Book Cover
Title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Series ---
Author Philip K. Dick
Cover Art Bruce Jensen
Publisher Ballantine Books - 1996
First Printing 1975
Category Science Fiction
Warnings None

Main Characters

Rick Deckard, John Isidore, Rachael Rosen, Iran Deckard, Harry Bryant, Ann Marsten, Phil Resch, Luba Luft

Main Elements Androids
Website ---

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species to 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 simulcrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep...

They even built humans.

Emigrants 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 when cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.

When I think classic science fiction, I think of books written in a style like this. It's usually dark, at least a little dystopic, it's not space opera but rather a world where we have been consumed in part by our own technology, and it's also often just a little bit weird. Perhaps I feel this way because I read 1984 and Farenheit 451 in high school.

I've watched Blade Runner twice. The movie also has a classic 80's SF feel to it (because it is classic 80's SF but I digress...) being all dark and creepy where technology clearly didn't benefit us as I wouldn't want to live in that rainy world (book has dust due to nuclear fallout but would be able the same). However, I found I could never really understand what was going on in the movie properly. Did the books help? Not sure, the book, though short, actually covers many more things than the movie does.

And so the book starts, with Decker and his wife playing around with a box that controlled their emotions. In fact you could schedule a full day's worth of emotions in the morning, the wife chosing to be depressed in the afternoon, her husband encouraging her to pick something more positive. Next, Decker goes upstairs to the roof to check on his sheep. Since we've managed to mess up the planet so badly animals are in scare supply and people have an almost religious devotion to taking care of some living creature. Unfortunately Decker's sheep died and to hide the shame from his neighbours he replaced it with an electric one till he could afford another animal (I had to laugh as he seriously considered an ostrich). Now I wasn't sure how happy an animal would be living on the roof of an apartment building (the sheep had to share with a horse and a few other creatures) but I guess better than no life at all.

Then there is sit in front of this box, hold onto this two sticks, and you are plugged into Mercer, this guy who keeps trying to climb a hill which rocks and insults are thrown at him. You feel everything he does, and you are also aware of all the others who are plugged into...well...whatever you want to call it. I wasn't too sure about the point of it other than it was supposed to prove humans had empathy, while androids could not experience the same effects.

Which finally brings us to the androids. Made to be so realistic, that unless you do bone marrow DNA testing, they are indistinguishable from humans except for one thing, a lack of empathy (though there are human pschological disorders with the same symptoms so not sure how they can tell if someone is an android and not just a psychopath...) in fact the android manufacturers keep making them better and better and the tests need to be constantly updated (though why they didn't just use the Mercer machine isn't explained) though you'd think the government would just force the manufacturer's to build in some kind of identifier if these rogue androids are really such a problem.

And then we get into the question, are they really a problem? Do they have desires? Dreams? Should they be allow to pursue them? One didn't want to be a pharmacist on Mars so escaped to the Earth. Another wanted to be an opera singer. Clearly they had wants and personalities. But one also took a form of pleasure of pulling the legs off a spider (which remember, is a rare and precious living animal, humans would have fought amongst themselves to take care of it).

Then, as androids becomes more advanced, they themselves no longer know they are androids. Which leads Decker to question himself, can he pass the empathy test? And even if he does, is it foolproof? And even if it always catches and android, could he have killed the occasional human that failed the test?

Lot's to think about when reading this book, and as I understand it, pretty much anything else Dick wrote. I definitely look forward to reading more of his work.

All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain...

Posted: October 2017


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