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This was my first exposure to Philip K. Dick, and he definitely lives up to his reputation as an author of dystopian visions, conspiracy theories, and mind-bending philosophical ideas. But he also turns out to be an articulate, witty writer with a lot of apparent first-hand knowledge of the drug culture he focuses on. Once you get past the dated 1970s slang, A Scanner Darkly is a pretty intense and darkly comic reading experience, capturing the madness and paranoia of drug addiction, and the suffocation and distrust that users feel towards "straight" culture. There's relatively little "science fiction" in the novel, but Dick uses a few clever futuristic inventions to heighten the trippy surreality of his novel, in which no one is quite who they seem, and as a springboard for musings about the morally ambiguous mirror-on-mirror relationships between doper and straight, police and criminal, watcher and watched, self and other, user and used, reality and delusion.
At times, the story gets a little incoherent, and action often takes a back seat to the ideas and observations Dick wants to share (often through dialogue). I think this is more a book to read for its most entrancing or insightful passages than, necessarily, the sum of them. But, if you like dark, cerebral speculative fiction whose alternate reality blooms from the author's own experience of a real-life dystopia, and don't mind unevenness and not-entirely-sane characters, there's much in A Scanner Darkly that still resonates.
PS. If you like this book, be sure to watch the Linklater film. I loved it.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Paul Giamatti's narration of Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly" is quite likely one of the best works by an actor of an unabridged audiobook that this reviewer has ever read. PK Dick will never be anyone's garden-variety Science Fiction writer. He deals with social, cultural and psychological complexities that some may find unsettling or even challenging. In the end, it becomes a matter of taste but "A Scanner Darkly" explores the decline and paranoia of a future drug culture as written in the early 70's. But somehow it works. It's offers a nod to Orwell's world of surveillance, deception, betrayal and sacrifice but woven with a thread of hilarious caricatures in a household of high-wired drug fiends and marginally sane confidants. But again, cudo's to Paul Giamatti for delivering this world with true theatrical perfection.
13 of 15 people found this review helpful