A SCANNER DARKLY
From the inside flap of the 1969 Book Club edition
Bob Arctor asked himself: How many Bob Arctors are there? Two that I can think of. The one called Fred, who will be watching the other one, called Bob. The same person. Or is it? Is Fred actually the same as Bob? Does anybody know? I would know, if anyone did, because I'm the only person in the world that knows that Fred is Bob Aretor. But, he thought, who am I? Which of them is me? Bob Arctor is a totally spaced-out dope dealer in a vaguely futuristic society, circa 1986. Or is he? Periodically he dons an amazing device called a "scramble suit" which allows him to appear as merely a vague blur he cal\s Fred, who then proceeds to monitor and inform the narcotics agents of events in the political and narcotics underworld. Fred's latest assignment is to monitor video/audio scanners in the apartment of one Bob Arctor. It seems like the ultimate rip-off of the law-getting paid for surveillance work on himself, feeding false information to the police about his own activities.
But strangely, as Arctor becomes so hopelessly strung out on drugs, particularily a mysterious and mind-bending concoction called Substance D, his two personalities - pursuer and pursuedlaunch him into a schizoid nightmare. Soon he begins to play tricks on himself, believing he is actualIy two people-no longer knowing which "side" he is on or even who should "win." A chilling revelation, given credence by Philip Dick's own experiences with drug users, when paranoia links up with reality.
Philip K. Dick is one of science fiction's most prolific and well-known writers, being popular in both Europe and the United States. He was the winner of the Hugo Award for his novel The Man in the High Castle, and the John W. CampbelI Award for his novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.
From the back cover of the Doubleday BCE edition
Half sneezing, Barris declared, "I can derive a gram of pure cocaine at a total cost to me, for the ingredients from which I get it, not including my labor, of less than a dollar." "Bullshit." . 'I'll give you a demonstration." "Where do these ingredients come from?" "The Seven-Eleven store," Barris said, and stumbled to his feet. . . .They parked in the lot of Seven-Eleven, got out, and walked inside. As usual, a huge dumb cop stood pretending to read a stroke-book magazine at the front counter; in actuality, Charles Freck knew, he was checking out everyone who entered, to see if they were intending to hit the place. "What do we pick up here?" he asked Barris, who was casualty stronging about the aisles of stacks of food. "A spray can," Barris said. "Of Solarcaine." . . . The first move in Barris's scheme was to get a plastic bag from the roll by the sink and squirt the contents of the spray can into it, on and on until the can or at least the gas was exhausted. "What they have deliberately done," Barris said cheerfully as he labored, "is mix the cocaine with oil so it can't be extracted. But my knowledge of chemistry is such that I know precisely how to separate the coke from the oil." He had begun vigorously shaking salt into the gummy slime in the bag. Now he poured it all into a glass jar. "I'm freezing it," he announced, grinning, "which causes the cocaine crystals to rise to the top, since they are lighter than air. Than the oil, I mean. And then the terminal step, of course, I keep to myself, but it involves an intricate methodological process of filtering." He opened the freezer above the refrigerator and carefully placed the jar inside.
From the back cover of the 1977 Del Rey editionWHO'S WHO? Fred, the unstoppable undercover narc in a scramble suit that gave him virtual anonymity, was out to bust doper, pusher Robert Arctor. A snap for Fred, except for one small catch... he was Robert Arctor! WttO'S WHAT? Now Donna was Robert Arcto~'s girl, as well as his dealer, and a pretty important broad in his life. But she was just the sort of female who was important in a lot of guys' lives...even a guy who was a narc like Fred!
From the back cover of the Vintage Edition
Cops and criminals have always been interdependent, but no novel has explored that perverse symbiosis more powerfully than A Scanner Darkly. Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug called Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, he h~~taken onJhe identity of I a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D-which Arctor takes in mammoth doses-gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize that he is narcing on himself.
Caustically funny, eerily accurate in its depiction of junkies, scam artists, and the walking brain-dead, Philip K. Dick's industrial-grade stress test of identity (both his charaders' and the reader's) may be the most unnerving drug novel ever written.