on December 16, 2003
If you have watched "Blade Runner" before reading PKD's story (like I did), you'll find they are very different indeed. "Do androids...?" is the inspiration behind Ridley Scott's movie, but this book has its rightfull place within the realms of good science fiction.
While the movie is very graphic, visual and dark (all those rainy nights and opulent clothing), the book seems like a mind-breaking experience. In fact, to fully understand the many layers contained between the lines, one reading is not enough. The novel itself is not that much graphic. Dick rarely describes settings, people, buildings, etc., leaving the reader's immagination to work full-time. In fact, is this science fiction? Yes, I think it is, not because of the science involved, but because of the revolutionary elements present in the story.
This is mental sci-fi; the main question of the book is: what defines a human being? Rick Deckard has to answer this question every time he retires a Nexus-6, all the time taking care not to loose his bearings of what he thinks a human being should be. This kind of complexity is what makes "Do androids...?" a great read, although I thought Dick's style a little too dry for my personal taste.
on October 31, 2003
A Review by Hunter
In January 2021, Rick Deckard had been given a license to kill. There were several rogue androids that lurked among the hordes of humans. It was Rick's job to find them and kill them. The only problem was that the androids looked exactly like humans, and they don't want to be found. Will Rick be able to find the androids before they pose a real big threat?
I love how this novel makes me want to keep reading, it's action packed. This novel leads up to the climax in a slow but step- by- step kind of way, like when Rick finds one android after the other. The author gives clues about the character and about the characters role in the story. He lets the character tell us during the story and his feelings towards killing. Like when his android detector tells him that an old woman was an android , and he has a hard time believing it. It is difficult to follow when the author changes the point of view, because Rick Deckard the main character is in so many places at one time in the story, and the point of view changes so often. An on the edge conflict of finding deadly androids is really scary because you don't know what is going to happen next. This is a very exciting book , there are some nerve racking moments in the story and if you have seen the movie than you should know. It's too bad that there is not a sequel to this book.
I really liked this book, and I recommended it to you and anyone else that likes danger, and excitement. This novel is the kind of book I like to read in my free time. Check it out!
on October 31, 2003
First off, be advised that the book is very different from the movie. The movie was most enjoyable for its vision of a gritty dystopic future and its action sequences.
The book, like other works by PKD, is about ideas. There is little "action"-- the android killings are basically executions. PKD was never a "prose stylist" like Gibson, who could make a scene live and breathe. Rather, he's concerned with the "big issues"-- primarily, the meaning of human existence.
The book is more challenging than the movie. In the movie, the androids just seem like slightly stiff people-- people who had the misfortune of being created rather than born. While they commit evil acts in the film, the ending clearly wants us to empathize with the androids.
In the book, the androids completely lack any empathy with any other creatures. They care little when other creatures are killed, and seem to even lack a survival instinct. That is why the Voight-Kampff test is used to test for androids-- it measures emotional reactions to the death of other living beings, which androids lack. (This wasn't explained at all in the movie!)
What I found very interesting is that the Voight-Kampff test measures involuntary emotional reactions to the deaths of animals, which is taboo in this future world. (The radioactive dust has killed of many species, making them a rare and precious commodity.) Clearly, this can't be an intrinsic empathy that humans have-- we kill animals now! Is this "empathy" something we get from the society we live in?
The book also dwells far more on the "value" that animals have in this future world. The animals are supposed to be precious because many have been killed off by the war and the radioactive dust that lingers afterward. The Mercer religion in the book puts primary value on other living things. But how does this empathic "value" compare with the great monetary value of the animals? Rick Deckard constantly pulls out his Sidney's to get the money value of animals he sees, as someone would with used cars. What PKD does so great is show how the empathy cult of Mercer, which represents basic idealism and altruism, contrasts with the base capitalist valuation of these animals.
I found Mercerism to be one of the most interesting aspects of the novel. It seems to be the primary way through which people are able to merge together and share an empathic group consciousness. However, questions are raised as to whether Mercerism is literally true-- one can see clear parallels to Christianity. By showing a meaningful religion based on lies, I was reminded of Bokononism in Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." Sadly, PKD never enjoyed the literary success of Vonnegut...
There is a lot going on in this novel-- one could probably write a novel about this novel. There are endless ideas and twists upon twists. However, don't come into it expecting anything like the "cyberpunk" action movie Blade Runner.
on October 22, 2003
I had never read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and was surprised at how different the book was from the Harrison Ford "Blade Runner" movie. The basic concept is there, androids that are close to human escape from Mars and come back to earth to blend in with society, and a bounty hunter must track them down and "retire" them.
