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REVIEW: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick

REVIEW SUMMARY: An Excellent read with only a few rough spots


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Android bounty hunter searches for eight rogue androids

PROS: Keeps you guessing at times.
CONS: Literary psychedelic side trips at other times.
BOTTOM LINE: Worth reading.

In usual Phillip K. Dick style, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is riddled with wonderings of what is reality. But it is craftily done so that you want to keep reading – even if it means pulling yourself through the occasional page or two of psychedelic meanderings that are, unfortunately, also part of Dick’s style.

On Earth in the year 2021, some years after WWT (World War Teminus), radiation fallout pervades the atmosphere. Most humans have emigrated to other planets where they use androids as manual labor. The humans that chose to remain on Earth must wear lead codpieces to protect themselves and their offspring from degenerating into physical and mental “specials”. Animals have become either extinct or very rare. In fact, it is considered morally wrong to not own an animal since the prevailing religion, Mercerism, holds all life in high regard. Those that cannot afford a real animal purchase electric, lifelike stand-ins.

Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter working for the police, is assigned to “retire” runaway androids. (The android-retiring market being what it is, Deckard must resort to buying an electric sheep) To detect androids, Deckard uses a machine that measures empathetic responses to his questions, or, for androids, the lack of empathetic responses.

One interesting aspect of the book is how, in the presence of the “all life is precious” religion, characters categorize life into a caste system. “Regulars” are those who have not been affected by the fallout. “Specials” have been mentally affected and are tolerated by most but are labeled as “chickenheads”. Animals are used as status symbols. And androids, rogue ones anyway, are hunted.

The story moved fairly quickly except when the author diverges into one of signature mushroom-induced passages. Although short and infrequent, they are enough to keep me from giving the book 5 stars. Also, as with other PKD books I’ve read, character actions don’t seem to flow logically at times.

This book was filmed by Ridley Scott as Blade Runner in 1982, with Harrison Ford as Deckard. I had seen parts of it years ago, and remember it being quite boring. However, there is a director’s cut version out that might merit a second look. Especially after reading the novel; I’d like to do the compare/contrast thing.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

10 Comments on REVIEW: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick

  1. The Blade Runner Director’s Cut is basically the same movie, only without the Deckard voiceovers and with a couple of very quick scenese involving unicorns added. Watch the movie closely to see how the unicorns figure in.

  2. The movie is often seen as an art form, that is why it is known as a classic. The gritty drama of the future, and although not a main factor, Deckard’s attempt to fit in with a pet.

  3. hate this book…………………………….. its soo boring (6)

  4. Fred Kiesche // March 5, 2007 at 9:16 am //

    Gia, have you ever thought how the book might feel about you?


  5. i agree with gia…this boo is boring

  6. Fred Kiesche // March 6, 2007 at 12:26 pm //

    “…this boo is boring…”

    Once again, I weep for the future of our civilization.


  7. I would be interested in what passages of this book you saw as mushroom induced meanderings. On reading the book I saw these passages (assuming we are talking about the same sections of the novel) in a very different way and found these not only “transfixing” (for want of a better word) but central to what the novel was about (nature of reality, what is sentient, what do you really know). I can’t help feeling that you didn’t grasp or appreciate this and are using such terms to deal with this ignorance. Maybe you like everything literal and obvious. I am biased as this is my favourite book but despite this I can’t help being annoyed by your know all but actually know very little summary of this novel. As for finding it boring (refering to the other posts) well you can’t please everyone, personally I couldn’t put it down.

  8. I must say, i only read this because it was an English assignment. I was quite surprised to find that i actually really enjoyed PKD’s novel! Now, i’m struggling to write a paper on it, but i liked it nonetheless. 


    Great book!

  9. I enjoy literary psychedelic side trips

  10. jj delacruz // May 16, 2010 at 10:24 pm //

    this book is sick with it…

    i hate that i gotta write a paper on it but good book… (i hate reading)

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