notgettingenough 's Reviews > A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
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Oct 21, 13

bookshelves: science-fiction, modern-lit, science-sort-of, sociology
Read in May, 2011

I had a whole lot of fun reviewing this...

http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...

But there is a serious side:

In the novel, Fred’s mind and brain are regularly tested by police department psychologists, owing to the stress of both maintaining a dual identity, and taking drugs as part of his undercover life. Dick avoids the off-the-shelf cliché’s of ink-blots and electric shocks, as the author describes realistic test scenarios and recognisable neuropsychological tests. Worryingly for Fred, the results of divided visual field and embedded figures tests suggest that his cortical hemispheres are becoming functionally separate, as they gradually lose the ability to communicate and fail to integrate information.

Here, the author melds science-fiction with science-fact, with an inspired reading of Sperry’s work on split-brain patients. Dick was fascinated by Sperry’s discovery that patients with surgically disconnected cerebral hemispheres (a treatment for otherwise untreatable epilepsy)seemed to show a dual or partitioned consciousness. Where previously it was thought that the right side of the brain was largely ‘silent’ and relied on the dominant left, new research suggested that each hemisphere “appeared to be using its own percepts, mental images, associations and ideas” (Sperry, 1993). In Dick’s novel, ‘Substance D’ induces a similar splitbrain disconnection (directly referencing Sperry in some passages), providing an explanation for the protagonist’s increasingly fractionated and incoherent self-consciousness.

Far from being a fantastical notion of a far-flung plot, the idea that psychosis might result from a disengagement of the hemispheres was subsequently discussed in the scientific literature and is still influential today. Dimond (1979) for example, compared patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and split-brain patients, arguing that in both conditions “there is a fundamental failure of in the transfer of information between the two hemispheres”, suggesting “split-brain symptoms are present in schizophrenia”. Although the resemblances between psychosis and the effects of split-brain operations are no longer regarded so highly, clear evidence for differences in the structure and function of the hemispheres in psychosis remains (Gur and Chin, 1999; Pantelis et al., 2003). Perhaps ironically, ideas that many people might have dismissed as imaginative plot, turned out to be reasonable and well informed scientific speculation.


It is from Bell, V. (2006) Through A Scanner Darkly: Neuropsychology and psychosis in Philip K. Dick's novel "A Scanner Darkly". The Psychologist, 19 (8), 488-489. You can see the whole article online: http://cogprints.org/5021/1/VaughanBe...





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Reading Progress

04/27/2011 page 79
27.0% "...the last to know he's an addict is the addict."
04/27/2011 page 109
38.0% "I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book so much."

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by TK421 (new)

TK421 I loved the movie as well...can't say I've read this one by Dick, but I can imagine that it is just as wonderful as most of his other titles. I'll look for your review. I've had a copy of it on my shelf for a long time; it stares at me as I pick something else...


message 2: by Tuck (new)

Tuck this is a great title by dick. well worth it. that movie good too. one of about 10 movies i've seen in the last 10 years.


message 3: by Marvin (new)

Marvin simply put, if you loved the movie you willlove the book. The film is one of the most loyal adaptations of a novel I've ever seen.


Drew One of Philip Dick's very best, and that's really saying something. It also describes the late sixties/early seventies freak scene much more vividly than most of his more systematically science fiction novels.


notgettingenough Marvin wrote: "simply put, if you loved the movie you willlove the book. The film is one of the most loyal adaptations of a novel I've ever seen."

I can see as I'm reading it that this is the case. Actually, I think I'll be inclined to watch the film again after this. I guess that's high praise.


notgettingenough Gavin wrote: "I loved the movie as well...can't say I've read this one by Dick, but I can imagine that it is just as wonderful as most of his other titles. I'll look for your review. I've had a copy of it on m..."

If I may say this without having written a review yet, READ IT. Gotta, gotta, gotta!!!!


message 7: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Some foxy chick posted this review. I was going to comment on it. I think. Shit. Can't concentrate today. I'll be back.

Have I read this book? Think, Manny, think!


message 8: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Far from being a fantastical notion of a far-flung plot, the idea that psychosis might result from a disengagement of the hemispheres was subsequently discussed in the scientific literature

You really might want to check out The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind .


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