The book is set in a much more bleak nuclear aftermath, were radioactive dust permeates the atmosphere, blotting out the sun, and causing defects in many humans that make them "specials" or the more derogatory terms "chickenheads" or "antheads." The dust has also killed off most mammals, birds and insects. Owning an animal is very important to those left on earth, and everyone carries a guidebook to check the values when they want to encounter an animal.
Rick Deckard is the number two bounty hunter with the San Francisco police force. He owns an electric sheep and badly wants to have a real animal, be it a horse, a goat, a toad, or whatever. When he is assigned to track down six escaped Nexus 6 androids, all he think of spending his earnings on is an animal.
The story follows Deckard through his day and gives us many glimpses into what life is like for these people. We learn about their religion, with "Mercerism" vs. the omnipresent television and radio personality "Buster Friendly." We see their hovercars, and we also see life through the viewpoint of a special named John Isidore, who attempts to help three of the escaped androids.
What I really enjoy about Philip K. Dick's writing is that he created science fiction that was more speculative fiction, with bits of futuristic tech and lingo sprinkled like spice, so that it appears to be a world much like our own, but with different tweaks here and there. Also, he explores the deeper stuff like what makes us human. Is it empathy? Is it the group catharsis of climbing the hill, enduring the stones, sinking into the earth and being reborn? Is it caring for an animal? The nature of humanity vs. android is a powerful theme that gets twisted and turned as Deckard encounters a variety of archetypes in his quest to retire the androids and collect his bounty. The mysterious counter bounty hunter Phil Resch appears for a few scenes, helps Deckard, then disappears. It remains open whether he was really human or android. There's also Rachael Rosen, a Nexus 6 android who seduces Deckard, then performs an unthinkable act that nearly breaks him.
One of the key things that makes a book great is whether you think about its concepts when your not reading it, and keep thinking after you're done. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" aka "Blade Runner" succeeds in this department.
on July 20, 2003
This was a really emotional read -- and fun. The story is pretty simple, a futuristic bounty hunter Rick Deckard is commissioned to "retire" six Nexus-6 androids. The Nexus-6 androids are remarkably human and it is only through the so-called Voight-Kampf test that Deckard can truly tell the androids from the humans. The Voight-Kampf tests androids for empathic responses; that is, the androids will respond callously to the test's life-death questions, whereas humans tend to respond with empathy regarding the destruction of life.
Herein lies the novel's poignant irony: Deckard is a human, and he's on a mission to "retire" the androids using this test. So the question becomes, Who is really human, who really has compassion?
I really enjoyed "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" but it is for a very different reason than say a Michael Crichton or Larry Niven novel. Dick's science is a little screwy/funny, but his heart was _so_ in the right place. Reading a Philip K. Dick novel is a little like looking at the wildest of Van Gogh's paintings, you know, where you can feel the desparation in every dash of paint. Technically it looks like the work of a teenager, but there's a grown man's heart on the line underneath the text of this story. And _that_ is why the next science fiction novel I read will most likely be a Philip K. Dick novel.
on June 28, 2003
With over 140 reviews I really wonder if i can bring anything else to the fore. I won't bother going into the details of the story because it has been mapped out by previous reviewers what I wanted to speak of is the question of what is life? In this book human beings are of course the most important beings. However, even with humans there are certain stata: normal folks, people of lesser mental ability called chickenheads, and those of even less ability called antheads. The chicknenheads's and antheads mental ability was lowered due to the effect of fallout dust. Besides these strata there exists androids At first androids were a bit clunky, but as time went on they became almost indistinguishible from humans, but because they were created they were only to serve humans. However, some did not want to do that and they killed their owners to live new lives. Of course this was not proper, so bounty hunters were sent to destroy the androids. This book is an excellent look into artificial intelligence and it makes one question what is life?
on June 2, 2003
Most people will probably pick up this book with the mistaken impression that it is very similar to the "famous" movie starring Harrison Ford in the mid-80's. While the current printings of the book share the same title, Blade Runner was originally titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The title change came as the result of the movie studio liking the story, but not liking the title. Thus, the current title, which is a complete non sequitur from the plot, was born. The film, while entertaining, is not the Orwell-esque vision of a possible future that the book is.
In the book, Rick Deckard is faced with, not only the challenge of hunting and capturing illegal androids, but with overcoming his own android-like existence. The world he knows is a cold amalgam of mood-stimulants, fake pets, shallow relationships, and an underlying desire to be something other than what he is. At the center of this world is a meaningless quasi-religious leader named Mercer. All morality and ethical codes are teachings of Mercer, who appears to Deckard as some sort of refigured Sisyphus. It is the search for meaning in these teachings (or in spite of them) that drives Deckard to rebel against social norms and his assignment.
