Tag Archives: Philip K. Dick

Book to Film: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

8 Jun
Movie poster via the Imp Awards

Movie poster via the Imp Awards

I recently read A Scanner Darkly and then had a mini book club talk about it with my husband and a friend. I liked it a bit, but I wasn’t crazy about it. Of course. this was followed by seeing the movie!

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Animation overlay. I watched the special effects documentary at the end so I know what a pain this was for the animators, but I think it was worth it. Being able to see the scramble suits was awesome and I’m not sure how that could have been done with live action. But on top of that, it gave us the sense of Bob imagining things and seeing them change that isn’t possible with live action. There’s no way to turn one woman’s face into another or morph a friend into a giant insect seamlessly. The animation made it all work.

Robert Downey Jr. I had a hard time imaging Barris’ personality or mannerisms when reading the book. How is this person both cocky and right all the time and so incredibly drugged out? Well, he’s basically Iron Man on drugs or Robert Downey Jr. The casting was genius and Downey did a great job.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Seeing Feck at New Path. In the book, there wasn’t a lot of closure around if Feck successfully killed himself or sort of disappeared from the narrative. Seeing him at the rehab center gave his character more closure than he had in the book.

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Bob’s decline. The book showed stages of decline as Bob’s quick decline became worse. Fred didn’t realize he was Bob or wouldn’t realize why Bob was doing something even though the same physical person was doing the things. The movie accelerated this decline to a point where it didn’t seem believable. He went from coherent to passing out in a day. There was no in between.

The German. Somewhat related to the above point, the missing interrupting German was a big change from the book. Adding in thoughts in a different language made it obvious that Bob was losing his grasp of reality and though this phenomenon was mentioned in the movie, Bob never experienced it.

Things That Changed Too Much

The Hank Reveal. I’m actually mad about this one. During my book club discussion, my husband said he thought Donna was Hank and we all had a big moment of, “OH MY GOSH!” We thought we’d figured out the whole book and were so smart. And then we saw the movie and they took our genius moment and made it part of the plot. Did we miss something and this was in the book, or did the screenwriters add it because they had the same idea as us? I’m a bit peeved.

Barris coming to the cops at the beginning. I think this changed how you looked at Barris all along. Instead of looking at him like a crazy person who was suspicious of Bob, you looked at him as someone to be suspicious of from the get-go. I didn’t like this view of him.

Overall Reactions

Artistically beautiful and much of the plot was well maintained. The characters were well brought to life and the story was very vivid. It was a good movie adaptation.

To anyone else who has seen or read this, what did I miss? Anything you would add to my lists?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Club Reflection: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

26 May

The date for my book club meeting got changed at the last-minute but me, my husband, and another member still decided to meet on the original date so we could discuss Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. I wonder what the other group thought of this book.

The title comes from a Biblical quote, 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.” To the characters in this book, a scanner is a surveillance camera, like what we think of as a security camera. So the title is referring to the obscurity when looking at things through a lens or camera. I’m reminded of the scene where Bob sees Donna’s face melt on the screen. It’s obscured, in this case by what he remembers seeing and what he thinks he will see again. It’s only face to face that we can see the truth. We thought the scramble suits made this impossible for Bob most of the time.

The woman who joined us grew up in the 60s and she said she related to the characters whereas I did not. She recalls that the drug culture in Detroit was not quite like that described in California but had some similar elements. Perhaps I would have liked this book more if I’d grown up during the time it was referencing. The setting seemed very real, not quite the SciFi I saw in Blade Runner when I watched that film. We suspected that was because the real advanced technology, which was referenced one or twice, was reserved for the rich and elite of the society while our characters were more working class and poor.

The first part of the book was a lot of character development, which is where I lost interest. These characters were men in their late 20s or early 30s that weren’t the type of people I would want to associate myself with. It made the progression from Bob in his right mind to Bob beyond help very stark, but I felt it went too slowly. My husband pointed out the slip between first and third person points of view as Bob’s brain started to disassociate and have ‘cross-chatter.’ I guess it’s odd that I found this part so dull.

Barris was the primary secondary character. Bob viewed him as this crazy villain who had secrets and a gun and who could hurt the rest of them if he put his mind to it. But Barris saw Bob in a very similar light. He’s very skeptical of everything Bob does and knows about the gun under his desk. Bob’s secrets could have done in Barris as well. They were similar characters.

With all the bad things Bob did, why did we like him? What did the reader have to grab on to that could make us cheer for such a person? I guess we thought he would recover. We thought there would be a happy ending until he got to New Path. He seemed to lose track of everything by the end and we felt bad for him. The hemisphere separation which caused him to speak in German and interrupt his own thoughts with it was disturbing to read. The scenes where he saw the drug-addled girl’s face melt into Donna’s were confusing, but we felt we figured out a good grasp on them. Our theory is that the first time, he thought he saw it in a dark room in a drug-induced state. The second time, his brain had deteriorated further and because he thought he’d seen it the first time, he saw it again, whether it happened or not. At this point, we knew he was going nowhere good.

