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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Paperback – May 28, 1996
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Praise for Philip K. Dick
“The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world.”—John Brunner
“A kind of pulp-fiction Kafka, a prophet.”—The New York Times
From the Inside Flap
"The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world."
THE INSPIRATION FOR BLADERUNNER. . .
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time.
By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . .
They even built humans.
Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in.
Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.
"[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from."
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a moral dilemma for Decker and he cannot untwist his increasing sympathy for the androids he is hunting from his sense of duty to the force and his wife.
It is very sad and very depressing especially when you are clearly presented with androids who are not sympathetic, do not care, except about their own survival, and can only imitate emotion, not really feel. In the end Decker is crippled by his murder of the last of the androids. He will no longer hunt them, can no longer kill them.
Blade Runner hinted at this moral dilemma but spectacle triumphed over substance and all we have left of it is Decker's moves to save the woman/android he has come to love. That, and the magnificent monologue of Rutger Hauer on the roof of the Bradbury Building. Stunning performance. That recollection of his life makes him human, no different then other humans but then, it's time to die. Love, love, love that scene.
I liked the quirky title but had no inking how it could be connected to the novel itself. I enjoyed the concept of the novel, a future with androids who have human characteristics, and humans who have the characteristics of androids. Both species very similar except for empathy. Empathy is the key.
Enjoyed the world building and the characters overall although I wouldn't say that there was a lot of characterisation. Also enjoyed the bleakness of the novel. It suited the setting and characters.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is set in a dystopic future where Earth is in crumbled ruin and most of its inhabitants have emigrated to a colony on mars along with their android servants. The story takes place on Earth and follows Rick Deckard, a police bounty hunter whose job is to 'retire' escaped androids from Mars that are attempting to lead human existences on Earth. The androids he has to kill in the book are fitted with a new AI system called Nexus-6, which makes them almost indistinguishable from humans and apparently very dangerous. The only way to tell an android from a human is to administer a Voight-Kampff test, which tests for empathy levels in the subject; empathy being a human quality that androids are incapable of expressing. While this sounds very similar to Blade Runner so far, the two texts are extremely different in their execution of the subject matter. The book lacks the noire, cyberpunk aesthetic of the movie and also the tension and tight pacing. Instead it has a rushed and thinly drawn out story, peopled with transparent characters and androids that are somehow less transparent than the human characters.
Character development is nearly absent in the novel and we never find anything to really hang onto with any of its characters. Considering the theme of the novel is empathy, it is its greatest downfall that the author inspires none of it for any of its characters. This is further embellished by the constant perspective shifts to a character called J.R Isidore, who is a timid resident in an abandoned apartment complex. His inclusion seemed largely unnecessary and was obviously used solely as a plot device for later in the story, where we get to witness him interacting with the androids Deckard has to retire. This could've been done without him, and so I conclude that this character was nothing but filler. The other problem with the book is the relative ease that Deckard retires all the androids: of the six, he only kills four himself, and it takes him no longer than a sentence or two to end each of them. He kills the last three androids in rapid succession and there was never any hint of danger to his life. These androids were built up to be highly capable and deceptive killing machines, and yet by the end of the story you're left thinking he might as well have been retiring toasters or microwaves.
Despite all the negative things I have to say about the book, it does do a decent job of dissecting the theme of reality and humanity. What makes us human? If we became so absorbed in our own technology that we could electrically manipulate our brains to experience any emotion, if we could interact with humanoid robots without ever knowing they are androids, and if said androids could excel in many arts that are considered to be exclusively human, then what is left? The line between organic and mechanic is especially blurred when the human existence is painted as one of autonomy and fulfilling impulses such as sex and hunger that are largely out of our control. In some ways the book suggests that it is the androids that are more free than we are, because they are not limited by our sense of empathy; after all, the main thing we empathise with in each other is despair and isolation, due to the fact that we all share the same fate - inevitable death.
Unfortunately though, all theme and no substance doesn't make for a very engaging book. The same can be said of Brave New World.
So there you have it, throw in a couple of interesting, yet poorly developed (and seemingly tacked on) scientific inventions (such as an empathy box that allows the user to artificially program themselves to feel any human emotion), a religious undertone (everyone follows a religion called Mercerism, whose prophet is a cross between Moses and the greek legend of Sisyphus), a slew of artificial animals and a couple of real but very expensive ones, tie it all together with some good themes and you have Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. To be honest, I was left dreaming of a better book.