Rating: 4/5

Book cover

Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (New York: Doubleday, 2011 [1977]).

I studied Philip K. Dick’s (PDK) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner) in a college English class and just loved it. I went out and read a bunch of PKD’s short stories. I had heard the title A Scanner Darkly many times but didn’t know anything about it. I came across it in the bookstore the other day—in this new edition—and couldn’t resist.

The main arc of the book examines drug addiction. It follows a junkie and dealer named Bob Arctor and his relationships. It also follows Fred, an anonymous law enforcement agent tasked with bringing Arctor down. The problem is Fred and Bob are the same person. Weaved into the tale is an exploration of identity, reality, and our perceptions. (Obviously the title alludes to 1 Corinthians 13:12 .) As with all of his work that I’ve read so far, the writing is superb. He draws truly vivid characters and creates visceral scenes and imagery. There were some truly chilling moments. The book won’t appeal to everybody. The language is coarse throughout but is at least appropriate to the characters and setting. The material is very serious and might disturb some people. Ultimately, I think the journey is well worth it. Not only is the primary message still relevant today, the underlying philosophical treatise is engaging and thought provoking. If nothing else, it’s wonderful to experience such well crafted prose. I just love reading!