I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)
This week I'm reviewing A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick.
I really had to stew on this one for a bit after I read it and just let it sink in. Ultimately, I rated it better than I would have had I done my rating and review right away.
At first, I thought, huh, this is more sci-fi than horror. Of course, as it simmered in my brain it was obvious where the horror lived within the story. It follows a cop named Fred who is surveilling a junkie drug dealer named Bob. Mixed into the stream of consciousness thoughts of the narrators, who are fried on the drug Substance D, we discover Bob and Fred are the same person, only they don't know that most of the time.
The horror of the story lives within the twisted brain of the cop who took on a dead end position where it was expected he'd dabble in the very drugs he's trying to track and stop. Not only that, but it turns out there's more behind the story than one might expect. Who are the real bad guys?
Dick's writing has elements familiar in the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, and William S. Boroughs. In his end comments, we learn he's used his own experience with drugs to write the often confusing and random discussions within. In fact, the end commentary is a horror story all its own, listing the friends who've died or been dangerously impacted by their drug use. Philip K. Dick is on that list.
This style of writing isn't for everyone, but the story is solid, the subject matter disturbing in a very real world sort of way. There's nothing gory or visceral here. The horror is in the stark sadness of one man's devolution, the cost of his career.
My top ten stands.
My Top Ten:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
6. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
Have you read A Scanner Darkly? What did you think? Read anything else by Philip K. Dick? Seen the movie?
May you find your Muse.