Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Published: 2012 (originally 1968)
Philip K. Dick is most known for his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or, as it would later be called: Bladerunner, after the movie that it inspired. I say inspired, because after reading both the book and watching the movie I can safely say that they are very, very different from each other.
As always I’ll include a brief description of the book from Goodreads:
By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies have built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans.
Emigrées to Mars receive androids so sophisticated it’s impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government bans them from Earth, but when androids don’t want to be identified, they just blend in. Rick Deckard is an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job is to find rogue androids and retire them, but cornered, androids tend to fight back – with deadly results.
I did not know what to expect when I picked up the novel. That might have been a good thing, because I think that if I had seen the movie first, I would be incredibly disappointed in it. Because the movie is such a big thing, being a cult classic and all, the book might seem a little dull. I don’t want to give away anything, but the movie completely alters the storyline of the book – especially towards the end. At the same time the movie offers a more Hollywood version of the story, something the book definitely is not.
My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.
In a way, the story reminded me of both 1984 and Brave New World, which is strange because they’re both very different books. I guess the USA of Rick Deckard felt a little 1984-ish because of the melancholia. Deckard and his wife (who is absent in the movie) live in a dusty part of the city where most of the inhabitants have left for Mars. Many buildings are empty, but at the same time there is that feeling that everybody is constantly watched and controlled, especially via the mood organ and the empathy boxes.
You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.
Mercerism (again absent in the movie) is the world’s new religion, based on the seemingly fake figure of Wilbur Mercer. It shows a vague resemblance to 1984‘s Two Minutes Hate, except that it is literally the exact opposite of hate, and Brave New World‘s idea of controlling the masses via drugs that create a weak extract of feelings like love and friendship.
Maybe I’ll go where I can see stars, he said to himself as the car gained velocity and altitude; it headed away from San Francisco, toward the uninhabited desolation to the north. To the place where no living thing would go. Not unless it felt that the end had come.
I enjoyed the story and the way Dick intersperses it with the titular question. Do fake things have real meanings? Are androids equal to human beings? And does it even matter? In the end I kept comparing it to the above mentioned dystopian classics and Dick’s book just could not do well enough in my opinion. The story is interesting, the characters are definitely worth reading, but somehow it wasn’t more than okay. That being said, I have to say the book stayed with me longer than I had initially thought. I would therefore definitely recommend it, but only to those who are interested in the dystopian genre.