Trish's Reviews > A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
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Well, that was ... different.

I hadn't known (or didn't remember) that this was a story about drugs and addicts and perception and human personalities/identities. But it is. Boy, is it ever.

We follow a guy called "Fred" (spoiler alert: his real name probably isn't Fred). He meets a woman called Donna and a few other junkies. Fred, as we are shown, is a cop and trying to get to a major supplier in California. You see, the book takes place in a dystopian futuristic American society where the war on drugs was lost. Most people are addicted to one hard drug or another. Newest monster on the block is Substance D and "Fred" is slowly but surely caught in its net as well. The drug makes you lose touch with reality, amplifies paranoia and slowly but surely eats away at your brain.
Then there is Fred's superior, Hank (probably not his real name either) as well as the stressful job that are not helping Fred to stay clean.

Drugs / the junkie life, it turns out, is not a topic I like to read or watch fiction about. I'm interested in the scientific side, what it does to a human's body etc, but that's about it.
I, unlike many others, don't mind weed when you're 18+ years old. Once you're 18, your brain is fully developped so the weed can't have any negative side effects - though you shouldn't drive since your reaction time is severely reduced. In fact, I despise how a relatively harmless drug is villified while stuff like alcohol and cigarettes are socially acceptable although far more people die because of those every year and far more families get torn apart by alcoholism.
Anyway, it's the hard drugs I will never support. Crystal meth, cocaine etc. And I'm sorry if people can't understand this but I don't really have much sympathy for junkies. There are exceptions (like sex slaves that are forced to take drugs and thus become addicted for example) but, generally, we all make our own choices and have to live with them. I've seen addicts and experienced what they are doing to their families and friends first-hand and I don't support it. They are no victims to me - especially after they refuse help or go back to the harmful ways.

Reading about a cop who turned into a junkie, about his junkie friends and other undercover DEA cops was hard. And slow despite the book not being too big. I felt as if this could have been a short story. But that might be just me.

What is clear is that PKD knew what he was writing about and that he had a great way of realistically bringing this sick, unhygienic and awful world to life. I also agree with him that substance abuse is a choice, an action, not a disease.
The author addresses a lot of important topics in this novel, most important of which is the substance abuse itself, of course. But he also talks about a passive way of life (watching others go hiking instead of doing it yourself, a burnt out society - considering when this was written and what many do nowadays, this is eerie), giving up because it's easier than working for a better life/society, some individuals shamelessly using any system to their advantage even if it means hurting/killing others (yes, we're talking about the drags of society as well as organized crime), crime and punishment.

The twists in here weren't too much of a surprise for me, I had expected one and guessed the other, but it was still a nice mindfuck and I can imagine how it might shock some readers (or used to). The underlying tone of paranoia ("It isn't paranoia if they are after you") and how these people all fuck with other people and their minds, the cruelty, the downward spiral ... and yes, I, personally, read the ending as almost hopeful ((view spoiler)). Though hopeful for what, I'm not sure (well, I know story-wise, but if you think about the character continuing). "The Future Is Blue" indeed. :D

So no, I didn't enjoy it but I recognize it for what it is and what it means and I respect that topics usually only get talked about if they appear in fiction, too, as not too many people are interested enough in non-fiction. This is a taboo-breaker and I respect it for that.
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Reading Progress

April 30, 2019 – Shelved
April 30, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
May 15, 2019 – Started Reading
May 15, 2019 –
23.0% "Sheesh! Can't say I like the book or am enjoying it. I can see what the author is doing, showing us the horror of substance abuse, a druggie's life, and I already know where this is going for "Fred" / "Bob" ... but I just can't bring myself to enjoy reading this."
May 15, 2019 –
35.0% "As expected ... a downward spiral. And while the slow descend into madness is realistically done (some people say the author had experience), it's really SLOW and not my cuppa.
I have nothing against people smoking weed (in fact, I hate how alcohol is considered "harmless" while marihuana is made out to be the devil), but we're talking about hard drugs here."
May 15, 2019 –
50.0% "I wish they would just go on with this. *lol* I have a theory about what is gonna happen in the end and it seems to be accurate.
It’s not badly written but, IMO, too long."
May 15, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Bradley Glad you enjoyed it for what it is even if you didn't actually LIKE reading it. lol

Topic, rather than PKD's writing. :)


Trish Yep. At least it was done well and addressed the uncomfortable truths society usually likes to throw a blanket over. Otherwise I couldn't have given it 3 stars.


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