Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick (GRADE: Hard to say)

I just finished A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick.  It is hard to evaluate this novel.  Part of it, the beginning part, was very confusing and part of it, the ending, was very engaging.  I would say the beginning was a C and the ending was an A.  When I finished this book, I was very tempted to flip the book around and start it over again because I felt like I missed the whole beginning because of my lack of understanding.  So, I guess, overall, I would grade this book a B.

The book is about a undercover cop named Bob Arctor.  While he is undercover, he becomes addicted to Substance D or Slow Death.  He also falls in love with a girl, one of the dealers, Donna.  The first half of the book are mostly filled with snapshot scenes of the drug user/dealer world.  The second half of the book is about Arctor/Fred(his police identity name) as the police discover that he is addicted to Substance D and has a type of brain damage.

The writing is a bit confusing to me.  The writing reminded me of Asimov or Huxley.  (NOTE: Okay, anyone who has read Dicks, Asimov or Huxley will say they are nothing alike.  I'm not saying that they are the same but just that they remind me of each other.  There is minimal transition or scene setting.  There is mostly just interaction between characters.)  At times, the writing is very fluid, especially towards the end, which I very much enjoyed.

The pacing was weird too.  I thought it dragged in the beginning, mostly due to my confusion.  But it was very fast towards the end.

The character development was good.  I felt like I really got to know and feel sympathy for Bob Arctor and the choices he had to make.  I liked Donna as a character and even the strangely intelligent drug user Barris.  The characters were original and memorable.

A Scanner Darkly is...original.  Can I say that?  Is anything truly original?  Well, it felt original to me.  I don't think I have ever read anything like this.  I don't feel like he ever fell into cliches or wrote anything about the drug world that wasn't honest.  I liked the grit and baseness of the world that he created (and was glad that I don't have any first hand knowledge of this world).

Overall, I would recommend this book.  It is not like most New York Times best sellers.  It is gritty and at times, a bit confusing.  But overall, it was provocative and, I feel, worthy of the time spent reading it.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something that is off the beaten path.  I grade this book a B (...a C for the beginning and an A for the end).  I am tempted to read this book again, which I guess really makes this book an A book.