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Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is set in the year 1992 (in the spirit of suspension of disbelief you have to assume it has a much later setting) as a dystopian society has taken hold in the aftermath of World War III. A radioactive dust now covers the Earth, and has systematically wiped out most of the world's animal population. Humans affected by the radiation are considered second class citizens, and are forced to live in the slums of their dying world. As a result of this, most unaffected humans now live on off world colonies. Android slaves are provided by the U.N in order to perform the physical labours and; due to their being organically constructed and highly intelligent, help the colonists avoid a sense of isolation. The trouble is that these androids are not at all happy with their lives of servitude. Some will even flee their lives in the hope of finding a better life on Earth. Enter Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter hired by the police to track down and 'retire' these rogue androids. Rick's life is never that interesting though. On his basic salary he cannot afford to look after a live animal, which is considered a moral responsibility in his society. He has to save face by tendering to an electric sheep on his roof. His prospects begin to improve with the arrival of eight highly intelligent androids. These are so lifelike that only a complicated test of empathic responses can reveal their identity. Rick's superior managed to retire the first two, but was caught out and almost killed by the third. Now Rick can finally take over the contract, but in doing so will be forced to question the very nature of his existence. From this point on I was quite surprised with the direction the book was taken. The book was later adapted into the movie Bladerunner, but this is not the action packed techno thriller that the film would lead you to believe. Rather it's a slightly more methodical study into the characters at the heart of the story. Deckard has never really questioned his job before. He simply wakes up every morning and uses his Penfield mood organ to literally dial in a dose of job satisfaction. By comparison, his wife likes to keep a sense of normalcy by scheduling in a few hours depression at least once a month. Dick uses this bit of technology as a way of raising early questions about the world's hierarchies. Animals are placed as the most important creatures on earth, with humans taking second place. Androids are unable to feel empathy and so are considered worthless. Yet androids; who strive to better their lives, display much more vitality than the humans who accept their condition and use artificial means to alter their feelings. It's really fascinating to read through the story as Deckard gradually comes to ask himself these same questions. Early on he encounters Rachael Rosen, the niece of the president of the company that produced the Nexus 6 types. Deckard is attracted to Rachael, who tests out positive as an android despite her claiming to be a schizophrenic. He is able to prove that she is; however unknowingly, an android, but everything that happens to him after is clouded by his sexual attraction to her. After identifying this attraction Deckard finds that he empathises with the plight of his victims, and realises that the only way he will ever be a great bounty hunter is to sacrifice the very empathy he uses to justify his hunt. He develops a growing obsession with buying a real animal as a means of reassuring himself that he remains a moral man. Yet you have to question how genuine he can be when he seems to care more about a prospective pet that he does his own wife. It's to Dick's credit that while he does raise these questions in his characters, he never directly answers them. He shows the androids for what they really are; which includes a number of morally obscene decisions they carry out because they are incapable of understanding the suffering of others. This then forces you to decide the morality of Deckard's actions for yourself. One of the things that surprised me most about the book was its tone. Sure the central character is still largely an antihero who lives in a polluted wasteland, but Dick still finds the time to inject the story with his own sly sense of satire. Ignoring the implications of Deckard's dial a mood device (Prozac?) there is also a pretty interesting side plot running through the book that looks at the ever growing conflict between religion and the government who are constantly competing for control over people's minds. Even so, Dick has still managed to tell the entire story in a little over 200 pages. This he achieves by keeping the story flowing at an immaculate pace. It has nowhere near as much action as the film since the androids will accept their fates rather than try and fight out of a corner. Yet still the book is never a slow read. Every single bit of character growth is achieved on the move by observing their actions. The result is an intelligent, smoothly flowing, and highly enjoyable science fiction story. My only real problem with this was that a lot of the dialogue felt kind of stilted. It wasn't horrible by any means; it's just that the characters often felt like they were trying to say what they needed in the most efficient manner possible. It fit the books ideology I guess, but there were times when it just didn't feel real to me. Other than that I'd definitely recommend Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? to any fans of genuine science fiction.
One of Phillip K Dick's best. I am probably in the minority in preferring it to Bladerunner - apparently even PK Dick preferred the noir film to his original manuscript. Like in The Kraken Wakes I find the 'whimper not a bang' narrative a lot more satisfying and realistic than a dystopia. There is a theme of veneration of animals, along with a steady degeneration of humans on earth, who pretend it's not happening in order to preserve their sanity. The government are frantically promoting mass emigration to the colonies, along with promotion of a new religion, Penfield organs that improve mood, and a worldwide syndicated television show, all of which solace and soothe the population. There's a great exploration of what it means to be human; comparing humanoid androids, humans, humans who have had their brains damaged by radioactivity, animals and electric animals. It measures empathy and intelligence against one another in a kind of arena of worth.
