A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly discussion

Haven't read it, but

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message 1: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Try "the clans of the alphane moon".
or "Bladerunner"
or "Flow My Tears, the Policeman said"

message 2: by J (new)

J In 2006 Richard Linklater used the technique he had so well developed for animated films in "Waking Life" to reproduce this story in a way that is summed up well here ... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405296/#...

Robert Lynn wrote: "Try "the clans of the alphane moon".
or "Bladerunner"
or "Flow My Tears, the Policeman said"

Or try remembering that Blade Runner is a movie whose title was purchased from an unfinished project about smuggling medical equipment in which it actually made sense, and the novel is called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Dick was offered big money to put his name on a novelization of the movie but rejected it in deference to his actual work.

message 4: by Robert (last edited Feb 05, 2013 05:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Robert If one has not read any Philip K. Dick, probably one should not start with A Scanner Darkly or VALIS. Both of these are somewhat short on story and long on expressing personal issues and thinly disguised personal history, especially VALIS that is closest to a direct product of his Exegesis, "2-3-74" experience and near suicide in that period. If one is not acquainted with this history it might make the reading less satisfying than other choices. Most do not start Joyce with Finnegan's Wake either. If you want to start in the "2-3-74" works, read The Divine Invasion as it is a much more literary and coherent novel that is not so overtly built around Dick's own life with a veneer of SF. (It was the second in the so-called VALIS trilogy that was never completed due to Dick's death. The third book, never even definitively sketched out, would have been The Owl in Daylight (the title referring to the actual disorientation and awkwardness of owls in daylight). Sometimes this last completed work is bundled with VALIS and the The Divine Invasion for marketing reasons by the publishers since the public seems to be enamored of the notion of trilogies.)

Any of the major novels from The Man In The High Castle up to A Scanner Darkly would be good starting points. After that go directly to his last novel The Transmigration of Timothy Archer which is actually a straight novel not really SF at all, and is arguably his finest effort as pure literature. It is a near literal telling (Roman a Clef, and more so that A Scanner Darkly) of the last years of Bishop James A. Pike which he effectively carries off in the first person voice of a female character. (This book is said to be troublesome for some hard-core Dick fans as it is his last, and somewhat un-Dickian for their taste, as they get off on the idea of Dick as a magical demented prophet as in VALIS.)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (adapted as the movie Blade Runner) is strong example of his theme of what makes us human (Empathy is this case) that cannot be readily simulated by a machine that is told in a solid dystopian setting replete with a new religion for the post-nuclear war world. It also shows his entropy and decay theme. (Only about one third of this material made it into the movie.)

UBIK presents a mixture of shifting reality heavily influenced by his spiritual quests in that period. (And one twist too many, in my opinion, in the very final pages. But it can be ignored if you wish.) The action takes place in a place between life and death where reality is unclear. It also shows the entropy and decay theme. The title of one of the Dick biographies I Am Alive, You Are Dead comes from this novel.

The Man in the High Castle that won Dick a Hugo (it seems to me he nearly asked for it in the book in how he describes the career and honors of the writer Abendsen, and they gave it to him!) might surprise you by not being science fiction at all, but alternative history with episodes of shifting reality. The unifying element is a strong belief in the I Ching shared by many of the characters.

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is another one of the "major" novels that I can recommend.

A Maze of Death is interesting because it a better, more mature, and better polished specimen of the 1950's genre SF style, in the midst of the works that really establish his reputation today. I ran into it mainly because it was included in the Library of America collection along with the "major" novels mentioned above.

I have only read 15 of the novels (13 of the LOA set, plus Eye in the Sky (his first successful novel) and The Cosmic Puppets(an early example of fantasy in the 1950's before the focus shifted to science fiction and speculative fiction) and every currently published short story (the 5 volumes of The Collected Stories plus the short stories omitted from the collection because they were reworked into novels when I can find them, e.g the novella sized Vulcan's Hammer precursor to the novel of the same name). Based on that and some biographical reading I make the recommendations above.

Robert A footnote. One thing in A Scanner Darkly that I like is the connection between the drug and the "war on drugs/rehab" establishment. Commercial interests creating and solving the same problem, making money and gaining power both ways is an idea that is gaining force and examples in the real world. That element of Dick's book is gaining relevance rather than dating the book as an artifact of the 1960's.