The quest for identity and objective meaning in Deckard's self discovery is a theme of all of Dick's work, and is on display best in this work. For any fan of Orwell, Sinclair or Orson Scott Card, this will certainly be a great read.
on May 24, 2003
This is the most depressing Sci-fi novel I have ever read, Perhaps I was expecting something else. It shows you how truly irrational life and experience can be. For me it reflects present day life and probably most life untill now, the imposibility of any REAL empathy between living things, the lack of coherence in most beings and the power of the "current" against change, the failed and innatural wirh that we have that life should stand still. It is a pessimistic work at least and I think it was intended to be depressing, so some people can actually understand what that means, or in the case of a lack of response to the book it is a sick joke about the "flattening of affect". The work of course is designed to either produce a negative emotional response or to show the ovious sickness of any lack of it, and it succeeds admirably, sickening the gut of the most unflinching lunatic, for there is something very wrong in the lives of the characters as it indeed is a reflection of reality and the lack of "empathy" in it.
on May 18, 2003
Other SF writers have ideas; Philip K. Dick had visions. In fact, all of his visions may be said to be part of a single Uber-vision, a life-long attempt to construct a picture of the world and to ask meaningful questions about it. Most of his SF novels were different "takes" on this vision and explorations of those questions. To say, as so many people have done (including Dick himself), that his themes are "what is reality" and "what is human", is to touch only on the surface of the problems he was grappling with. It is necessary to understand how thoroughly Dick lived with his vision of life to know what his explorations meant, especially if one wishes to grasp their emotional center.
Take this novel for instance (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). One could read it as if it were an ordinary SF novel and be fascinated by its "ideas", such as androids with false memories or the economy of real-animal trade in a post-apocalyptic setting -- in the same way that some fans of the "Star Trek" shows are interested in the structure of the Federation, the nature of the Borg, etc. But Dick's ideas are nothing more than access points to his larger vision, and the novel has some interesting little conduits that can take you there.
One thing of note (that few notice) is the idea of the "Penfield mood organ" which triggers an argument between Deckard and his wife in the opening chapter. Apparently one selects a desired emotional state and "dials in" settings to send one's brain the electrical signals that create that emotion, such as "pleased acknowledgement of hushband's superior wisdom in all matters". (The name of the gadget is obviously derived from Wilder Penfield, 20th century pioneer in brain mapping research. A variant of this idea was used later in another of Dick's robot-or-man novels, the neglected We Can Build You.) Significantly, the device "frames" the novel, referenced again during the last scene. Such a device is the least outlandish piece of "science fiction" that the novel contains, since it is based on real science. And that fact roots the other speculations of the novel, however wild, in a very real and pressing contemporary question: if our moods and attitudes can be manipulated via electrical currents, then... what are we?
Another fascinating aspect of the story is the quasi-religious figure named Mercer. Mercer speaks at times with words like those of Christ, at other times with Zen riddles and self-contradiction. He offers empathy without salvation, salvation without truth, a truth through lies. When he is exposed as a fraud (when the set for the Mercer films are "subjected to rigorous laboratory scrutiny"), he admits it but insists that it does not detract from his validity. Mercerism is the only hint of transcendence offered by the novel, which raises the question: if such transcendence is exposed as fraudulent, then... what can be our transcendence?
The devestation that Deckard experiences in the end is a reflection of Dick's own emotional response to the conundrums of life as he saw it. That's because his vision was never an abstract or academic construct, an intellectual game without consequences -- it was always a life-or-death matter for him. And so it is for us, because Dick's true theme is neither ontology nor human identify, but the value of our existence, our origin and our fate, our relationships to one another and to God.
on May 18, 2003
This nice new edition of Dick's novel (it's insufficient to call it a masterpiece, because that's a tendency which runs through much of his output) will make an appropriate introduction to his body of work, particularly for the young aspiring writers in your family and circle of friends. Like much of his work, it's deeply paranoid and warped, which is one of the attractive characteristics of it.
Yeah, that's right, it was the basis for the movie "Blade Runner", which sucks by comparison. The movie "Total Recall" was based on Dick's super, tiny short story, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale". "Minority Report" was based on still another P.K. Dick story. "Blade Runner" can be enjoyed for itself, as long as the viewer isn't expecting great cinema, or even a great sci-fi flick. But it ain't this novel.
This one is an out of the park home run that smashes through the sun roof of a Lexus parked outside the ballfield, sets off the car alarm, and spills the cold coffee all over the leather upholstery.