“In Southern California,” he wrote in the novel “A Scanner Darkly,” “it didn’t make any difference anyhow where you went; there was always the same McDonaldburger place over and over, like a circular strip that turned past you as you pretended to go somewhere.”Cool, though I am not sure I agree with Mr. Timberg's assessment of Dick's later writing, which he considers continuous with Dick's earlier work. A Scanner Darkly flows from a weirder and darker place than, say, Man in the High Castle, UBIK, or "Do Androids dream..." (the novel which led to Blade Runner). Scanner's a bad trip, man, where cops, perps and druggies engage entropically in the bland dystopia of the SoCal 'burbs, the Disneyland of the mind, home to JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT. No space opera heroes nor Deckard like anti-heroes populate ASD. ASD does not seem quite as Kantian--or quantum-mystico--as some PKD, though Dickian characters often deal with a basic metaphysical problem: the relation of the perception of reality to...Reality itself, and really in philo-speak, the conditions of those perceptions, ie experiential knowledge, such as time and space (That said, PKD was not a postmodernist type. Subjective idealism does not imply, at least necessarily, that reason and science are merely fictions. )
Along with the philosophizing or, perhaps....anti-philosophizing, A Scanner Darkly reveals a hint of Hammett like detective pulp--a good thing, except to academics or east coast snobs. (Detectives often deal with a sort of primitive metaphysics, really, related to determining the facts... or chain of events) The OC hive revolves in a microdotted kaleidoscope, post-Nixon, Mao, and 'Nam. Stoners and gangsters turn narc (with the best eavesdropping snitch gear available), Jane Doe's become Ho's, and even cops turn out to be correct at times. Really, "Scanner" verges on madness at the end, like some metal-band jam gone awry, random, pathological as a friday night on the I-5.