This was the second time Ive 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 its 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 its not merely anti-drug, its 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 youre paranoid, doesnt mean theyre not out to get you.)
Based, autobiographically, on a period in Philip K. Dicks 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?
This was a really good book. It provokes a lot of different emotions. I sympathized for the main character a lot, but would often find myself frustrated with his paranoia and train of thoughts, which I think was the point. We follow a severely burnt out man who is surrounded by other burnouts, and peer into their daily lives, their long, drawn-out conversations about trivial things, and their back and forth paranoia. This isn't even the plot of the book, but it's one of the first impressions you get from reading it.
It's an anti-drug book which isn't preachy. The plot seems a bit goofy- an undercover cop who "doesn't realize he is narcing on himself." (This is part of the description on Paperback Swap's page for this book) because of how his drugs have affected his brain. It's actually a very riveting plot once you start reading. It's done in such a way that even though you know what's going on, you're still a bit confused, which I think illustrates his muddled brain.
It's just a really good book. There's a lot of levels to it, and you'll really need to read it a few times to absorb everything.