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.