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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [Paperback]

Philip K. Dick
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 28 1996
"The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world."
--John Brunner


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time.

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.

Emigrées to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in.

Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.

"[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from."
--Paul Williams, Rolling Stone

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Dick began writing in the 1950s, a decade haunted by the Cold War and a decade which witnessed the blossoming of science fiction. He understood that readers who witnessed the Cuban Missile Crisis must have felt that, despite its terrors, the Cold War was inevitable and preferable to the only historical alternative that could have prevented it. His books carried messages of acceptance, of balance, and yet such a stance may surprise those who do not see Dick in the context of the Discordian movement. Promoted by such writers as Robert Anton Wilson and William Burroughs, this movement oscillating between a tongue-in-cheek hoax and a profound spirituality sees Dick as something of a messianic figure, something the unabashedly mythologizing 2001 documentary, The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick, promotes. Even critics with no idea of this dimension to Dick instinctively refer to him as an 'SF guru', which is an unconscious recognition of Dick's fascination with the spiritual, a theme that he weaves into all his major works.
The decision by Ridley Scott and the screenwriters of 1982's Blade Runner to cut out the spiritual dimension of Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is probably the film's greatest flaw. In the novel, troubled bounty hunter Rick Deckard confronts old man Mercer-whose painful ascent of a hill worshippers can reexperience through the agency of the empathy box. The confrontation parallels Krishna's conversation with Arjuna, but instead of Krishna justifying Arjuna's choice in warring on his kin, Mercer bluntly tells a Deckard who is questioning his job of killing human-seeming androids: "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."
During the book's finale Deckard experiences an apotheosis-he becomes Mercer by imitating Mercer's excruciating climb up a barren hill in the irradiated wastes north of San Francisco. And Mercer, the humble saviour, encourages worshippers in crisis, like Deckard, by mysteriously manifesting and presenting them with electric animals. The interesting logical doubletake involved here (i.e. if Mercer can magically appear and bestow electric animals, why not real ones?) is quintessentially Dick and demands-in a way that again shatters the "reality" of the text-that the reader simply accept.
Despite what might seem like a nihilistic fatalism, Dick has a great respect for life. Animals are treasured in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to such an extent that people who cannot afford a real animal, like Deckard, buy electric ones. When Deckard makes enough money "retiring" androids, he finally buys a real goat. But the android Rachael kills it, and Deckard takes the shocking and horrible act as the presentiment of his own death. In both this novel and Dr. Bloodmoney, where the horse Edward Prince of Wales is killed, the brutal killing of a helpless and innocent animal is a symbol of all that is wrong in the world.
Such meditations about life, specifically life on Earth, affect Dick's use of the theme of the human colonization of space, the early science fiction dream that was borne aloft on the shoulders of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. But the dream began to be questioned by writers like Dick: was the desire to leave the Earth not an abrogation of our responsibility to take care of the planet? Thus, the space colonies in Dick's work are often signifiers without the signified-the stories do not occur there. The off-world is a dream, a potentiality that threatens to become a nightmare. Dousing John F. Kennedy's rousing endorsement of space exploration, The Man in the High Castle dismisses off-world colonies that are flashy showpieces for a morally and financially bankrupt Nazi regime. 1969's Ubik is a rare Dick story that actually has a scene set in space. But the scene on Luna is brief-only long enough for an explosion which kills the main characters. The first of the Hollywood Dick films, Blade Runner, is true to Dick's skepticism about space-San Francisco is awash in advertisements for settlers to come to the colonies, but these garish signs and droning announcements are ignored by the characters. The only reality associated with the off-world colonies that we see are the Replicants, the deadly androids.
Patrick R. Burger (Books in Canada) -- Books in Canada

From the Publisher

black and white illustrations throughout --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe They Dream of Electric Sheeps June 7 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
A dystopian sort of future with civilization deconstruction, mixed with incredible plot twists? Only some of a lot more solid reasons on why you should read this book. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who kills malfunctioned androids who blend amongst humans on the post-war contaminated earth. But as his mission progressed, he lose sight of what's true and what's false, what kind of difference stands between humans and androids.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to me, really good read April 15 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Really interesting, thought provoking read. It frames nicely some of the questions we are starting to deal with with artificial intelligence. At what point does a computer program become a person? With legal standing? I have an iPhone, is Siri a person? I don't think so, yet, but as the programming develops, and processing power expands...

