A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick – Audible review


I read the book of this years ago, and still have the copy of it on my small bookcase at home. Don’t be unnerved that I have a small book case, I have tonnes of books, but they’re in piles, on shelves, in boxes, so that one day, when I have a library room they can all be displayed and look pretty. Until such a day, they’ll remain in towering piles* which could collapse on me at any moment, pinning me to the floor until my inevitable demise.

The novel itself is narrated by Paul Giamatti, and he does an amazing job with it. The book follows an undercover narcotics officer, Bob Arctor who has infiltrated (not sure this is the right term – I’ll explain more about this later…) a group of dopers, who are happily (?) winging their way through life getting high on a highly addictive drug called Substance D (Death). For anyone who’s been around people when they’ve been off their head, or high on something and not entirely there, the writing nails it, and as the cherry on the cake, Giamatti nails it too.

The majority of the book is from Arctor’s perspective, as he tries to find the links in the supply chain for Substance D, living with a group of dopers who are going about their day to day business, taking drugs and  talking crazy. The conversations I thought were brilliant, they make you laugh as much as they do make you sad, as they slowly get more and more broken as the novel goes on.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this novel too, in order for undercover agents to stay unknown to the majority of the Police force, he attends meetings with his senior officer ‘Hank’ wearing scramble suits, which constantly make the wearer shift appearance so that everyone involved in deep cover is unknown to everyone else.

Like a lot of Dick’s novels, it’s very cleverly written, and often catches you off guard, with things referenced earlier in the novel, which then become more obvious later on – some mega foreshadowing. I’d definitely recommend it if you haven’t had a listen/read.

There’s even a film if you can’t be bothered with either, but would recommend the former two, then the film after.
*disclaimer – they’re not towering piles, and are mostly stored away neatly. Mostly.

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