Pairs Well With:
A bottle of Lucid Absinthe: a deceptively smooth whisper, tantalizing enough to beg forgoing the customary cube of sugar, all the while leading you further down a twisting tunnel of unreality. Best enjoyed in a plush chair with an amazing book.
Genre: Speculative Fiction (shelved in the Science Fiction section)
Author: Philip K. Dick
Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Whiskey Shots
Fred is an undercover narcotics agent tasked with informing on the comings and goings of potential dealers of Substance D—a 100% addictive drug that warps the brain. While reporting on a group of heavy Substance D users, Fred begins to recognize himself in their midst, from his viewing of surveillance video, and quickly loses the ability to discern what is real and what isn’t.
Admittedly, this is one book I read after viewing the motion picture adaptation (but only because I had no idea it was based on a book, so lay down your stones), and I have to say that it absolutely blew my mind (both the motion picture and the novel). If you’ve not seen the film adaptation of the same name, please do so after reading this amazing novel, and you will be blown away at how masterful the book was written, because everything in the movie is directly from the source material.
Almost 100% of the dialogue in the movie and certainly all of the narrative is taken directly from the pages of this book! That’s how good PKD’s writing is. Even actors can’t improve on it. So, from a purely technical look at this book, it reads like an absolute dream. However, the story, itself, is even more impressive. It is always delivering plot twists you weren’t expecting and stretching the confines of your mind to a point where you begin questioning just about everything in your life.
If the above adoration wasn’t clue enough, A Scanner Darkly is a sublime piece of literature. While normally shelved in the Sci-fi section of your local Barnes & Noble, this book is anything but science fiction. In fact, it should truly be lumped in with the works of Burroughs and Kerouac. Its fierce look at the mentality of a user of devastating drugs takes the stark honesty of Junky and delves even deeper; into the fragility of perception and the battle of the user with their own mind.
Truly, there have been few tragedies accurately written in the last forty years (and no, Nicholas Sparks does not fit this bill), but A Scanner Darkly is one of the greatest, albeit the least spoken of.
The characters and inducing of confusion that is so perfectly woven by PKD, along with the engrossing believable dialogue, create a beautifully tragic story with a multiplicity of levels, all ending with a little blue flower of hope that maybe—maybe—something good will come of everything that transpired.
Truly, I only included this because it’s required for our book reviews. There is nothing that this reader can find wrong with this novel. In fact, it might be the greatest of PKD’s works, with only Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep finding a worthy fight for supremacy.
And before you think I’m a PKD fanboy, let me put your worries to rest. I find a lot of Dick’s work lackluster. It is either self-absorbed in promoting its own fallacious philosophies (Valis), or simply loses creative momentum with only a few chapters to go til the end (The Crack in Space). So for me, personally, PKD is a serious hit or miss.
So, when I say that this book is truly masterful, please believe me.
Corking the Bottle:
A Scanner Darkly will not disappoint. It is a beautiful story of the fall of a man from grace, and a truthful look at the lives of drug addicts; painting them as more than mere animals. The artistic, fluid prose is wielded expertly, and will have you reaching the heartbreaking end before you realize you’ve turned a single page.
Full of some of the most memorable characters since Shakespeare, and sporting ideas that some of us will find uncomfortable to identify with, A Scanner Darkly will stay with the reader long after the book is closed, demanding an imminent reread.