Wow…so I forgot to mention it, but my last book review was also the fiftieth that I’ve posted so far. Awesome, no? Of course, I already have 52-61 written and am just pacing the rate at which I post them…because I read too fast and posting a review every 4-6 days seems like a lot already. If I posted them oftener than that, people would visit me less often than they already do, eh? 😛
Anyway, today I played a game with my sisters where the first person names a famous person (actor, political figure, author, fictional character, etc) and the next person has to use the first letter of the person’s last name to name the next person and it just goes on and on like that until you can’t think of any more names or someone accidentally repeats a name…and we played this game for 4+ hours without anyone losing…and finally gave up because both of them had to go to sleep…
I think we get too interested in weird games sometimes…although it would’ve ended sooner if we hadn’t banned anyone from using names that start with W, P, or F. We never got to use I, Q, Y, or Z at all…
But yeah. I’m a weirdo. I confess it now, just in case you didn’t already know.
And here is my 51th review.
A Scanner Darkly
By Philip K. Dick
“Fred” is an undercover cop in a scramble suit that disguises both his appearance and his voice, making him invisible when he has to be. But he only needs to be invisible when he’s with his coworkers, or when he’s addressing groups of “straights” (non-drug users) about addiction and the war on drugs…
But “Fred” is also Bob Arctor, a drug user that’s well on his way to becoming a dealer of Slow Death. Bob’s two roommates—Barris and Luckman—are also users, but in spite of their drug trips and dysfunctional thinking, Bob suspects Barris just might be onto his undercover gig.
He finds it almost reassuring when Fred’s employers unknowingly assign him to monitor Bob Arctor’s activities, but when the effects of Bob’s Slow Death habit start to manifest, both Fred and Bob begin to lose touch with reality…and each other.
This book depresses me a lot. Like, I guess it makes sense that there’s nothing happy about a book about drug addicts, right? But…eh…I don’t know.
I first read it for my Science Fiction course, so I can tell you that there’s lots of interesting concepts that Dick brings up about multiplicity within organizations and individuals, and also about the concept of “the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” but the storyline is still really depressing.
It starts off with a brief story about a guy named Jerry Fabin, who went permanently crazy because of the drugs he’d been on, and ended up institutionalized, and then it switches over to the story of Fred/Bob Arctor and his friends. It kind of makes you feel bad for all the characters, the way they’re presented as being spaced all the time and on the verge of becoming crazies like Jerry Fabin…but although you feel sorry for them, I also think it’s hard to really like any of the characters. I had trouble with the character, Donna, a lot…she’s always described as being pretty and sweet when the characters are thinking about her on their own, but whenever any of the other characters talk about her, it’s hard to think of Donna as anything but scheming…up until you get towards the end of the book, when you finally see another side of her, but it’s hard to form a new opinion by that point.
Without giving too much away about the story, I think the most shocking point is probably when Bob Arctor is taken off his undercover assignment. When we find out the reason he was being monitored, that’s kind of depressing in itself, but what actually happens to Bob afterwards is pretty sickening, I thought. It makes for an unexpected twist in the plot, but not one that makes you feel very good about things.
Overall, I guess I’d say this is a good read, it’s just definitely not a feel-good read.
There’s plenty to be offended by, too…there’s the drug use and the swearing and the suicide attempts and the hookers…so it’s definitely not a book for most younger readers. I think though, that some of the main concepts are also a little elusive because of the characters’ spaced out narration, so although that’s not offensive, I think that this is a book I’d probably only recommend to more mature readers just because I was puzzled by what happened towards the end…I think I get it a little more now, almost three years after first reading A Scanner Darkly, but…eh…I’m still the littlest bit confused by this book.
I also know that A Scanner Darkly was made into a movie a few years ago, with Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, and Keanu Reeves. I’ve never seen it, but I’m kind of curious about how the movie would compare with the book, since I didn’t think the book had very cinematic scenes…if you have seen the movie, let me know what you thought of it.