On Wikipedia there is some information about the role his editor, Judy-Lynn del Rey (wife of the SF writer, editor and publisher, Lester del Rey), in shaping Dick's heartfelt fictional portraits of the people he knew and their drug assisted misfortunes, into a what Dick calls "a competent book." He highly praises her skill and knowledge without qualification and compares her ability to that of the Maxwell Perkins who edited for Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe. It makes me wonder how much of the outer story structure existed before their collaboration started. Did she contribute the large story line of two faced corporate manipulation and the final objective of Bob Arctor's decline? I have a great deal of unread biographical material to go yet, that may shed light on that. What does seem sure is that the success of the book owed a great deal to the editor and Dick acknowledges it.

Robert Zoltan I, Robert, agree with Robert. You don't want to start with A Scanner Darkly. But you sure as hell want to read it after you've first taken in some of Dick's other work. I love UBIK and Now Wait For Last Year. After you've read a couple, you might be better prepared for things like VALIS, Martian Time-Slip and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. You might even start with some of his lesser works, which are still good and entertaining, like The Game Players of Titan.

message 7: by Robert (last edited Feb 25, 2012 08:07AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Robert Isidore wrote: "Or here's an idea: start with whichever of his novels you damn well want to. If you like the title or the blurb on the back give it a try."

It is a free world as far as SF reading is concerned as long as the books themselves are not banned, that option is always open. In general, a reader chosen at random without any prior experience, is probably not best served by the most highly personal of his books as first exposure. The same would go for Heinlein when one should not start with his late, crankier more sententious works.

"Rarely does Dick suck ;)

Rarely? Probability greater than zero!? Don't let the hardcore fans read you post that and know where you live. Let's start a new thread to get opinions about when that happened and how badly, carefully naming the thread since, in our liberated age of wide open vulgarity and immense touchiness, one must be very careful when putting the words "Dick" and "suck" in the same sentence.

Judging a book by its blurbs is almost as unreliable as the proverbial cover. Even less reliable are the "praise for" quotes, often for other books by the same author, and often part of a sort of reciprocal back scratching arrangement. Although I am glad if an author with a high profile can help out a deserving author as yet without one. It's a tough business.

Robert Footnote. If VALIS interests you I highly recommend you dig out the posthumously published short story The Eye of the Sybyl (found in v.5 of the Collected Stories) from around 1975 which the first (known) story for publication he wrote based on the "2-3-74" experience. Note how much of the foundation of VALIS was already in place.

Robert Zoltan Well, sure, you can start with whatever. But the lady asked.

TrumanCoyote I would start with Time out of Joint. Or Eye in the Sky.

message 11: by Phillip (new) - added it

Phillip Goodman i really love a scanner darkly, my recommendation for anyone who hasn't read it is to do so, but if its your first philip dick book, then if at all possible read his earliest work first, its all fantastic stuff and actually going through an author's work chronologically is something i have too often not done, but it's really something that everyone should do

Jason The World Jones Made is one of my favorites. I highly recommend it--& I've read a lot of P.K. Dick.

message 13: by Phillip (new) - added it

Phillip Goodman one of mine too, i always wanted to name a band after it for some reason, i like the duel nature of the story.

message 14: by Kip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kip Why not start with A Scanner Darkly? It contains his very best writing (not something that can be said for most of his novels, which in fairness, while worthwhile, are variable in quality), it's a highly personal novel, it's conceptually one of his strongest - in fact along with High Castle it's his best novel.

This bizarre idea that you need to read a novelist in some prescribed order is frankly a nonsense. I say, read the best first. Scanner is not a difficult or highly experimental book that a PKD-newbie needs to be scared of... it's a highly literary, engaging and accessible novel. A strange book, but so what? The worst thing anyone can do is mollycoddle people... you're not ready for the good stuff yet... Fuck that! Throw them into the deep end... challenge them... give them the real shit - they might surprise you. You're far more likely to put off someone by suggesting they wade through endless lesser work first! That's like telling someone that to appreciate the White Album they need to sit through the dirge of With the Beatles first... Why?

Let me nail my colours to the mast: if I had to recommend one PKD novel, then this is the one I'd suggest and if I had to recommend a SF novel to a non-SF reader then this, along with Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, would also be my suggestions.

Apologies if I sound harsh, but I've read this protectionist stance on this site far too often... I find it highly patronising.

Pickle i would recommend starting with Ubik. My first dick was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and im going back to this as a re-read as i dont think i got everything out of it.

message 16: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian I agree with the proposition that ASD would be as good a book to start with PKD as any other. It is one of his best books, it is not "difficult", and as noted above it deal with a subject that was very close to him.

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