A Scanner Darkly

ascannerdarkly_giamattiI’ve been meaning to read Phillip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly for a long, long time. It is my second PKD book,  the first being Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (adapted as Blade Runner). With that book, I felt burnt by the ending (I prefer the director’s cut movie ending). I’ve read both books after having seen the movie.

Of course, I say read when I mean heard. A Scanner Darkly was also my second audiobook, the first being Choke. This was a far better experience. It benefits from being a far superior book, but also a far superior audio book. A Scanner Darkly is read by Paul Giamatti. Need I say more? He does different voices for each of the characters, and is a joy to listen to.

This is a great book, about the science of the brain and addiction, about addicts, about the relationship between the user and the narc, the pusher and the pushed, often in the same person. It has a science fiction facade– in that it is set in the “future” (written in ’77 about the 1990s) and people have scramble suits that preserve their anonymity. Otherwise, it’s a story about any post-60s time.

This book was adapted for the screen by Richard Linklater in 2006. It is a good movie, with especially great casting (Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, each perfect for their part). The movie was done with rotoscoped animation, like Linklater’s earlier Waking Life (2001), and it is the correct technique for this movie, where everything is either hyper-real or only slightly real, but never obvious.

The movie is quite faithful to the original material– in fact, more than it could have been if it was not rotoscoped.


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