Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » A Scanner Darkly » User review

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

a book by Philip K. Dick

< read all 5 reviews

If the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed

  • Nov 9, 2008
  • by
Jerry Fabin is covered in aphids. Or at least he thinks so, spending most of his time in the shower. His friend Charles Freck tries to help, but eventually must take Jerry to New-Path, a center to help addicts of Substance D (known as Death) come off the drug and adjust to life without intoxicants. Charles catches up with Donna Hawthorne, Bob Arctor's supposed girlfriend/dealer, scores some Substance D and falls in with Bob's crowd.

Bob Arctor lives with two roommates, Barris and Luckman. What Bob's roommates don't know is that there is more to Bob than his trivial job and his addiction. Bob is a narc called Fred, working for the Narcotics Division undercover. Whenever Fred enters the station to report, he wears a "scramble suit", so that he can't be identified. All narcotics officers wear them. When Fred is assigned to stake out his own identity in the drug world, Bob Arctor, things begin to fall apart for him.

At first, Fred finds it ironic that he is staking out himself, but as the drug corrodes his brain, literally splitting the hemispheres apart, Bob/Fred separate and reality twists into shivering fibers of uncertainty. Barris and Luckman start to behave strangely, as Fred observes them on the holo-tapes. Bob begins to speak and think in German.

What will happen to Bob/Fred if he doesn't stop using Substance D? Why is Donna so standoffish if she likes Bob as much as she claims to? How deep can Bob/Fred go before something snaps inside his head? Or has it snapped already?

'A Scanner Darkly' is classic the author Philip K. Dick. He vividly paints the funnier antics of substance abuse, and the tragedies that follow. The conversations between the men when they are high are both pathetic and hilarious. It's pretty obvious the author had some experience walking the pretty path of flowering hallucinations.

This book is poetic and realistic even in today's society though it was written in 1977. There is no "old" feeling to the storyline. And, there is a big surprise waiting for you in the end.

Also, read the Author's Note at the end, where the author Philip K. Dick describes himself and his friends, and their forays into the drug society, as children playing in the street. When one gets hit by a car (overdose, brain damage, etc) the rest of them would continue to play, oblivious to the dangers. He then lists his friends who he lost to this vicious game.

'A Scanner Darkly' is a definite buy, if you like to collect drug books like Luke Davies's 'Candy', Burroughs's 'Junky', Thompson's 'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas', and Selby's 'Requiem For A Dream'. Grab a hold of your worst vice, whether wine or chocolate or Substance D, sit back, relax, and Enjoy!
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
More A Scanner Darkly reviews
review by . June 22, 2010
This is Philip K's hyper-paranoia book. Of course, all of his books to some degree rely heavily on knowing the difference between "reality" and the totally subjective; but only in A Scanner Darkly do the two fluctuate so. Our main character(s)' reality switches before our eyes. In this book, you can see the brilliance that eventually lead to Philip K's madness, but you can also see his glaring insight into people and his terrific sense of humor. The first 150 pages of this …
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Dick is a great author
review by . August 26, 2009
We're coming into the home stretch, folks. You and I have gone through some of Philip K. Dick's best work, such as "Martian Time-Slip" and "Dr. Bloodmoney" and "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch ". There are only a few PKD novels left, and I've saved some of the best for last. Of "A Scanner Darkly", for instance, the author said "I believe it is a masterpiece. I believe it is the only masterpiece I will ever write." Wow.    In old usage, a "masterpiece" was a piece of work …
About the reviewer

Ranked #48
I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book


From Publishers Weekly
America in the near future has lost the war against drugs. Though the government tries to protect the upper class, the system is infested with undercover cops like Fred, who regularly ingests the popular Substance D as part of his ruse. The drug has caused Fred to develop a split personality, of which he is not aware; his alter ego is Bob, a drug dealer. Fred's superiors then set up a hidden holographic camera in his home as part of a sting operation against Bob. Though he appears on camera as Bob, none of Fred's co-workers catch on: since Fred, like all undercover police, wears a scramble suit that constantly changes his appearance, his colleagues don't know what he looks like. The camera in Fred/Bob's apartment reveals that Bob's intimates regularly betray one another for the chance to score more drugs. Even Donna, a young dealer whom Bob/Fred loves, prefers the drug to human contact. Originally published in 1977, the out-of-print novel comes frighteningly close to capturing the U.S. in 1991, in terms of the drug crisis and the relationships between the sexes. But the unrelenting scenes among the addicts make it a grueling read.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Mind- and reality-bending drugs factor again and again in Philip K. Dick's hugely influential SF stories.A Scanner Darklycuts closest to the bone, drawing on Dick's own experience with illicit chemicals and on his many friends who died from drug abuse....
view wiki


ISBN-10: 0679736654
ISBN-13: 978-0679736653
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Vintage (December 3, 1991)
Date Published: (December 3, 1991) Original Copyright 1977
Format: Paperback: 288 pages, Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since