We had two different interpretations of the last paragraph of the book. Here it is reprinted,

Stooping down, Bruce picked one of the stubbled blue plants, then placed it in his right shoe, slipping it down out of sight. A present for my friends, he thought, and looked forward inside his mind, where no one could see, to Thanksgiving.

My interpretation was that he was taking some of the drug to share with his friends who are also addicts back at the New Path facility in the city. He wants to abuse the drug again. He’s become a druggy. My husband thought it meant that he was going to show it to Donna and the other narcotics officers to show them where the drug was being grown. Now I’m not really sure what to think about it because I think it could be interpreted either way! What do you think? We were surprised that it was a naturally growing plant because the investigators were always making a big fuss about it being synthesized in a lab.

I was surprised that the government was running the drug ring. I wasn’t expecting that twist. Though it was very convenient to have drug-abused minds growing the drug that had ruined their lives. It made you wonder why the government would sacrifice officers to investigate the drug when it was government-run.

Our favorite cop character was Hank. And we have a theory. It’s a big one, are you ready? Donna is Hank! Yep. Think about it. She knew not to get into a romantic relationship with Bob because she knew he was a cop who was trying to bust her and it could get messy. She knew Fred was Bob because she knew his friends, had seen Fred and Barris in the same room, and knew Luckman was too far gone to be a cop. Thinking back on it, it makes perfect sense to me and I’m not convinced this is true. At the time of reading the book, we were blown away that she was an officer, but it now makes more and more sense. We wondered if she lied about her age because she was described as ‘too young to buy’ but if she was a cop, might have been older than she looked.

My husband, who really enjoyed the psychology of this book, told us a little about the history of psychology and what he saw of it in Dick’s book. Psychology was a very young discipline in the 50s and by the 70s, when this book was written, it was making great strides in the study of the brain. He conjectured that the ‘advanced tests’ the doctors were running were part of Dick’s best guess at where psychology would be another 20 years later.

The authors note touched us all in different ways. One thing that struck us was how much Dick continued to associate himself with those he was in the drug scene with. Many people we knew who had been into drugs in younger years no longer associated with the people who participated in those activities and have moved on to different aspects of their lives. Buck Dick, after achieving so much success, still associates with these people. There’s speculation that he is the ‘Phil’ referred to in the list and if that’s so, maybe it was their permanent damage that linked them: their shared pain after the drugs were gone.

I’m excited to get back to the bigger group. Our next book is Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane which I finished just a bit ago and I think will make for a great discussion.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick (3/5)

4 May

Oh, book clubs. Look at you trying to get me to read and like sci-fi. You try so hard! But it all still comes off as ‘too weird for me.’ Oh well, you tried.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Summary from Goodreads:

Substance D is not known as Death for nothing. It is the most toxic drug ever to find its way on to the streets of LA. It destroys the links between the brain’s two hemispheres, causing, first, disorientation and then complete and irreversible brain damage.

The undercover narcotics agent who calls himself Bob Arctor is desperate to discover the ultimate source of supply. But to find any kind of lead he has to pose as a user and, inevitably, without realising what is happening, Arctor is soon as addicted as the junkies he works among…

If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know I’m not a sci-fi person. I usually find books in this genre to be quick reads, but not the kind of book I’m really interested in. The same was true here. It was good, the characters were solid, but I wasn’t that interested. The technology and world building were a distraction to the story for me. I dunno, it wasn’t great to me. I’ll still watch the movie to see if I get more out of it, but I’m not really optimistic.

I liked Arctor’s descent into addiction. I thought it was really believable in terms of how quickly he took a turn for the worst and how it went from something social to a coping mechanism. I thought he was well-developed. I thought Donna was great, too. I won’t spoil the revelation about her from the end, but I thought it was fitting. I enjoyed how untouchable she was but at the same time, Bob felt like he owned her. It was a good balance and Dick did a good job striking it.

Donna was my favorite, probably because she was the least strung out and the only woman. She was put together but still helpful to Bob and the others who needed a level-headed woman in their lives. She was very caring and giving, but was very self-respecting of her boundaries at the same time. She never let Bob pressure her into being with him or spending time with him when she didn’t want to. I respected that about her.

These characters were very removed from my daily life and I think that’s part of why I had so much trouble connecting with them or the story. I find that this is a large part of why science fiction doesn’t appeal to me. I feel no connection with the characters. Oh well. In this story, that feeling was particularly hard to come by because I couldn’t relate to the drug addictions that defined a lot of the characters.