World War Terminus has been and gone, leaving an Earth where radioactive dust keeps the few survivors who haven't emigrated inside for parts of the day; an Earth where real animals are now status symbols; an Earth where renegade androids are 'retired' by bounty hunters. In the first chapter we meet Rick Deckard, one of these bounty hunters, as he argues with his wife before work about which setting to put their mood organs on. He then tends to his electric sheep and dreams of owning a real animal. Immediately, we are introduced to one of the main themes of this novel: that of reality. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick explores thoroughly the concept of reality - by showing us androids who could almost pass for human if not for a lack of empathy; and a whole business set-up to provide for electric animals; and the theory of Mercerism. I was struck by the bleak tone, and the fact that Mercerism - a pseudo-religion - is one of the few aspects of life to give people hope, since this could be said to be a false hope. At one point Deckard thinks the following: "This rehearsal will end, the performance will end, the singers will die. Eventually the last score of the music will be destroyed in one way or another, finally the name 'Mozart' will vanish, the dust will have won" and this idea that the world is gradually crumbling shows us why people cling to Mercerism, and the status of owning animals as a way to make it through each day. I have to confess that I was somewhat reluctant to pick up both my first Masterwork in this project and my first Philip K. Dick novel, I don't quite know why. Perhaps because the story is so well-known thanks to Bladerunner; perhaps because I have always been reluctant to pick up the classics of the genre, out of a fear that they would be extremely dry and unreadable. I'm happy to report that the reverse is true - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was extremely readable, at times very tense and atmospheric. There was a particular scene later in the book where an android coldly mutilates a spider and observes its ability to run that made me literally shudder. I was surprised that this novel still has such power and intensity after such a long while of being published. I really enjoyed the absurd humour that provided such a difference in tone to the bleak hopelessness that prevails throughout most of the rest of the novel. The fact that Isidore was unable to tell the difference between a real cat and an electric animal made me squirm a little with discomfort, but I also appreciated the dark humour. The whole presence of the electric animals was amusing, and yet somehow sad and desolate. PKD's writing is compulsive and spare, but at times it does meander into somewhat melancholic psychedelia, where PKD becomes more rambling and less punchy. There were a couple of passages that I felt could have been removed entirely to make the novel read better. Altogether, though, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction triumph, and certainly deserves its place in the Masterworks list. It can be read on so many different levels - purely as a psychological thriller or as a social commentary about what defines a human being. It is definitely worth multiple reads to fully enjoy the experience. Recommended. This review has been posted to the SFF Masterworks blog.
I've been doing my best to keep up with my collection of Science Fiction Masterworks novels in recent years. I've been trying to avoid this novel though because of the connection with Blade Runner, a film I never really enjoyed. But after reading the excellent 'Time Out of Joint' and the thoroughly disappointing 'Penultimate Truth' both by Phillip K Dick I thought, come on, give it a go. ------Plot------- 2021. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter. JR Isodore is a driver for an animal repair shop. Both live in a desolate planet Earth set decades after a nuclear war ravaged the landscape and forced many to abandon their homes and set off into the stars. As a reward for doing so, humans are given androids as servants. Unfortunately these androids start to become better and better resulting in 'Andy's' who want to become human, kill off their counterparts and assume their lives back on Earth. Deckard's job is to 'retire' (destroy) the Andy's which he does over the course of one day. Isodore is the lucky individual whom the Andy's chose to live with. ----------Opinion---------- Much better realised than The Penultimate Truth, but a less intriguing story than Time Out of Joint, Electric Sheep was a good read. I didn't get bogged down in 'hard-sci-fi' nonsense that went on for pages and pages, it was almost straightforward action. One part that that I did not like as much was the introduction of Mercer, an all knowing god like entity that gets tied up with an empathy box. All of this really did not ring true and was another unrealised K Dick idea. I certainly enjoyed Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, it was entertaining and clever and even today seems futuristic. I'm sure back in '68 this book was revolutionary and set some sci-fi nerds into absolute wild states of glee. Today it gets a lot more attention because it was the inspiration for Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner. -------Conclusion---------- An enjoyable novel, but for me no masterpiece. I think there is a lot of scope here for someone to make a faithful adaptation of the novel without being 'inspired' by it. There are some amazing ideas in the novel, but they are brief ideas and never really fleshed entirely out. I didn't like the religious aspect of the book, but liked the idea of mechanical animals that were a metaphor for the androids themselves. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a decent novel which at a little over 200 pages was a good read. If you are a fan of sci-fi then you will enjoy this book. Recommended, but not that highly.
I'm currently doing a personal 'A-Z Book Challenge' where I'm reading a book by different authors in alphabetical order so for my 'D' book I read 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' by Philip K. Dick. I choose this book because I'd heard a bit about it already and when I saw that it's part of the Sci-Fi Masterworks collection then I knew I had to read it. It wasn't until my copy of the book arrived from Amazon that I realised it's the book that the film 'Blade Runner' is based on! I paid about £3 for my paperback copy from Amazon and the recommended retail price is £6.99. However the prices have now changed and it's currently £4.98 for the paperback (RRP £7.99). I have the cover with the beautiful illustration by Chris Moore and not the sheep one as shown on Dooyoo. Here's what the blurb says: "War had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them, he dreamed of owning the ultimate status symbol - a live animal. Then Rick got his big assignment: to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But things were never that simple, and Rick's life quickly turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit." I don't think this blurb does the book justice, although it does explain the basics of the plot well. I think the book is more about how 'human' robots are and what the difference is between humans and androids when technology becomes this advanced. If you've seen Blade Runner then don't expect this book to be exactly the same, because it's not. The main character, Deckard, is quite different to the character played by Harrison Ford, I feel he's deeper and more tortured by his job. And in the film there's a fairly long and impressive fight scene between Deckard and the final 'andy' however this doesn't happen in the book which did disappoint me a bit. In some places I found the writing style a bit hard to follow as it's written in third-person but we're still given insight into what each character is thinking and feeling so it can get confusing. Also, some of the futuristic ideas are a bit difficult to get your head around, like the empathy boxes. But overall I managed to read the book quickly because it was easy to get into and hard to put down. I think it's a great story which really gets you thinking and is a real possible vision of the future! If you're a fan of science fiction literature then this is a 'must read' book and if you enjoyed the film then I would also recommend this book to you as it gives you more of an insight into the characters.