This book addresses some of the same issues as Ray Kurzweil's "Age of Spiritual Machines"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspired, Anxiety-Ridden Sci-Fi June 23 2004
After being an ardent Blade Runner fan for years, I decided to explore it's roots in Philip K. Dick's book, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". The movie and the book had less in common than I'd expected, particularly with the character development. Unlike Blade Runner, there is nothing at all redeeming about the personalities of the replicants/ "andys" in this book, which has an even more chilling effect. There are, however, plenty of interesting ideas here, and depicting "authentic" animals as the ultimate status symbol is definitely intriguing. What interested me the most, were the marital issues between Deckard and his wife Iran. The love scene between Rachel and Deckard here is curiously shallow, adding to the isolated tone of the book.
Philip K. Dick is a good writer, effectively permeating the book with an unrelenting anxiety and cruel irony. PKD's ideas came to fruition in Blade Runner, but this is the blueprint, and therefore an absolute must for Blade Runner enthusiasts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humor and humanity June 5 2004
This novel, first published in 1968, was the basis for Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner (1982), which despite its striking, evocative visuals, plucks elements of the novel out of their context, making them somewhat less intelligible and less radical than in the original. Additionally, Dick's humor and his metaphysics are missing from the movie. The reader of the book is continually challenged to evaluate how human the androids are and how mechanical the humans are. The androids are not mere machines like most of the simulacra in Dick's other novels: they are artificial people made from organic materials; they have free will and emotions like fear and love. Physically and behaviorally they are indistinguishable from real people. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter whose job it is to hunt down and kill escaped androids. His life is thoroughly programmed; but in the course of the novel he starts to wake up to his buried human nature and capacity for empathy and understanding. This novel is the place to look for a serious analysis of the question of what it means to be human; you get only the tip of the iceberg of that issue in the movie. The book is one of Dick's best.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revelation Dec 4 2007
Having never read sci-fi, or seen the film, before, this novel was somewhat of a revelation to me. While I had trouble keeping track of the details, I loved the big ideas: interplanetary immigration, religion/cult, empathy boxes, the value of a real living animal...and of course the moral debate of whether bounty hunter Rick Deckard should retire (read: kill) androids simply because of what they are. My favourite character was Luba Luft; she's such a funny bugger. But perhaps the funniest thing was that the novel is set in 1992, but you can blame hindsight for my chuckles. While overall the novel was probably too intelligent for dim me to fully comprehend, I'm definitely interested in seeking out more sci-fi, particularly by this author. If you know of any books in particular you think I'll enjoy, please send the recommendations my way. This was fun!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book, known for its tie-in to the SF blockbuster film Bladerunner, is a distinct beast. One of Dick's best, most fully developed, and imagined novels, it takes place on a radioactive wasteland-Earth in the not-so-distant future, after a war that killed virtually all animals (whose prices, even when no specimens are available, are kept in auction guide-like catalogues called Sidney's Animal and Fowl), and necessitated lead codpieces to protect the human germ line in the minority not turned into "specials"-radioactive rejects such as one of the book's two male protagonists, Jack Isodore. The main, tough male character is Rick Deckard, a married bounty hunter who steps up to the plate after his senior colleague is killed in the line of fire. One thing that I don't think comes through in the film, but which is a major focal point of the book, is the metaphorical, metaphysical status of the weak, the feminine, the loving-emotional-animal axis so central to our mammalian human being. As always in Dick, it helps to look beyond the action to the philosophical or metaphysical verities that are being expertly explored through the condensed tool of his nonpareil fiction. Here it occurs to me that the "being-a-man" coolness (i.e., emotionlessness) of the prototypical-and ideal-1950s male is here what is being taken to task. In non SF pulp forerunners to a book like Androids-in the works of Raymond Chandler and his hardboiled ilk, that is to say, in detective fiction-the desirable femme fatale is resisted as the detective (the "private dick," as the slang goes) solves the crime. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Blade runner
This book which has been adapted in theatres under the name blade runner is a great Sci-Fi book that reaches philosophical levels.
Are dreams and desire reserved to humans?
Published on May 19 2011 by Anton PANAITESCO
5.0 out of 5 stars More than I expected!
I read the description for this book and I was intregued. I found it to be even better than I though it would be. It was deffinately a book that I couldn't put down. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2009 by Amy Sinclair
5.0 out of 5 stars Science Fiction, Suspense and Philosophy
I became a rabid fan of Philip K. Dick from the first novel of his that I read. All of his books are excellent, and this one ranks as one of the best. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2008 by Douglas P. Murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars Apocalyptic dreaming towards a futuristic day
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? is another classic science fiction novel that I only just got around to reading. Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by Andrew McCaffrey
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty cut and dry
It is a futuristic story, set in a distopian society where, since the fallout of world war III, humanity has managed to set off to colonize other planets. Read more
Published on June 3 2004 by "imdateless"
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool Cyberpunk before Cyber was Cool
A lot of people credit Gibson for the cyberpunk genre. However, you'll find many of the themes right here: alienation, our relationship to machine intelligence, the fusion of... Read more
Published on April 24 2004 by "jradoff"
1.0 out of 5 stars Well, that was convoluted and not terrible insightful
I should preface this review by saying that I'm a huge fan of PKD, or atleast his short fiction. I rank him as possibly the greatest short SF writer ever. Read more
Published on April 5 2004 by Z. Brock
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Science Fiction
The title of this novel clearly demonstrates that this book is going to deal with some man-machine sociological technological "issues". That it does. Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by William Thien
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