electic-sheepPhilip K. Dick
Doubleday
1966

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.

By now, every sci-fi enthusiast should know the source material of the classic sci-fi noir film Blade Runner. Originally published in 1966, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? takes place in the near future of…well, 1992 originally, but subsequent editions have used 2021 to keep things future-y, I guess. Earth has been devastated and rendered nearly uninhabitable due to the radioactive fallout of World War Terminus, but some of us tenacious humans have remained despite mass colonization of the other planets in our solar system. One of those humans is one Rick Deckard, who lives along with his wife Iran in San Francisco, working as a bounty hunter of androids who have escaped from the Mars colonies to Earth in reaction to the slavery and psychological isolation they come across for not being human, even though they resemble humans in every facet except for that pesky “no empathy” thing. Three rather nasty ones happen to arrive seeking refuge from the slavery of being (I’ll just go ahead and say it) “more human than human”, befriends a simpleton who works as a “vet” for the android animals that the humans keep in lieu of owning a real animal (on account of them all being nearly extinct), and Deckard takes up the task of retiring these rogue androids. And then he drives into Oregon to have an existential crisis. Which is what you would do. The end.

I’m not going to spend the duration of this review discussing the differences between the book and the movie. You’re welcome. There are plenty of websites and articles that have done that kind of pedantic work, so I wouldn’t have to (might I suggest this particular one, from a YouTube series that I enjoy so very, very much?). Instead, as a stand-alone sci-fi novel–and a classic one at that–Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? hits all of the usual Philip K. Dick hallmarks: questions about life, religion, identity, all wrapped up in a flaky crust of paranoia. What fascinates me is that Dick could juggle all of these kind of heady subjects and yet manage to write a story that is relatively simple enough to read. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing juvenile about this book. He just trims the needless fat and leaves the tasty lean bits.

Overall, I found Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? a really engaging story that caused me to read it all in merely a few hours, while causing me to chew on the story long after I finished it. I will say this, though: If you’re avoiding reading this because you’ve already seen the movie, so why bother?, you need to dislodge your cranium from that distinctly smelly place you’ve inserted it into and go read it. Highly recommended.

Advertisements