I have been a fan of Philip K Dick for quite a few years now and the reason for this was watching the film 'Bladerunner' which is based on Philip K Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'. I instantly had to find out who had written this film, which of course is Dick. What I love most about the book is that we get a deeper insight into the characters and Deckard is described as a more depressive character than the Deckard in the film and we find more out about his own personal history and insights into his own personality. Philip K Dick is a revolutionary thinker and throws out so many thought provoking ideas and I believe him to be one of the best science fiction writers of all time. He is a prophet and many of the themes in this book are not so far fetched ideas anymore. The simulacra (called replicants in Bladerunner) are a fascinating idea and are used as a device to contrast our own human-nature, with the result posing many questions for thought and who we are and what we may be. Of course, this book is a classic example of putting the reader into a situation where he/she can interpret the story on many levels, ranging from good entertainment to deep metaphysical insight and questioning. A brilliant book and masterpiece.
I have decided to start writing book reviews, and in the future I plan to focus more on books that don't already have reviews on the site. However, I thought I'd do this as my first one, because I felt I could review it easily. Feedback welcome! ************************************************************ Introduction: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was written in 1968 by Philip K Dick. The book was used as the basis for the movie 'Blade Runner', which was released in 1982, only weeks after Dick's death. The book is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, and deals with themes of technology and human nature. ************************************************************ Plot Summary: In the near future, the planet has been decimated by World War Terminus and is being taken over by toxic dust. Most of the population have emigrated to Mars, with the incentive of being given an android as a slave. The events of the novel all take place in the same day. It follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, as he sets out to track down and 'retire' i.e. kill six advanced model 'andys' (androids escaped from their owners in Mars). A secondary storyline follows J.R. Isidore, a 'special', i.e. someone of a low IQ deemed not to be a suitable candidate for emigration to Mars). Isidore befriends one of the escaped andys who moves into his abandoned apartment complex. ************************************************************ My thoughts: It didn't take me long to get absorbed in the book and I found that I was compelled to keep reading to find out what would happen next. The book gives a brief insight into what life could be like, and raises some interesting questions about the nature of humanity and the use of technology. At the very beginning of the book, we are introduced to the Penfield Mood Organ, a device that allows the user to induce a particular mood or feeling by dialling the appropriate number. This perfectly demonstrates the idea of society becoming more machine-like by being overly dependent on technology. Towards the start of the book, Deckard uses an empathy test to determine whether or not someone is an android, as this is supposedly what makes humans differ from androids. However, the reliability of this test is questioned several times throughout the book. As the books progresses, the line between humans and androids starts to blur, and it leaves you wondering what it really is that makes us human. ************************************************************ Further Recommendations: Wicked by Gregory Maguire - a very different book, but also explores themes of human nature (well, Munchkin nature technically) and particularly the nature of evil.
'SF Masterworks' is a growing collection of 'classic' science-fiction novels spanning over fifty years of the genre. As someone who's grown up reading and watching science-fiction I've found this a very interesting series that has introduced me to some wonderful (and, I have to be honest, not so wonderful) novels and authors that I would probably never have encountered otherwise. 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?' is the forth book of the series, (and coincidently the forth book I actually read as I'm not reading them in order). Written by Phillip K. Dick, it was originally published in 1968 and was the inspiration behind the very successful Harrison Ford movie 'Blade Runner'. It tells the story of a day in the life of bounty hunter, Rick Deckard - a man who works for the San Francisco police department and whose job it is to identify and 'retire' rogue androids, in this instance androids that have been fitted with a Nexus-6 brain model, making them particularly difficult to detect and extremely dangerous when trying to 'retire' them. Set in the early nineties, (bare in mind is was written in the late sixties, so it would have been 'futuristic' when it was written), Earth is recovering from the resulting nuclear fallout of 'World War Terminus', the effect of which is that many of the planet's inhabitants have fled to colonies on other planets and a vast majority of animals have been wiped out. For those people left on Earth, who either aren't allowed to migrate because of the effects of radiation poisoning, or are simply unwilling to leave, the ownership of a live animal has become the ultimate status symbol. So coveted are live animals that not only are people willing to spend thousand of dollars to own one, but a whole industry has been created providing electronic versions. Rick, unable to afford a living creature, owns a robotic sheep, though wants nothing more than to possess a real live animal. Philip K. Dick is a name I've heard of before, though I don't recall having actually read any of his work prior to buying 'Do Androids ' and I found his writing style to be very engaging and, of the four books I had read from the SF Masterwork series, it was the first that I felt certain I would enjoy from having read only the first couple of pages. Dick's characterisation is really quite effective and from the very off I felt I could easily identify with the characters within the book. One of my favourite characters is John Isidore, a man who radiation has severely affect and is therefore treated by the majority of society, who call him and people like him a 'chickenhead', as a sub-standard citizen, in many ways held in more contempt than androids that are considered a servant class by the populace. Isidore's frustrations and thoughts about