- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (11 Feb. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857988132
- ISBN-13: 978-1857988130
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 401 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 392,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 11 Feb 1999
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a book that most people think they remember, and almost always get more or less wrong. Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner took a lot from it, and threw a lot away; wonderful in itself, it is a flash thriller where Dick's novel is a sober meditation. As we all know, bounty hunter Rick Deckard is stalking a group of androids returned from space with short life spans and murder on their minds--where Scott's Deckard was Harrison Ford, Dick's is a financially over-stretched municipal employee with bills to pay and a depressed wife. In a world where most animals have died, and pet-keeping is a social duty, he can only afford a robot imitation, unless he gets a big financial break. The genetically warped "chickenhead" John Isidore has visions of a tomb-world where entropy has finally won. And everyone plugs in to the spiritual agony of Mercer, whose sufferings for the sins of humanity are broadcast several times a day. Prefiguring the religious obsessions of Dick's last novels, this asks dark questions about identity and altruism. After all, is it right to kill the killers just because Mercer says so? --Roz Kaveney
One of the most original practitioners writing any kind of fiction, Dick made most of the European avant-garde seem like navel-gazers in a cul-de-sac (Sunday Times)
My literary hero (Fay Weldon)
For everyone lost in the endlessly multiplicating realities of the modern world, remember: Philip K. Dick got there first (Terry Gilliam)
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He crams so much information into every paragraph, but it's not banal or mundane, every sentence is fascinating. The creative prose oozes from every page, leaving you mesmerized. There have been many great writers, but it's a rarity to find one who not only invents fantastic stories but also put them into magical words.
If you've never read a PKD novel start here and, like me, I guarantee you, you will send off for a stack more.
His writing is so clever, loaded with detail, that paints a flawless picture in your mind of every scene. And the humor in his books is incredibly good; how I laugh when reading his novels. Jane Austen,; he is not.
PKD is out there on his own; no one else comes close to his unique brilliance.
Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter, hunting down androids who have escaped from the offworld colonies and returned to Earth. Rick owns his own electric sheep, his live one having died. He dreams of one day having another live animal to care for. As the book begins, he has been given the task of destroying a group of six of the latest model androids, so convincing it's almost impossible to tell them apart from humans. In fact the only test that works is one that measures lack of empathy - thus making this the characteristic that most defines humanity. If Rick manages to 'retire' all six androids, the bounty money will let him buy a real animal to cherish.
I've read this book three times now and each time I come away with the same feeling. It's very readable, has some interesting ideas and the characterisation of Rick is excellent. But fundamentally the book makes no sense. There are so many inconsistencies in it that I always come out of it wondering what message exactly Dick was trying to send. The thing is I know what he was trying to say, because he explained it in interviews - he was saying that no matter how humanoid the androids appeared, they were still soulless and heartless, but that the very task of hunting and destroying such human-like beings puts Rick's own humanity at risk. Unfortunately that doesn't come out as the message in the book. I can't help sympathising with the androids. They are created as superior beings then sold to be slaves (and Dick makes explicit reference to pre-Civil War slavery) performing domestic and agricultural chores. When they rebel, they are hunted down and killed. Humans on the other hand rely on machines not just to give them empathy but to control their moods. Seems to me that there's very little left of humanity in the humans at all.
Mostly what the book provokes in me is a series of unanswered questions:
Why do the androids return to Earth knowing they will be hunted - why not go elsewhere when they escape?
Why have humans given up all their existing religions and taken up Mercerism? And what is the point of Mercerism? As religions go, it's a particularly depressing one.
Why have some people decided to stay on Earth? There's little prospect of it recovering in the foreseeable future, and they will eventually get sick and die.
Why are the humans so freaked about the androids - they don't seem to do much harm except when enslaved or attacked. One of them has actually become an opera star - well, OK, soprano opera singers are a pestilence, I admit, but even so...
And the most basic question of all...
If humans are freaked by androids that are so human-like they can't be told apart from the real thing, then... why make them???
Perhaps I've been spoiled by all the subsequent brilliant exploration of what it means to be human via the world's greatest android, (no, not Marvin!), Commander Data. But I suspect Data owes his existence more to Asimov's robots than Dick's androids, and personally I think Asimov's robots were the superior creation.
So while the book is an enjoyable read, and one I'd recommend because of its status as a classic of the genre, it's lack of internal logic always prevents me from thinking of it as a truly great one.
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