Monday, December 04, 2017

Review of 'A Scanner Darkly' - Philip K Dick

I watched the animated film made from this book a while back, and thought it was good, but this is really powerful. I've never been addicted to any kind of narcotic or hallucinogenic drug, but this book feels right as it describes, from the inside, the dissolution of a mind and a personality. A lot of the book is autobiographical, transposed into a then-future of 1994 because Dick didn't believe he could sell a book that didn't have a science-fiction dimension. It's about the world of loser stoners that he himself was inhabiting, and contains a moving afternote dedication to the young people he hung out with who had since died or ended up mad.

The plot is about an undercover police agent, who is cracking under the strain of maintaining two personalities and narratives, exacerbated by the fact that in his report-back to his handler he must remain anonymous and invisible as a safeguard against corruption, and is required to spy on his own alter-ego,,,all while his brain is deteriorating under the impact of the drugs he is taking to maintain his cover.

It's intentionally hard to distinguish between reality and the character's paranoid fantasies and illusions. Of course stoners are often paranoid, and Dick was himself a clear example; but the real stories of what transpires in the shadowy world of parapolitics and the deep state, and its overlap with the world of drug trafficking, are as weird and alarming as anything a paranoid would make up. We'd call it all conspiracy theories, except that some of these conspiracies actually happened. Alfred McCoy's "The Politics of Heroin: Central Intelligence Agency Complicity in the Global Drug Trade" is a good place to start if you want to know more about that sort of thing.

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