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Publisher's Summary

Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, Fred takes on the identity of a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D, which Arctor takes in massive doses, gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize he is narcing on himself.

Caustically funny, eerily accurate in its depiction of junkies, scam artists, and the walking brain-dead, Philip K. Dick's industrial-grade stress test of identity is as unnerving as it is enthralling.

©1977 Philip K. Dick (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

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What listeners say about A Scanner Darkly

Average Customer Ratings
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Drugs are bad

Having lived through it, Dick nailed the 60s drug culture perfectly. I thought it was very funny and well written, love Dicks books.

124 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

"Dark" is the operative word

I am not sure about this one. To be sure, Paul Giamatti's performance is perfect. This guy is quite a talent. However, the material he reads is bizarre, as I am sure Philip K Dick intended it to be. The story is a bleak depiction of the southern California drug subculture in the then future of the late 1990's (the book was written in the late 1970s). Many of the supposed "futuristic" devices employed are dated, which seem to add to the strangeness of the story.

As the main character, Bob Arctor, an undercover narc who becomes addicted to "Substance D" begins to move in and out of reality, the reader/listener does so right along with him. As a result, I found the experience strange and uncomfortable.

I believe this story was semi-autobiographical, learning a little about P.K. Dick, who apparently struggled with paranoid schizophrenia. This book will definitely provide a glimpse into that abyss.

37 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brillant Novel, Read to Perfection!

Paul Giamatti's narration of Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly" is quite likely one of the best works by an actor of an unabridged audiobook that this reviewer has ever read. PK Dick will never be anyone's garden-variety Science Fiction writer. He deals with social, cultural and psychological complexities that some may find unsettling or even challenging. In the end, it becomes a matter of taste but "A Scanner Darkly" explores the decline and paranoia of a future drug culture as written in the early 70's. But somehow it works. It's offers a nod to Orwell's world of surveillance, deception, betrayal and sacrifice but woven with a thread of hilarious caricatures in a household of high-wired drug fiends and marginally sane confidants. But again, cudo's to Paul Giamatti for delivering this world with true theatrical perfection.

25 people found this helpful

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Paranoid road trip through the Hell of addiction

Be happy NOW, for tomorrow I'll be rewriting.
Take the cash and let the credit GO.
I'll write MY review tomorrow.
Let US all be happy.
And play AGAIN.
ToMORROW.

****

So, I wrote a review I was really proud of today during lunch. Four or five paragraphs. I liked it a lot. So, I was rather disheartened when my computer froze and I had to do a hard-boot to unfreeze it. Lost everything but the vague outlines of what I wrote. Even those vague outlines seem difficult to grasp right now. I'm kinda demoralized. Alas, I can probably make some bridge to how THIS loss of data...this unrecoverable review...this remorse over the ebbs of life dovetails quite nicely with some of the themes of 'A Scanner Darkly'. But right now I just don't care. I'm still pissed about THE loss (MY loss) and have a hard time seeing through the glass at all.

****
So, I'm going to give my review resurrection a shot:

'A Scanner Darkly' fits well on the addiction/drug/alcoholism as literature shelf. It needs no subsidy to sit next to Infinite Jest, Tender Is the Night, Under the Volcano, Less Than Zero, Naked Lunch, On the Road and the rest. This list is basically unending.

It seems like all novels about drug abuse, alcohol addiction, etc.., inevitably become a form of science fiction. They surf those disjointed, dream-like spaces -- seducing man from the first time he got buzzed from eating, drinking, or smoking something deliriant. These dope trips aren't rational, they aren't lucid, etc., but they still have a certain narrative coherence. It is like science fiction was created (... and in the beginning) by some belladonna-infused deity and formed into a perfect literary template to explain/capture all the paranoia and weirdness of the trips highs and lows.

It is impossible to read a novel about addiction without recognizing the author's fingerprints all over it. These novels are all memoirs of sorts. Their pages hold more truth than the Library of Congress. They are funky road trips through hell and PKD is the perfect acid artist for this vicious trip.

****

As I read 'A Scanner Darkly', I was haunted by the open wounds in the dialogue, the festering beauty of PKD's prose. These weren't scenes created ex nihilo. These pages all resonate like some haunted Totentanz. They chill like a Vanitas dream you can't quite escape. I can't remember what I wrote. The words, the melody, even the beat of what was once alive is now dead... and waiting for a trippy ressurection.

22 people found this helpful

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Profound

I first read this book as a daily opiate addict. I connected with it on an emotional level and felt understood in a lot of ways. I'm thankful to have escaped my own nemesis with minimal long term damage. It was interesting to re-read this on the flip side. I have great empathy for the characters and the millions of people they represent both deceased and still breathing.

21 people found this helpful

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Good but what the heck is going on

I liked it. It was engaging and kept my interest which far too few books do these days. However, I either missed it or it wasn't fully explained exactly what the heck was happening in the bigger picture ie with Donna and the guy from new passage. I would have liked to known... Oh well. Paul is a great narrator, I had no idea. I will listen to more of his if he does something other than Stephen King.

21 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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A long, drugged out rant

I have heard that PKD didn't spend a lot of time editing his work. If he had, he would have removed the nonsensical ranting about nothing that makes up the first half of the book. The second half is interesting, and the narrator is decent, but your credit is better spent elsewhere.

17 people found this helpful

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Hard to Rate

This book is hard to rate for a few different reasons. The narrator does a great job and I enjoyed istening to him. Most of the characters had there own voice but not an over the top one. The story for me became very hard to follow but the author may have written it that way purposely. All and all it was worth listening to once but I don't plan on ever listening to this title again.

12 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Listen for the narrator alone!

I can't say enough good things about Paul Giamatti's narration of this excellent book. It was a great book to listen to - especially because of the narrator. Great story, great characters - highly recommend it!

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

heartbreaking

I can't say enough good things about "A Scanner Darkly" or about Giamatti's narration. Note that this story is pretty hard going. If you want a less sad and heavy introduction to Dick, try the "Minority Report" short story collection.

11 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 07-08-19

Giamatti Nails It

Perfect casting. Paul Giamatti’s various intonations, character voices and general growl are well-matched companions to PKD’s gruelling, hilarious and tragic journey through the psyche.