Book Review: A Scanner Darkly
January 13, 2011 book reviewA Scanner Darkly is easily one of Philip K. Dick's best books. While many of them have been adapted into movies (often far removed from the source material), the film stays pretty close to the book. Regardless, I think the book does a far better job immersing you into the bizarre world that Dick imagines, forcing you to experientially confront the problems of self, identity, and free will that are at the heart of all of Dick's best work.
The book is slightly dated in technological details (recording tapes? how quaint!), but the depth of character and plot more than makes up for it. Things are confusing at times - we have unreliable narrators literally inside unreliable narrators - but in this meditation on the nature of who we are, one gets an unflinching look at both the banality of drug culture (still fundamentally unchanged) and the extremes law enforcement goes to trying to stop it, and the near-irreconciable differences between the two.
But who are you, really? Are you the person who makes those snarky anonymous comments on the internet? Are you the person fellow churchgoers see? Are you the person when you and your significant other (or perhaps even NOT your significant other) decide to do something to "spice things up"? Are you the person who is at the party or the person who answers with the approved company line on Monday morning? Which of those conflicting, contrasting, irreconciable people is really, truly, you?
A Scanner Darkly does not answer that question for you. But during the course of this novel, you might find yourself seeking out the answers for yourself.