I liked the scenes when Fred was reporting to Hank. The way that Dick wrote these scenes, where Fred had to pretend to be someone he wasn’t, I thought was very clever. I liked the idea of the scramble suit, but I thought it was taken a bit far that the police knew he was a member of Arctor’s group but not which one. There were only so many options!

I thought there was a lot of extra ‘stuff’ in the novel. I think Bob’s digression into addiction was a bit slow and the stories that highlighted his fall weren’t very interesting to me. They seemed repetitive somehow, I’m not sure I could articulate why I feel that way. I wish it had been shorter.

The author’s note at the end made it obvious that this was semi-autobiographical. Dick himself was an addict (though not of Substance D) and knew a lot of people who were similar to Bob and his roommates. Many of them passed away or were permanently scarred from their addiction. He’s warning of the dangers. I like this, even though I don’t like the novel so much. I like his anti-drug message without being preachy. It’s hard to talk to people about a problem they have or the dangers of getting into something in a sincere way that they will listen to. I think Dick did a good job of getting this message out in a way people will respond to.

Writer’s Takeaway: I like to have a message in my stories. It’s never overbearing or something that permeates every sentence that I write, but it’s there, somewhere. I thought Dick had a good message and I liked that it was almost hidden in a sci-fi book. I wasn’t picking up this book thinking there would be a serious warning inside, but I’m glad there was.

Well written, but not a genre for me. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Book Review- A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K Dick | Wrapped Up In Books
Paranoia in Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly | Blue Labyrinths

WWW Wednesday, 29-April-2015

29 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


White TigerCurrently reading:  No movement with La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Please don’t be mad. I want to finish this and I will return to it.
Steady progress with Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I’m close to the end but know that I’m nowhere close to the end of this story. It’s obvious this first book will barely touch the tip of the iceberg in the series.
I’ll be a long time reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It’s been a good journey so far, but I’ve only just begun. Not sure how long this is going to take, but I’m guessing a while.
I finally started The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga! Yes, after such a long wait, I’ve finally started. So far, it’s alright. The narrator has a very strong voice that makes the whole thing really fun.
I’m unable to cook without an audiobook now so I started another on my phone, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. My amazing friend Katherine suggested this one to me because it’s set in the 1920s and she knows how much I love the 20s. So far it’s really fun. I’m excited to get more into it.

DarklyRecently finished: I finished A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick last week. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was ok. Review coming next week.

Speaking of reviews, I posted two this week. I reviewed Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling on Monday and posted a review for Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell yesterday. Take a look and tell me what you think!

Reading Next: My book club met Monday and our next book is going to be The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. This is part of the ‘Everyone’s Reading’ program so I’m sure there will be some other posts about this book. I hope I enjoy it!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 22-April-2015

22 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


GameofThronesCurrently reading:  No movement with La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It will come, I promise, but not just yet.
I’ve made some minor progress on Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. It’s getting there, just taking longer than I thought. I’m about 60% done now and 10% of that was in the last week so don’t give up on my yet.
Will making my way through A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick. Not a huge fan so far. Science Fiction I like is rare so I’m not surprised by this one, but we’ll see how I like it when I’m done.
New audiobook to announce! I hope some of you will be happy to hear I started A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin! It’s too early for me to say how I’m feeling about it, but this will be here for a long time for me to give out my opinion.

VeryGoodLivesRecently finished: I finished the audio for Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell on Friday. Look for a review coming soon!
I also picked up a copy of J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives. It’s a super short book and I read it in about a half hour, but totally worth picking up. I was proud that the man ringing me up at Barnes & Noble didn’t know about the book. I’m such a trendsetter, haha!

A few of you were asking for my review of Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. I posted it yesterday if you want to see what I thought.

White TigerReading Next: It will be The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I’ll start it as soon as I finish Scanner so hopefully it’s off this list next week!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 15-April-2015

15 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


DarklyCurrently reading:  No movement with La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. So many of you comment on this each week that I regret I haven’t had time to work on it, but I hope to get to it soon.
No movement on Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. It’s just been a bad week for ebooks I guess. Maybe books in general, I feel like this is going to be a short update.
Minimal progress on Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell. Or maybe it just feels that way. With the vacation I took last week, it seems I didn’t get through much.
I started a new book, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick. So far, it’s reminding me a bit of China Mieville and I haven’t decided how I feel about it yet. I’ll have a better update next week.

Recently finished: I did finish a book! Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo was a book club selection and I liked it well enough. You’ll probably see a review coming soon. Stay tuned.

White TigerReading Next: I have The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga on my bedside table. I know, I know. I keep saying it’s next but it really is! I promise I’ll be reading it soon. Stay tuned.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!