Monday, November 23, 2015

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Phillip K. Dick
Released 1968
Bought paperback from Amazon
Rating: 4/5


A final, apocalyptic, world war has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending the majority of mankind off-planet. Those who remain, venerate all remaining examples of life, and owning an animal of your own is both a symbol of status and a necessity. For those who can't afford an authentic animal, companies build incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep . . . even humans (Summary from Goodreads).

I decided to read this book because I have to do a presentation on Blade Runner for my Film & Culture class.  I thought it would be good to get the "full experience" by reading the book before seeing the movie. Unfortunately I wasn't able to finish before we saw the movie in class last Wednesday.  I think that worked out for the better, though, because the book was a bit challenging to understand in the beginning.   After seeing the movie everything made a lot more sense to me, which is usually opposite when it comes to book-turned-movies.

The story is set in future San Francisco after a war that wiped out most of the animals on Earth.  The government encourages healthy people that can pass an IQ test to live on Mars, while those who are sick, not smart enough to pass the IQ test, or those that just want to stay are stuck on Earth.  Animals are so rare and expensive that owning one is considered a sign of respectability - so much so that realistic robotic animals are often owned instead.  Humanoid androids (referred to as andys) were created to accompany humans that move to Mars and are not allowed on Earth.  When a group of andys escape for a better life on Earth and one of them seriously injures bounty hunter Dave Holden, Rick Deckard, another bounty hunter with aspirations of owning a real animal, is put to the job to kill (or "retire") the escaped andys.

I don't typically read Science Fiction, but I actually enjoyed this - probably because I just saw the movie.  The movie, by the way, was kind of trippin' but I liked it.  Slow at times, but I think I enjoyed the weirdness.  The book and the movie were very different but the same in that Deckard hunted andys in both of them.  The book, as always, was better than the film.  I thought it was actually more eventful than the movie, but I have to say the fight with the final andy in the movie was epic compared to the book.

I picked up some subliminal messages in the book.  Deckard finds that he is questioning his empathy for the human androids.  The andys act so much like humans that it makes you think - if we had realistic humanoid androids, would you treat them like people?  Would it be wrong to "retire" one?  Deckard asks himself this throughout the book and at one points asserts that he will never retire another andy after this job.  After all he goes through, it is a bit eerie at the end when he and his wife go on about their day like normal in this sad world where dust is everywhere and animals are going extinct.

This is a pretty short read at 193 pages - I recommend it if you like science fiction or want to check it out!  It was pretty cool to see the differences between the movie and the book.

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