Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jacket Blurb: 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.
A favorable and interesting review on Goodreads inspired me to finally pick this classic up and read it.
If you are intimately familiar with the movie Bladerunner, and are expecting the book to be like the movie, you will be very disappointed. If you can read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as a comparison, then I think you will enjoy the book and be able to extract the elements that comprised Bladerunner. Which, having read DADES now, it's remarkable what they created the movie out of.
But I digress. The book. A dystopian society on what is left of Earth after World War Terminus. Those who can have emigrated to Mars. Those who can't - or won't - are scraping by with lead codpieces, radioactive dust, empathy boxes, animals both real and mechanical, and an all encompassing religion called Mercerism. Androids exist, but only to serve on Mars. Those androids who escape Mars and return to Earth are hunted down and "retired".
Rick Deckard. Married. Owns a mechanical sheep. Dreams of someday owing a read animal. He finds himself tasked to kill six androids after a fellow bounty hunter is put in the hospital. He flies to Seattle to talk to the Rosen Corporation and administer an empathy test to see if the test works on the new androids. He meets Rachael Rosen.
Rachel Rosen. Android. Purpose is to ascertain if she can pass the various tests the bounty hunters use to determine human or android. Secondary purpose, seduce the bounty hunters.
J.R. Isadore. "Chickenhead". Didn't pass the IQ test and thus considered to dumb to emigrate. Works a very menial job picking up mechanical animals for repair under the misleading title of "animal hospital". Befriends three androids he finds in his abandoned apartment complex: Roy, Irmgard, and Pris (Rache'ls twin in outward appearances).
The story tackles what defines being "human" by looking at empathy, emotions and religion. For a rather short book, the issues are complex but yet well presented. For example a person must own an animal (real or mechanical) ,otherwise you might be considered an android because you are lacking empathy for a living being. You have to occasionally "meld" with the rest of your fellow Mercerites, otherwise you aren't showing empathy and thus, you might be an android. Not feeling quite right today? Just dial 207 for contentment and bliss on your machine so you can maintain empathy.
So, overall an interesting book IF you can set aside how different Bladerunner is. Read the book as a comparison to the movie instead of expecting an exact replica. Haven't seen Bladerunner? Read the book, then go rent it. A true scifi classic.
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