This was the second time I've read this book, and the first time I rather disliked it – it made me really depressed. (And I was also busy trying to figure out specifically WHY my brother picked it to give me as a gift)!
However, this time I liked it much more – I read it all in one day, staying up way too late to finish it. I think that it's one of those books that really benefits from a second reading – knowing how things turn out allows you to go back and see implications that one might have missed the first time around.
‘A Scanner Darkly' is a very anti-drug book. But it's not merely anti-drug, it's also deeply distrustful of police, government and rehab, suggesting, through a slightly-science-fictional premise, that users of drugs, although victims of their own bad decisions, may also be dupes of authority. ("Just ‘cause you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.")
Based, autobiographically, on a period in Philip K. Dick's own life, the book portrays the mentality of addiction extremely believably, as he tells the story of Bob Arctor, an undercover police narc who gradually loses sight of his own identity: is he ‘Officer Fred,' an upstanding member of society – or is he really Bob, one of a houseful of junkies who live for their next fix of Substance D – the drug they accurately call "slow death"?
Who is supplying Substance D, and what is the agenda behind it?