his situation are very well written, being just intelligent enough to understand why he is treated the way he is so that he yearning for acceptance is believable. Dick's style of writing in this book adopts a third-person stance, but allows for the character's thoughts to be aired. I must admit that occasionally this style of narration confused me a couple of times and I had to re-read a few passages, (for example "I think, he thought, that " is one line that didn't make immediate sense). However, such passages are few and far between and on the whole the language used is both enjoyable to read and easy to understand - for anyone who regularly reads science-fiction the concepts are relatively simple to grasp and allow you to enjoy the story itself, rather than having to worry about the concepts. Another interesting thing I found was that the events follow Rick Deckard from him first getting up in the morning through to him going to bed, so it is essentially a single day of his life. Part of me finds this a little fanciful as there's so much happening that it is a little difficult to believe it could happen in just one day, (although I guess we've all have manic days at some point). That said, it is well worked into the story and does help add weight to some of the situations. In many ways, with the exception of androids, hover cars and laser guns, the 'science-fiction' element of this book is quite understated, with the focus more on character development and the interactions between characters. Rather than using science-fiction as the main theme of the book, Dick uses it as a spring-board for the overall plot and the human element is a much more prominent thread through the book. Regarding the concepts themselves, some are a fairly standard affair, such as the idea that Earth would be devastated by war and the affect on society after a nuclear fall-out; but for me Dick's take on the effects such an event would have on a society is what makes it such a compelling read. The idea that animals become such a status symbol for instance I thought was an interesting angle. In some ways the ending does sort of trail off, but unlike other novels I read, I wasn't left disappointed. It's not a thrill-a-minute ending by any measure, but nor are you left wondering what's happened to such and such, or that the ending has been forced in order to tie things up. The plot plays out quite naturally and I felt this helped my overall enjoyment of the novel itself. It could be very easy to over-analyse 'Do Androids ', discussing Dick's "social commentary", but ultimately I think it lends itself to allowing the reader to take as much or as little as they want from the book. On one hand there is great scope and hidden depth to the novel, but equally it can be taken at face value and simply enjoyed as a good piece of literature. I personally can't see this being a life-changing read, (unlike, for myself at least, novels such as 'Dune', which had a profound affect on me when I was younger) but it is never-the-less an enjoyable way to spend an evening, (assuming of course that you enjoy burying your nose in a book). For me, it is the first novel of the 'SF Masterworks' that I have read so series that truly deserves its tag of 'Masterwork' without having to try and justify it and I would highly recommend it.
The basic plot of this novel is "in the future a bit, following a big war, a legal bounty hunter is after six androids who are really hard to kill. Will he make it?" However, that is by no means all there is to it. Philip K. Dick's book manages to explore the real feelings that one would feel pursuing such a job, and also incorporates much deceit and mystery throughout. I always love to see or read about the future, provided it's not in some cheesy adventure film or kid's cartoon, and the post-apocalyptic early 21st century world of "Androids," a necessary shorthand for the great title of this book that is not to be confused with Kryten's favourite soap opera on Red Dwarf, is both believable and incredibly well devised. Some of the more necessary concepts are explained along the way, such as the development of ever more intelligent androids and the desire to own an animal, but many others are inserted so subliminally that they are simply accepted. On my second reading of this novel I noticed that many people remaining on the almost deserted Earth use mild narcotics such as snuff, but still have entertainment in the form of televisons. Necessary ideas such as laser weapons and flying cars are among the more basic notions, but the idea of a mood organ that can be calibrated to enhance or produce feelings such as "desire to watch TV" and "pleased acknowledgment of husband's superiority in all matters" and the 'Mercerism machine' (explained later) are truly original science fiction concepts. A famous quote attached to this novel from Brian W. Aldiss, presumably a renowned writer, is that "Dick's novel is simply written but leaving all kinds of resonance in the mind." It is obvious that much of the science is far from possible, especially for modern times, and many of the characters seem purposefully retained at a single dimension. For instance, the protagonist' wife i s a depressed but concerned woman who finds his job heartless, while John Isidore's boss is a token 'hate slip-ups, like money' character, but the descriptions in the novel are so perfect and easy to imagine that no one could ever describe this as badly written. The novel does not make many real attempts to surprise or shock, and leaves many obvious clues whenever there is a revelation in the works. The main character of the novel is Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who makes money only if he 'retires' an android with his laser pistol. The character is not made particularly likeable, often portrayed as a miserable man who is somewhat arrogant when in conversations. His huge desire to own another real animal, following the death of his sheep which he had to replace with a robotic replica to keep his status, seems to verge on obsession as it occupies the character's thoughts at many points of the novel. He even seems to value owning an animal more than keeping his wife, although he was in a very tense situation and bad mood when he thought, "I should have got rid of her two years ago." But for all this, Deckard is certainly a character with whom the reader can relate, thanks to his inner turmoil. He originally forced himself to consider androids 'it' rather than 'he' and 'she,' but finds now that this is "no longer necessary." It does become more of an issue however when Deckard finds himself attracted to some of the advanced Nexus 6 androids, and begins to feel empathy towards them once he 'retires' one posing as an opera