Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick….
Very interesting book….
Why I should not have enjoyed reading it…. Philip K. Dick dropped out of UC Berkley to avoid ROTC. He wrote the book as a protest or commentary on the Vietnam War…. He apparently saw Conservatives and supporters of the war as inhuman androids who had no care for the sanctity of life….
Why I picked the book up in the first place…. The book is the theoretical basis for the movie Blade Runner, which is generally considered the greatest Science Fiction flick of all time. I tend to agree with that assessment. I have been studying Blade Runner for quite a while.
Incidentally…. The name Blade Runner actually comes from story treatment by William S. Burroughs that adapted an original story by Alan E. Nourse about black market medical supplies needed to treat a viral epidemic that erupted in a dystopian near-future where a right wing government only dispenses medical care to citizens who underwent mandatory sterilization after age five…. Sounds vaguely familiar… except for the Right Wing part….
The book is very different from the movie. And… significantly better…. Deeper…. Richer….
The movie contains some of the same characters as the book, but is MUCH more linear. The book twists and turns and puts the reader in positions in which we must question our sense of reality…. The book explores the idea of Empathy…. Or Emotion…. Love…. The deference not between sentient beings and non-sentient beings…. The book is not about the Turing Test…. The book is about the difference between feeling and unfeeling sentient beings…. Dick does an EXCELLENT job of painting this out subtly…. He also introduces an element of religious mysticism that is very intriguing….
Earth is becoming sterile. Radioactive dust from a nuclear holocaust is slowly choking off life. In order to maintain Empathy, Mercerism is established, and everyone owns an animal as a status symbol. Androids are smarter than humans, and humans lose intelligence due to accumulated radiation toxicity. People who can’t afford a real animal buy elaborate electric animals to fool their neighbors. But any human who can move off-world… and can pass the IQ and physical tests… does…. They are lured off-world by the prospect of receiving android slaves, some of whom resent their status. The companies that make androids constantly attempt to make their products more human than humans…. And Bounty Hunters track down those androids that try to escape back to Earth….
VERY interesting book. Lot’s of moral dilemmas that are handled very adroitly. Not preachy at all. Very enjoyable read. Interesting how Deckard’s point of view changes over the course of the book.
The android retirement scenes are far less structured than in the movie. Much less dramatic… as in… not much dramatic tension…. VERY straightforward. Fight scenes were certainly not Dick’s focus.
In the middle of the book, he introduces a competing Bounty Hunter from a stealth Police precinct run by androids… and then… drops him without resolution…. Almost as though he planned to write a sequel and never got around to it….
Dick does love the word ersatz….