Now that university has finished I can finally start to read books that I enjoy. Whilst I am a massive bookworm and tend to enjoy most books I read, I particularly enjoy science fiction, dystopias and psychological thrillers. Be prepare for a lot of science-y and dark stuff in the next few months!
Starting off this new blog series is A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick. Probably most famous noawadays for being the author of The Man in the High Castle which has a hugely popular Amazon TV series, Dick is a prolific science fiction writer. I studied his novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (a.k.a: Blade Runner) for my dissertation and absolutely loved it! I picked up this novel with the hopes that I would feel the same. And I couldn’t resist the gorgeous cover!
“Substance D – otherwise known as death – is the most dangerous drug ever to find its way onto the black market. It destroys the links between the brain’s two hemispheres, leading first to disorientation and then to complete and irreversible brain damage. Bob Arctor, undercover narcotics agent, is trying to find a lead to the source of supply, but to pass as an addict he must become a user, and soon, without knowing what is happening to him, he is as dependent as any of the addicts he is monitoring.”
Sounds great right?
Well the blurb generates such great and high expectations that the novels itself seems to fall a little flat. My first main issue with the novel is the many names of Bob Arctor. Also known as Fred. Then by the end of the novel becomes Bruce. Whilst beginning a new book can be difficult at the best of times, giving one character two different names definitely caught me off guard. Maybe Dick is trying to explore the importance of naming and identity? This definitely the case at the end of the novel when Bob is reassigned the name ‘Bruce’ because he cannot remember his own name, demonstrating the destructive effect of substances on our identity and how easily others can change it for us.
The first 3/4 of the novel were great. I was fully emersed in the world of drug abuse, dealers and criminal conspiracies. But when the novel reaches chapter 13, things start to move a little fast and get a bit too confusing. Arctor’s addiction to ‘death’ is ultimately found out. There is a whole scene where police psychologists explain the effects of ‘death’ with fancy schmanzy science words that I struggled with. Yet what I struggled with more was that Arctor’s addiction came out of nowhere. Perhaps it was the first person narration from Bob that hid the true effects of the drug? Or the fact that ‘death’ was only really mentioned memorably two or three times compared to the copious amounts of ‘dope’. Is this me just being picky, a genuine gap in the narrative or part of Dick’s authorial genius, catching readers off guard? Regardless, the remaining chapters are distant, confusing and written in a whole different tone from the rest of the novel.
Nevertheless, the one thing I love about Dick’s novels is how quickly and easily they can be read. His style is so fluent and tone so easy to grasp that, even if I didn’t quite understand what was going on, I was able to carry on reading anyway!
Overall: 3.5 out of 5. I would recommend it to people who enjoy a dark, psychological novel without reading too much into the consistency of characters and the plot. It’s definitely one for the crime and sci-if lovers out there.
I want to hear from you! Was this okay? Too many spoilers? Not enough spoilers? Bit too boring? Does it need more banter? Comment below and keep your eyes peeled for next month’s book! 😊
— What’s next? —
‘Dear Diary: An Intellectual Day in London’