Spoiler-Free Review: A Scanner Darkly

“They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed–run over, maimed, destroyed–but they continued to play anyhow.”

Author: Philip K. Dick

Bob Arctor has spent years working undercover on drug busts. Which means his bosses understand that he has to take some drugs from time to time just to keep his cover. but with Substance D, one dose is all you need to get addicted. No one seams to know where it comes from or how it hits the streets. That’s the mission for every undercover cop: get as high up the Substance D supply chain as you can, before addiction forces you into rehab.

As Substance D starts to corrupt his mind, Officer Archer begins to dissociate himself with Bob the addict. How long can he last? and as he climes up the supply chain, what will he find?

If you didn’t already know: Philip K. Dick himself battled drug addiction, and as he says in the epilogue this is a story about people who were “punished entirely too much for what they did.” No one here are nice people (Arctor’s backstory is that he decided he didn’t like his wife anymore and took this job to get away from her.) Yet as we watch Arctor fall into the darkness of his addiction, we can’t help but feel bad for him.

I really liked this book. Characters come and go as they fall into drugs, overdose and go into rehab. It’s easy to imagine the same thing happened in the 1960’s drug scene.

I do have one question: what happened to the dog?! The guy who thought he was infected with bugs at the beginning of the novel, what happened to his dog when he went into rehab? No one talks about him or his dog again. Is the dog okay? Just let me have head canon where the dog gets adopted by a nice family in the country, where he can run and be happy. Let me have that one little bit of hope!

Do I recommend this novel? I’m not sure. I’m glade I read it, but it’s hardly the kind of book I’d want to read again. Are you looking for a scifi / dark drug tale? Than yes I would recommend this story. If your looking for something more in vain of Flash Gorden, stay away from this book.

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