tale of a hallucinating druggie called Jerry, who thinks that aphids are crawling all over him. It’s nutso; his friend Charles Freck comes in and commiserates. This eventually moves into the strange world of the Anaheim home of drug dealers Bob and Donna and Barris, the nutso people who live some sort of fringe scam in a police surveillance state. They groove and babble, get paranoid, Bob gets into his sparkle suit to become invisible, there are subtle murder attempts, there are huge deals, cars, driving, inspections of various drugs, and all sorts of other insanity.

Later on, Charles Freck’s attempt at suicide seems very vivid, even if it is superfluous – it adds nothing to the tale, but if Dick really saw it then I’m terrified!! Bob Arctor gets nutso, he enters rehab, and the lamb has been sacrificed, his mind is gone to expose the drug trade. But will anything come of it, or will it be covered up?

A fun tale to get lost in, but not if you’re a plot-driven person.

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