A Scanner DarklyApril 9, 2013
I admit that this is a difficult book to read. It requires a higher state of concentration to fully appreciate this book, and I think I fail to do that. Some reviewers say that watching the movie (the one with Keanu Reeves) is helpful to grasp meaning of this novel. I think this is the only time that I recommend watching the movie before reading the novel.
The story is about an undercover narcotic police agent. Deeply involved in his job, and actually too deep, he took Substance D, a highly addictive narcotics. He did not realize the side effect (or actually a permanent effect) of the drug until it was too late.
The science fiction theme of this book is not easily seen. It is hidden beneath the rambling of drug users. I myself might not see it as a science fiction novel. It is more about drug abuse than exploring the splitting personality because the Substance D destroys the connectivity between the left and the right brain. So instead of having one unified brain, the victim see the world using two brain, and sometime have conflicting information.
The complexity of drug user behavior, which the author captured perfectly, makes it even more difficult to follow the story of the book. Only after reaching the second half of the book, I began to grasp the story.
What I admire most about this book is the realistic approach of the writer, in describing the drug user culture. The dialogue is so real, that you feel that you are inside the story, witnessing everything. Only an accomplished writer can do such a thing.
This book was written in the height of drug abuser culture in 1970s. Simply because I do not belong to those era, it makes me difficult to really grasp the inner meaning of the story. If I understand the struggle, the atmosphere of those hippies era, maybe I will give this book an extra one star. Maybe if you get high you can understand it better (sic). Living in this new century, when the issue around us are environmental degradation, religious fanaticism, public ignorance, etc, I cannot really see the importance of drug issues in this era. At the end of the novel, the author stated that this novel is about many of his friends, those died and suffered because of drug abuse, and I fail to get that feel.
Notes: I just found out in this book that, the voice of your own, that you hear directly while you are speaking, is not the same voice as it is heard by other people (?)
Verdict: 3/5 as a sci-fi. But as a general reader I would give 3.5/5