A Scanner Darkly

by Philip K. Dick
Reviewed date: 2020 Aug 30
Rating: 2
278 pages
cover art

It's well written. A masterpiece of craftsmanship. Philip K. Dick wrote precisely what he intended to. I'm just not sure it's the book for me.

I don't have a lot of experience with drugs. In the Author's Note at the end, PKD explains how the characters in the book are drawn from people he knew and cared about, and the pain the death that drugs have caused them breaks his heart. PKD names them and dedicates the book to them: "In Memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven."

The thing is, I don't care about the characters in A Scanner Darkly. I can have empathy for PKD and grieve with him--that Author's Note is truly touching--but the characters in the book make me angry: every one of them should know better. Throwing away their lives on drugs. I know I should feel compassion for these people, but I don't know them, so I don't.

PKD doesn't show us any of the characters before they're strung-out losers whose life revolves around dope, so I have no reason to care about them. The closest he comes is a few scenes explaining how Fred decided to walk away from from his wife and family, which doesn't make me like him, it makes me angry: what kind of cowardly, self-centered man gives up on his family?

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