singer. "She was a wonderful singer. The planet could have used her. This is insane." His ambivalence culimnates with his seduction by Rachael Rosen, an android sent to make him feel those exact feelings so he cannot continue with his current assignment. There are a number of other concepts in the book away from this storyline, but all tie together a t the end. A second major character is John Isidore, a human who was refused permission to emigrate from Earth due to his status as a 'chickenhead,' one below what it considered average intelligence due to the radioactive dust. The character is much more sympathetic towards androids than anyone else in the novel, including the androids themselves; their lack of empathy for others is the only way they can be distinguished through the Voigt-Kampff scale. The idea of the religion/passtime 'Mercerism' also becomes increasingly important; participants grip handles of a machine within their homes and are linked with all othwer people throughout the solar system on their machines, feeling the pain and triumph of an old man climbing a mountain, being assaulted by rocks. I won't divulge any more to keep the plot entertaining and hopefully surprising, but it is a very good book. This is the only Philip K. Dick book I have currently read, and often considered his best, although predictably not so by many hardcore fans, but it is always recommended as an introduction to Dick's novels. I may read more from the same author, however some of the major themes of his books don't appeal to me quite so much as the idea of this book: a bounty hunter in the future a bit, who kills androids that get back to Earth because we don't want them here. However, saying that, I didn't think at first that I would enjoy this book; a far cry from the usual "space opera" of TV and film that I love so much. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book after I bought it for £1 off a market stall. I'd been interested to see the film "Blade Runner," which is based on this book and apparently does it justice but which also opts to miss several key ideas out, for several years and since my copy was emblazoned with nice artwork of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic city, flying cars, Han Solo- I mean Harrison Ford, I'm always do ing that, and some woman, as well as the title "Blade Runner," I decided to purchase. My mental query of whether this was some form of 'film is based on' book or novelisation was also solved when I saw "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? filmed as" in humorously small print above the huge logo "BLADE RUNNER." My copy was clearly trying to benefit as much as possible from the success of the film, which I still have not seen but would like to. Overall, I wouldn't have likely ever read this book if I hadn't seen it so cheap in perfect condition. It certainly helped to expand my acceptance of science fiction, and thanks to reading this a couple of months ago I've now managed to read Arthur C. Clarke, Utopian novels and even Richard Matheson's sci-fi/vampire novel "I am Legend."
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is one of those books that I?d been meaning to get a hold of and read for years. What first drew it to my attention was the fact that Ridley Scott?s film Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, was based on this book by Philip K. Dick. Blade Runner repeatedly blows me away, so I figured that the book that spawned it was worth a read one day. However, what made the movie isn?t what makes the book what it is. The book, even in its descriptions, doesn?t provide the stunning visuals of a futuristic Earth like Scott?s film did. While certainly futuristic in many respects, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is more an intense delivery of moralistic questions, contained within an entertaining story. Once you come to grips with it, you?ll love the book for what it is. My kingdom for a goat! ? The story It?s the year 2021 and planet Earth is but a shadow of the beautiful place that it once was. Devastated by nuclear conflict, most of the planet?s human population has been forced to emigrate to an increasing number of off-world locations, including Mars. There?s very little option. In the same way that many people leave the city for a better life out on the outskirts, so to have millions of people moved away from Earth. Life on the home planet has just become increasingly unpleasant, with radioactive dust genetically altering people and plant and animal life virtually extinct. However, there does remain a significant amount of people on Earth who for various reasons can?t or haven?t yet emigrated to better celestial abodes. The ?can?t emigrate? people consist of negligent souls who failed to wear their lead codpieces and have thus sustained genetic damage at the hands of the radioactive dust that flitters from place to place. These people that didn?t wear their metal undies also suffer a degradation of their IQ. Failing to pass the IQ test required to emigrate, these ?chickenheads? are forced to stay on Earth and make the best of it. Joining the chickenheads are many eligible emigrants that for one reason or another haven?t had the opportunity to leave, and the people that work amongst the infrastructure that supports these people. Amongst them is Rick Deckard, a police officer. In order to facilitate the development of places such as Mars, mankind has created an increasingly intelligent series of androids. These androids for all intensive purposes resemble and act like human beings, and are used ?off-world? to perform dangerous and burdensome tasks. However, once in a while androids, like slaves of old, decide to break their shackles, murder their master, and flee, often back to Earth where they try to blend in and create a life for themselves. This is where Deckard comes in. Deckard?s a second-string bounty hunter with the San Francisco Police Department. After the #1 bounty hunter has been put in hospital by a group of new Nexus-6 androids, Deckard is assigned the job of hunting and ?retiring? (killing) the runaway robots. However, Deckard has emotional problems, including a growing empathy towards androids. Where once he thought of androids as dangerous machines that needed to be eliminated, he?s now beginning to see them as perhaps deserving of life, regardless of the fact they were assembled in laboratory plants. Thus Deckard has a moral dilemma as he tries to ?do his job? and make the exorbitant loan repayments on his new pet goat. The title is apt ? The strange style Philip K. Dick is regarded as an arthouse Isaac Asimov by many Sci-Fi literature aficionados. I?d best describe his style as a cross between Jules Verne or H.G Wells and Salvador Dali. Dick (nice name) wrote Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? in the 1960s. Accordingly it now has that quaintness that we associate with Wells and Verne. That is, Dick conveys a vision of the future that, whilst very interesting, proves to be inaccurate as we q uickly approach the actual future date he writes of (2021). Whilst he fits future Earth out with hover cars, and interplanetary passenger travel, he hasn?t included such items as cordless phones. Additionally, the story has the distinct feeling of being surreal ? very dreamlike in an almost disturbing manner. Rick Deckard?s wife provides the best example. Whilst her husband dashes about in his hovercar retiring runaway androids, Iran Deckard sits at home in their apartment using/abusing two very strange household appliances. One appliance is a gizmo with two handles that she grasps and it throws her into a strange trance whereby she can share in the suffering of a messiah called Wilbur Mercer. Wilbur Mercer was or is a Jesus-like figure that climbed a barren hill whilst being stoned by an unseen hostile force. As well as sharing in Mercer?s experience while grasping the handles, right down to taking physical wounds from the stones thrown, one can feel the presence of all the other souls that are at home grasping the handles on their very own gizmo. It?s very strange, but in an interesting way. The other device, which adds a surreal aspect to Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is a doohickey that pumps out vibes to change your mood. You can set it for ?confident?, ?elation? or anything else you feel your day requires. Iran Deckard sets the device for a regular dose of the deepest darkest depression imaginable. So, whilst a stock standard story of hunting runaway robots takes place, it all occurs on a strange stage, which I?ve only just scratched the surface in this review. Joe?s final word I found Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? a great read, as soon as I relinquished my Blade Runner perceptions. Whilst sharing a basic plot and the main moralistic question (do androids deserve to live and be happy?) the book and the film it spawned are remarkably different entities. Enjoy the book for it is, and likewise with B lade Runner the movie. You wont picture Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in the book, but nor will you discover the weird and wonderful 2021 that the book conveys in the movie. As it?s not really a spoiler, I?ll disclose the meaning of the book?s title. In Dick?s 2021, real live animals are a very rare commodity and it?s every person?s goal and dream to own one as a pet. Rick Deckard, as a second-string police bounty hunter, isn?t on a great salary so he and his wife own an electric sheep, which was much more affordable than the real thing. While it?s enough to fool the neighbours, Rick is depressed by his lack of a real animal, and dreams of owning one. Thus the title, I guess. If humans dream of owning a real sheep, then Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Oddly enough, Deckard buys a goat. I?m giving it 5 stars. A classic. Cheers for reading! ~Joe
If you have seen "Blade Runner" start by putting it from your mind. The film was based, very slightly, on this short Philip K Dick novel. The novel is by far the better piece, exploring a dark future and some interesting philosophical questions. The setting: There are dates, but given when Dick was writing, it works better of you either ignore them, add a hundred years or so, or envisage some sort of parallel universe, because otherwise we would be much more underway with the plot line than we appear to be. So, it is some time in the future, the world is filled with radioactive dust and most people are emigrating to colonys on Mars. Some people stay, and those who have been rendered 'special' by the dust, are not allowed to leave. Animals are very scarce and consequentally owning one is a high prestige thing. Most people have electric animals, which look exactly like the real thing. There are also androids, built as a slave race to serve the humans. Androids do not live for long, and every no and then, one will go rouge and decide that it has the right to life. often these androids kill people in their effort to escape. On earth, there are bounty hunters, earning a thousand dollars for every rouge android they 'retire." The story: Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter. He has a wife called Iran, and an electric sheep. He dreams of owning a real animal. His boss is taken out by a new type of android, the Nexus six, which is very clever. there are a group of rouge nexus-six types, and it is Deckard's job to hunt them down. The problem is, that the test to distinguish between humans and androids isn't quite working - some people come out as androids, and every time the androids get more sophisticated, it gets that bit harder to tell. Deckard is starting to have quibbles about his profession. He's not at ease with the killing, his own attitude to androids is causing him trouble, he fears for his own humanity. but, if he can retire this group, he will be able to replace his electric sheep with something real. The androids are almost human, visually you can't tell them appart, and being biological, it takes a bone marow scan to confirm their status. They are very intelligent, but lack the ability to empathise. Thre are sub plots, detials of this dark future that feed into the plot. how do you define humanity after all? I read this book in two days - it isn't long and it is very hard to put down. Dick's vision of the future is dark, but convincing. The tale is acutly painful in places, in others, oddly detatched (how much can we empathise with it? you have to ask.) Unlike some Philip K Dick novels, reality does not unravel that far, but as you carry the tale around in your mind, it will work on you, making you ask some awkward questions about how we define humanity. You can also look at it in terms of slavery and slave issues - the androids are built to be a slave race, and cruelly given the intelligence to understand their fate. You have to question the humanity, and empathy of beings who can sdo such a thing. If you don't read sci-fi habitually, this is still a very acessible text - it doesn't depend on gadgets, the core of the story is about morality and humanity - the setting is largely a vehicle. I think 'm going to have to read it again, because this is an amazingly dense text and I must have missed a great deal. There's not a wasted word, not a sentance that isn't very busy doing something. It's a very impressive piece of work, well deserving of classic status. The film, with hindsight, was a bit of a shambles - good in its own way, but barely touching on the book at all.
