A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Set in a not-too-distant future where America has lost its “war” on drugs, Fred, an undercover cop, is one of many people hooked on the popular drug, Substance D, which causes its users to develop split personalities.

Fred is obsessed with taking down Bob, a notorious drug dealer, but due to his Substance D addiction, he does not know that he is also Bob.

Based on a classic novel by Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly stars Keanu Reeves (ConstantineThe Matrix trilogy), Academy Award-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted), Academy Award and Emmy-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Robert Downey Jr. (Good Night, And Good LuckKiss Kiss, Bang Bang), and Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominee and Emmy-winner Woody Harrelson (North Country).

Directed by Academy Award-nominee Richard Linklater (Before SunsetDazed and Confused), the movie was filmed in live-action and then animated using the same critically acclaimed process seen in his previous film, Waking Life.

Audio Book

Partly motivated by his increasing brushes with psychosis, by the early 1970s, Philip K. Dick
was struggling with increasing doubts over the nature of reality and personal identity. Perhaps
unsurprisingly, characters with unstable worlds and existential doubts are a familiar focus of
his work. Dick was interested in more than just description however, and often used his
novels to explore personal theories of existence. During his research, he discovered the work
of Roger Sperry, who had rocked the foundations of neuroscience by discovering that when
separated, the hemispheres of the brain seemed, at least to some degree, independently
conscious. Worried about his own perception of reality, Dick considered that this could
explain his increasing feelings of alienation and self-detachment. These reflections resulted in
A Scanner Darkly, a partly autobiographical near-future novel that remains an incisive
commentary on society, psychosis and the brain.


I read this novel a few years ago and still can’t get it out of my mind. There is something so powerful about it. PKD was pretty far gone at the time(couldn’t discern if he was human or written into existence by himself) he wrote it, but A Scanner Darkly is almost semi-autobiographical dealing with a character that is dealing with similar issues. Not many other things have hit me harder than this did and the quote “Everything in life is just for a while” rings true more than any quote I’ve ever read. There is also a brilliant film adaptation done by Richard Linklater that is very true to the book.

Scientific Journal

Through A Scanner Darkly

Neuropsychology and Psychosis in Philip K. Dick’s novel A Scanner Darkly
Published in The Psychologist:

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