A Scanner Darkly

Drawn portrait of Philip K Dick
Image via Wikipedia

The AV Club just posted the first entry in an ongoing discussion of Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi novel, so take that as further incentive to read the thing if you haven’t yet.

Or actually, just read any Philip K. Dick novel if you haven’t yet. His books have their flaws—most notably clunky prose and, far worse, a pretty ugly attitude towards women—but the author has an eye for the absurd to rival Kafka’s, and a surprising tenderness directed at those trapped in absurd situations. A Scanner Darkly captures that about as well as any of his books, shifting from his trademark grim sense of humor to a conclusion that’s genuinely heartbreaking.

Incidentally, Richard Linklater’s film adaptation is also very, very good. There have been many film versions of Dick’s work in the past, and they’ve ranged from good-but-completely-detached-from-the-tone-of-the-original (Blade Runner, Minority Report) to let’s-just-pretend-that-never-happened (Paycheck, Impostor, and most likely the upcoming The Adjustment Bureau). Linklater’s adaptation is the only one I’ve seen to capture the druggy digressiveness of his novels, the surreal sense of humor, and the all-pervasive atmosphere of paranoia and existential dread that hooked me when I first picked up his work in high school.

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