Category Archives: Book Club

BOTM: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Sci Fi Distopian Drug Novel and Movie S.C. Barrus, S. Cody Barrus, Away and Away Welcome to our first book of the month club meeting!  Sure it’s less of a club and more of a suggested reading list, but let’s keep clear of semantics.

Our first selection is the fantastic novel A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, a dark story of a drug war taken too far, set in the not so far off future of 1994 (the book was released in 1977, so it’s set in the future in the same way that 1984 is).  We follow Bob Archter, a Narcotics agent who keeps his identity hidden even from his coworkers due to corruption in the police department, while he investigates a dangerous new drug called Substance D and the growing counter culture associated with it.

If you haven’t read this book yet, you are in for a treat.  A Scanner Darkly is an intense read, vastly entertaining, and surprisingly deep, especially in regards to the themes of consciousness and identity and what happens when both go a little askew.  If you want this novel to pack a little extra punch, do yourself a favor and research our current situation in the 30 year long Drug War the US is waging right now (it’s not working).  In fact, just look up the death toll in regards to drugs in Mexico from last year, it will seriously open your eyes.  Once you’ve done that, you will notice aspects of our current situation Dick called out in the 70’s.  Though he offers   no alternative to our current plight, he gives us some definite food for thought.

Keano Reeves, Woody Harolson, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Rory CochaneSo, why this book to start?  While A Scanner Darkly may not be the most accessible novel on the list from the Book of the Month Introduction (That would probably be Fight Club, or Catcher In The Rye), is serves a duel purpose.  First, it’s a fairly simple read, and thus vastly more accessible than, say, a novel such as Steppenwolf. And second, it also deals with some heavy material, deep themes, dark atmosphere, and thus works as a bit of a preview of where we are headed in the future.  If that excites you, be sure to check back every now and then for our next selection.

Extra Credit:

Fortunately, not only is the novel a great read, the film adaptation is phenomenal as well. It is directed by one of my favorite directors alive today, Richard Linklater (Waking Life, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused), and holds up very well to the story, though when portrayed on camera it’s a bit more confusing.  I recommend reading the novel first, this clears up all of the confusion one feels on the initial viewing, but if you’re the type who is able to watch a movie multiple times, this one warrants it.  The film’s visual style is also spot on.


Farewell from S.C.B.


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Book of the Month Introduction

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S.C. Barrus, S. Cody Barrus Why don’t we all take a moment to raise our glasses to our new Book of the Month club.  I’m excited to start this, even if I don’t like calling it’s not exactly a “book club”, more of an ongoing suggested read list with a bit of structure and a theme.  As this is new, I feel like I should begin by introducing it, and tomorrow (thurs.) we’ll begin with our first selection, ‘A Scanner Darkly’.

This book club will be semi structured in an arc beginning with some very good, yet very accessible books.  In other words, they are well done, and will function as a foundation as we move on to more complex, unconventional, and rewarding books.  We’ll probably spend much of our time reading older book, but I’m going to make sure we throw some contemporaries in the mix as well.  So, as way of example rather than, I’m going to list authors we may read as we build up to the point where we can get into some of the real meat of literature, begining with authors such as Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Minority Report, and this weeks pick, A Scanner Darkly) Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Survivor, Choke), and J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories).

From there we will slowly move onward to some real masterworks, some which depart from reality to a certain extent, some with complex characters or those that focus on broader (and sometimes very dark) themes which might make you think a little harder, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and the Damned), Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughter House Five, Breakfast of Champions, Cat’s Cradle), Cormac McCarthy (The Road, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World).

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Once we move on from there, we will delve into some truly brilliant work.  I warn you, if you are not well read, you probably don’t want to skip ahead, you will need a foundation to build upon if you really want to appreciate these books.  However, if you want to give Dante a whirl, by all means go ahead and tell me what you think.  Here, we will sink our teeth into authors such as Herman Hesse (Steppenwolf, Sidhartha, Narcissus and Goldmund), Kafka (The Penal Colony, Metamorphosis), Dante (The Divine Comedy, considered one of, if not the, greatest books of all time.  I studied just this book for three months at the UW, and we barely scratched the surface, so this one will be interesting) and others.

Don’t be alarmed when I throw in a few fun books which may be much function as a bit of a break from the cerebral.  I will definitely throw in some Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island), and probably some of the Beats (authors like Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs)

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Of course, this book club regiment is not set in stone.  I am a firm believer that everyone should find somebody with a book taste vastly different from their own so they can read someone elses favorite book.  If you only read what you like, you will always read the same thing, the same topic or genre, why not go for something entirely different?  Who knows, you may just like it.  On that note, if you have know of a book which you think would be a good fit for whatever reason, please comment and let me know.  Finally, while most of the books we will be starting out with I will have already read, I may add a few with good reputations in an effort to expand my own reading along with yours, so the quality and themes may differ greatly from time to time, but I think that’s all right.


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Books Should Be Free

If you have not yet found the website Books Should Be Free, especially if your short on pocket change these days, be sure you follow the link and check it out.  Essentially the title of the site speaks for itself, unlike the website you are currently visiting.  Books, after a certain amount of time, enter the public domain (they are owned by everybody, including you), which is how big publishers sell super cheap copies of these books at book stores, no royalties.  Why pay for something you already own?

That is were Books Should Be Free comes in.  Volunteers record themselves reading these books and give away the recordings.  Because it is all volunteers, and because there is no real filter for talent, the quality of these audio books varies from professional quality and perfect annunciation, to grainy audio of a kid who breaths with a wheeze.  However, by an large, I have had great luck on this site.

Books I have listened to for free include:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. A great book and a very good narration done by a single narrator which helps with continuity.

Treasure Island also by Robert Louis Stevenson. The quality varied from chapter to chapter, as each was read by a different narrator, my favorite appearing several times.

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche. Good quality if I remember correctly, but a difficult book to digest in audio format.

The Art of War by SUN TZU. Great quality, easy listen, surprisingly applicable to modern day living if you can think of it as a parable.  Its only an hour and a half long, and then you can say, “Yeah, I read The Art of War.”Collected Public Domain Works of H. P. Lovecraft, The by H. P. Lovecraft

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells. Good enough quality, interesting story, never finished it because my stereo was stolen before I had a chance.

The Collected Public Domain Works of H. P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft.  While I only listened to a couple of these before my stereo was stolen, what I heard was spot on considering the subject matter.

These are only a fraction of the books you can get for free.  I personally downloaded all the Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as Swiss Family Robinson, White Fang, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and many, many more.  Hope you find some cool titles there.  If you happen upon an excellent recording, be sure to comment.


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