Posted on Leave a comment

Book Review – A Scanner Darkly – Philip K Dick

As some of you may be aware, Philip K Dick books have been as the basis for quite a few Hollywood science fiction movies… usually the plot is used and embellished giving just a rough idea for the movies, it seems when reading the books that they are not often lucid, or at least loose focus or stray a little from what could have been a great book.

With A Scanner Darkly this was not the case, I found his writing lucid and on point through out. It’s a work of genius as are many of his other books, and the film version with Keanu Reeves, and some other fantastic actors, followed the dialogues and action to perfection, it was the only book of his I’ve read that did so, in actual fact a little was omitted, small sequences that were perhaps a little confused when written.

I know Philip K Dick suffered from mental issues, and with this book one can only assume he was a heavy drug user at some stage, which back in the 70’s was more common than now… especially the types of drugs he describes in his books, I’ve encountered heroin use a few times in several of his books, A Scanner Darkly deals with Methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and of course the fictional Substance D which is the primary focus of this book.

There are a few concepts that he deals with expertly have some idea of what a drug induced psychosis can be like from personal experience, I found the book spot on in describing the downward spiral of a user, slowly losing his mind, described medically as the splitting of the brain into two separate hemispheres acting independently of each other, with no side being dominant, leading to psychosis. There is so much depth in his writing that makes me think he may have had personal or a very close contact with people who had, in fact the author dedicates the book to several friends and their diagnosis, this is even more detailed in the film version with dozens of names and their diagnosis of psychosis, death and/or suicide.

This book is an amazing window into the world of drug users, addiction, withdrawal and potential psychosis from prolonged heavy drug use. The movie has been one of my favorite movies I’ve ever watched, and the book now.. also one of my favorites, I don’t think I will read it again, but I may pay more attention to the movie when I watch it every few years. There is a humor that is perhaps missing from the movie, I did laugh out loud in a few places, but this is a sad book, the film even more so.. this is not a sympathy book, asking for the reader to feel sorry for the characters, it simply describes in detail the consequences of drug addiction, and simply asks the reader to not judge so harshly people who use drugs, who have suffered from break downs and slipped into that kind of degeneracy, maybe it does ask for some sympathy.. I’m not sure now..

Read the book or watch the movie and decide for yourself… there are some brilliant concepts, where one may not find anywhere else. All I can say is that I am more than ever, impressed by Philip Dick and his writing, the sheer creative genius infusing his life experiences into the literature he created through out his troubled life, and how these ideas have been transformed into so many Hollywood movies and classics such as Blade Runner (Based on “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”).

Leave a Reply