A SCANNER DARKLY
Philip K. Dick
A marrow-freezing morality play set in a 1994 California. The central fact of life is drugs: every hard drug in the current lexicon plus Substance D--"Death" to its friends--which progressively impairs coordination between the brain's two hemispheres. The hero is an addict, a nark engaged in surreptitious electronic "scanning" of himself and friends, and--it slowly becomes clear--a patsy in some dreadful hidden game. Dick has bitten off an awful lot here. Much of the straightforward narration is theatrically bad, yet dialogue and internal monologue carry a cruel (and cruelly funny) conviction. And the larger plot is brilliantly hinged upon a consciousness split by two insanities: the Kafkaesque charade of secret self-surveillance and the terrible advance of irreversible brain damage. Flawed, almost too grim to take, but stunningly realized.