The Science Fiction genre knows no bounds and readers usually have to willingly suspend their disbelief so as to sink into “dreamscapes” presented by the author. However, Philip K. Dick’s “Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep” is so real, the reader is transported to his futuristic post-war era with minimal effort. Now sharing a cult status alongside the film version “Blade Runner”, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” does not disappoint. This is Dick at his best, and although it is his most famous novel there are other noteworthy ones (“Through a Scanner Darkly”, for example). In many of Dick’s stories, there is a sense of the autobiographical, particularly in those revolving around government conspiracies and telepathic suggestion; however, it is difficult to find such a theme here, and this only helps to make it more readable. Whilst the relatively complex plot and mind-blowing ideas might be hard to comprehend for those who are not used to the genre, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is actually fairly easy to follow once the reader accepts the existence of biomechanical robots capable of thoughts and dreams. The main precept of the story (and the title) is that it is possible to achieve sentience once a thinking machine has memories and can link these to emotions. Empathy! To prevent future human conflict, citizens in Dick’s post war society are expected to care for “replicant” animals, and to feel empathy towards one another. Hence it is somewhat ironic the trade of bounty hunting actually exists, and is the role which our hero Rick Deckard decides to pursue – especially since he is hunting man-made artificial humans! His interaction and subsequent relationship with Rachel Rosen is one of the most interesting I have read in any science fiction novel. What many readers and film viewers fail to notice the first time around is Rachel Rosen’s role in the story: she not merely a special android created by whimsical genius, in fact, she is used to force Deckard into sympathising with the androids he is attempting to seek and destroy. This works marvellously well for the storyline and the reader, especially since it is a tactic used by Dick with the utmost subtlety. Hence my prior statement indicating it is initially missed by many a reader and is often realised after the book has been put down. The problem for Rick Deckard is that Rachel’s ploy actually works, and he does feel empathy towards the “replicants” he charged with finding and destroying. This in turn questions his belief in reality, because if androids can have memories and dreams, he cannot be certain he is human after all. His emotional tumult is very well described and extremely authentic given the circumstances. In fact, all the characters in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” are well developed and each seems to have a secret. This works incredibly well and allows Dick to work a number of ‘whodunit’ scenarios into the story. It also enables the reader to frequently question characters’ motives and to understand why they act in the manner in which they do. The religious connotations in the novel are vital to the story and its setting, but I’ll leave that for readers to discover on their own. Dick spells out a belief in empathy between men, and this is just what one would expect in the US after a nuclear war has devastated the country – just like most things in America: it comes too late! The irony here is like a viscous haze which permeates the whole book, and Dick’s wry cynicism is rife throughout. The idea of artificially created humans with limited life spans which exclude a childhood, produced only to be slaves or pleasure models is one which has been utilised by many authors. It is easy to draw some parallels with characters such as Data from “Star Trek”, whose constant battle is to try to become more ‘human’. The difference in Dick’s novel and the film is that these units of highly evolved artificial life have been implanted with real memories from real people, so they almost believe they are human. Created by the Rosen Association whose motto is “More human than human”, they are searching for their maker, because like many human beings, they want more life! Here is what many believe is Dick’s only flaw: the science in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is somewhat dubious; however, this is negligible as the novel is actually in the genre of Science Fiction, and it is the fiction readers should concentrate on rather than attempting to poke holes in the technology or factual attributes. The joy of reading Dick’s work is in sinking into his words, worlds, plots, themes and characters; because it is easy to do - his novels are amazingly realistic regardless of their settings or the science behind them. I believe this is due to Dick’s advantage over many other science fiction authors: he usually wrote of a future which is not too distant, and he wrote several novels based in his own time. As a consequence, his worlds are often as graphically granular as real life and it is easy to sink into his settings. Filmed as “Blade Runner” (directed by Ridley Scott), the movie captures much of the ambience and storyline very well, and achieves the same grittiness. However, there is much which is excluded and a number of missing links, so if you’re looking for an accurate melange of text (novel) and script (film), I would recommend K.W. Jeter’s three sequels to the original. Jeter was Dick’s protégé, and he successfully bridges the gap between “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and “Blade Runn er” extraordinarily well, as well as carrying the story forward. In interview, Jeter stated the Blade Runner novels (the original and the ones he wrote) are not about events, but about Rick Deckard, and that he is ill-fated – bad things just seem to happen to him (including his relationship(s) with Rachel Rosen). This is exactly how to describe, in simple terms, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”; if anything, it is a story about an unfortunate and almost doomed man. Much has been written about Philip K Dick himself, and there is no shortage of fans – or critics either. I am the former, but not blindly so, and I recognise some of Dick’s novels are atrocious by comparison, whilst others are far too mainstream to be classed in the same genus as “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. It certainly is one of his best (alongside VALIS – my personal favourite). Having read much of his work, I recommend “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” as a great introduction to the talent of Philip K Dick; however, it is one you will have to re-read after you have tried some of his others. One connecting theme in all his literary achievements is his disenchantment with the world and the human species. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” includes this theme and is probably Dick’s stab at laughing at the human condition (past, present and future), and his cynicism (observed in many of his novels) is both amusing and relevant. It might not change your life, but if read with avid interest it may alter your perspective on reality! It will most definitely captivate and intrigue the majority of readers.
Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [Philip K. Dick] ======================================== I must confess to having seen the film first, and because of that I must admit that my perceptions of it are affected. However, I will attempt to be as unbiased as possible. The story, told from the detective/bounty hunter's perspective, is reminiscent of Asimov's "Caves of Steel". However, there is also a strong tinge of Dick's trademark ambiguity [as in "We can remember it for you wholesale", AKA "Total Recall"]. What is most surprising is that so much of the book remained in the movie script! There are one or two twists, however, that the movie was sorely lacking - small wonder that Scott's masterpiece has been refered to as an example of "style over substance", especially when compared with Dick's original work. ------------------- (c) Speculator 1998
Number four in the SF Masterworks series. Famous, notorious, as Blade Runner, the movie novel that made America sit up and notice Philip K. Dick - after it had ignored him for the previous twenty- seven years. What is there that is new can be said about it? As a fan, if not Otaku, then a very great deal. One essential point has to be cleared up; it was never a technological novel. I think it was K.W. Jeter- who claims not to have been portrayed as Kevin in Valis - who accused Phil of not knowing how a lightbulb was supposed to work. Phil's science fiction is frequently either very gritty, near future, or sometimes ultrascience, beyond coherent description anyway. See Rautavaara's Case for an example that if it doesn't make your spine run cold, then I feel sorry for you. In any case, it was always only props for the actions of the people. A Doctor Who wobbly set would have been adequate. As for togetherness between human and android - nonsense. A perversion of the literary intent. The grandiose glass and steel monoliths of the movie were never what Phil had in mind for post- World War Terminus San Fransisco. What is happening is that a shattered, post holocaust civilisation has picked itself up just far enough to be able to run away, to the colony worlds- purely systemic- but someone has to stay behind and keep it on it's feet. In the long term, all causes are lost - except the need to strive for a good cause. Ocasionally you can find one again, as eventualy happens to Deckard. Eventually, after long hard struggle. In a way, actually, Blade Runner is a far better satire on Vietnam than The Forever War; It contains a fictional religion, popular after the war, which has many interesting elements- little mysticism, great practical concern on not doing harm, in which he rewrites the christian Fifth Commandment, to read that Thou Shalt Kill Only The Killers. If everyone were a perfect mercerite, the only ki llers would be the androids, and some poor tormented soul would have to hunt them down and kill them. Enter policeman Rick Deckard. Key differences from the movie; he is married to a shrewish woman (Phil too often cast female characters in the role of predators, bloodsuckers with few if any redeeming features), officially employed by the San Francisco Police Department, and an economically and emotionally struggling minor functionary, who owns the electric sheep of the title because he can't afford a real one. Being able to care for something is the key tenet of Mercerism; fake animals the logical American reaction thereto. Androids are despicable, because they have no facility for empathy; and if this book has a serious flaw, it's that it's too concerned with being than becoming; I would like to have seen more of where he thought empathy arises from. Most people are Mercerites; a noble, gentle belief coming far too late - is the wake of a thermonuclear war the only place and time we would learn to do this? Jack Isidore, Chickenhead, is one of the Everymen that litter Phil's science fiction and that of damned few other authors. Disturbing in a way - emotional intelligence can succeed in leading a worthwhile, if furtive and harried, life where analytical intelligence turned itself to radioactive ash? No, not really, because he is kind even to the killers. His faith in the androids, who come to him - and he has an idiot-level IQ, not the genius in the film, and works for an artifical animal repair firm - is a source of the reader's, and Deckard's, doubt. There is one depressing notion that comes out of this; the knowledge of how to go about living came at a tremendous, devastating price- and it continues to exact it, because it is not easy knowledge to put into practise. (In his own real life, of course, Phil never quite managed to complete the transaction.) The Rosen Association, manufacturers of top-lin e androids, does an excellent job, or did, of protecting it's creations. The movie is simpler, but the scene where they try to shake his faith in the Voight-Kampff test is similar enough. Rachael's androidness is more dubious; Deckard's opinion flipflops. She is an android. A special one, used by Rosen to trick bounty hunters, force them to grow empathy towards androids, and so destroy their hunting efficiency. She leads him through a complex affair, in the end failing; she admits to being an android - but that could be part of the strategy. In the end, in a gesture of malice that could have been typical android or extremely irate human, she pushes the real, live goat he bought with the bounty money of the roof of his apartment building. Not Roy Baty at all. The irony of buying life with death, also, should not be ignored. They also have a fake, parallel bounty hunting organisation of their own, to destroy everyone else's rogue androids, and protect their own. Also to destroy the odd official bounty hunter, as nearly happens to Deckard. A brilliant, bold device of storytelling, and one so complex as to be easy to understand why it couldn't be filmed. The bounty hunter working for this organisation contrasts with Deckard - Resch is an honest man, with no idea he was working for a front, but a cold and lethal one, ready to kill anything he feels is android. Other wierdness; Mercer is a fake. We could know that from first principles, but the androids set out to prove it. The shared experience trudge up the rocky hillside - which Deckard acts out at the very end- into the tomb, and ascent therefrom - was done on a sound stage; they track down the drunken old sot of an actor. They want to destroy empathy. In theory, they do, but in practise nothing changes. People still believe, because it is good to believe, even in a fake sometimes. Can you say 'Clinton'? In many ways this is one of the most optimistic of Phil 39;s books. Deckard, although he achieves very little material benefit out of his labours apart from an electric toad, survives, and grows within himself; there are leftover problems, though. How do you differentiate a replicant from a radically underperforming or simply very grouchy human? Diligence, intelligence, very hard work, and forgiveness for the occasional honest mistake? Probably. Is thare any alternative? It was wrong, but you have to do it anyway, as Mercer said. A book with many wonderful but no simple answers. What's more, it's well into the category of a genuine 'what if', attacking the same problems as the greatest mainstream literature. Intelligent characters who try to second-guess each other, torment one another with the truth (such as they understand it), and are true to their own presented strengths and failings. The movie may have been cyberpunk; the book is not. Rather if it were adhered to, it would make it unneccessary to be a cyberpunk. It's much more intricate, much more complex, much less facile. Not so much worth reading as mandatory. Imagination; detail, with follow- through; A Science; dubious, C- Characterisation; real people with intricate and appropriate lives, A+ Scene- setting; well carried off, invented 'Kipple'; A- Overall; incredible storytelling power; A
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep is in my opinion, Philip K Dicks best book. It was used as a basis for the sci-fi film Bladerunner but the finished result was nothing like the book. The author died before the film was released but he had already stated that he wanted nothing to do with a film that did not do his book justice. It tells the story of a bounty hunter who hunts androids that have come back to earth from colonies on other planets. If you read this book you will see how much better than the film it is!