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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.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    63
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

60 of 64 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Kyle
  • poway, CA, United States
  • 01-16-12

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.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • JOHN
  • Plantation, FL, United States
  • 06-28-09

"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.

27 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Kate
  • Michigan
  • 10-23-18

Overrated

First - 5 stars for Paul Giamatti, who is a national treasure. His narration was terrific.

I have no idea why this novel has stood the test of time. It is meandering, self indulgent, and tedious. More importantly, there is literally no plot. I won’t spoil anything because nothing happens to spoil - until about the 80% mark, and even then, there is no rise to action, climax, or other plot devices. It’s just consequences that I can’t care about because I’ve listened to 7 hours of junkies and their paranoid hallucinations.

A lot of great authors had addiction problems, and penned their most famous works while battling them. Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs. Philip K. Dick is not one of them. I’m sorry the author lost some friends to drug use, but their story isn’t interesting. A bunch of fried junkies sitting around and coming up with ridiculous conspiracy theories does not make for a story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

paul did great, book not so much

if you want a few hours of drug users incoherent reasoning, go ahead. but like them, this book is a waste of time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lew
  • Cedarhurst, NY, United States
  • 12-24-08

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.

19 of 31 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good, but depressing

This was a good book, but it's a bit of a downer. And definitely slow at times. But it's worth the read

8 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    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!

8 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 01-31-14

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.

16 of 30 people found this review helpful