Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick

Android animals help expiate human guilt over the extermination of real ones. Rick Deckard hunts and 'retires' illegal android humans, and thereby com...

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Review of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick"

published 31/03/2007 | BlueMidget
Member since : 07/01/2006
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Super
Pro Well writing, engaging plot and thoroughly enjoyable piece of sci-fi
Cons Occasionally the perspective causes some brief confusion
very helpful
Would you read it again?
Story
Characters
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How does it compare to similar books?

""The Novel That Became Blade Runner...""

'SF Masterworks' is a growing collection of 'classic' science-fiction novels spanning over fifty years of the genre. As someone who's grown up reading and watching science-fiction I've found this a very interesting series that has introduced me to some wonderful (and, I have to be honest, not so wonderful) novels and authors that I would probably never have encountered otherwise.

'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?' is the forth book of the series, (and coincidently the forth book I actually read as I'm not reading them in order). Written by Phillip K. Dick, it was originally published in 1968 and was the inspiration behind the very successful Harrison Ford movie 'Blade Runner'. It tells the story of a day in the life of bounty hunter, Rick Deckard - a man who works for the San Francisco police department and whose job it is to identify and 'retire' rogue androids, in this instance androids that have been fitted with a Nexus-6 brain model, making them particularly difficult to detect and extremely dangerous when trying to 'retire' them.

Set in the early nineties, (bare in mind is was written in the late sixties, so it would have been 'futuristic' when it was written), Earth is recovering from the resulting nuclear fallout of 'World War Terminus', the effect of which is that many of the planet's inhabitants have fled to colonies on other planets and a vast majority of animals have been wiped out. For those people left on Earth, who either aren't allowed to migrate because of the effects of radiation poisoning, or are simply unwilling to leave, the ownership of a live animal has become the ultimate status symbol. So coveted are live animals that not only are people willing to spend thousand of dollars to own one, but a whole industry has been created providing electronic versions. Rick, unable to afford a living creature, owns a robotic sheep, though wants nothing more than to possess a real live animal.

Philip K. Dick is a name I've heard of before, though I don't recall having actually read any of his work prior to buying 'Do Androids…' and I found his writing style to be very engaging and, of the four books I had read from the SF Masterwork series, it was the first that I felt certain I would enjoy from having read only the first couple of pages. Dick's characterisation is really quite effective and from the very off I felt I could easily identify with the characters within the book.

One of my favourite characters is John Isidore, a man who radiation has severely affect and is therefore treated by the majority of society, who call him and people like him a 'chickenhead', as a sub-standard citizen, in many ways held in more contempt than androids that are considered a servant class by the populace.
Isidore's frustrations and thoughts about his situation are very well written, being just intelligent enough to understand why he is treated the way he is so that he yearning for acceptance is believable.

Dick's style of writing in this book adopts a third-person stance, but allows for the character's thoughts to be aired. I must admit that occasionally this style of narration confused me a couple of times and I had to re-read a few passages, (for example "I think, he thought, that…" is one line that didn't make immediate sense). However, such passages are few and far between and on the whole the language used is both enjoyable to read and easy to understand - for anyone who regularly reads science-fiction the concepts are relatively simple to grasp and allow you to enjoy the story itself, rather than having to worry about the concepts.
Another interesting thing I found was that the events follow Rick Deckard from him first getting up in the morning through to him going to bed, so it is essentially a single day of his life. Part of me finds this a little fanciful as there's so much happening that it is a little difficult to believe it could happen in just one day, (although I guess we've all have manic days at some point). That said, it is well worked into the story and does help add weight to some of the situations.

In many ways, with the exception of androids, hover cars and laser guns, the 'science-fiction' element of this book is quite understated, with the focus more on character development and the interactions between characters. Rather than using science-fiction as the main theme of the book, Dick uses it as a spring-board for the overall plot and the human element is a much more prominent thread through the book.

Regarding the concepts themselves, some are a fairly standard affair, such as the idea that Earth would be devastated by war and the affect on society after a nuclear fall-out; but for me Dick's take on the effects such an event would have on a society is what makes it such a compelling read. The idea that animals become such a status symbol for instance I thought was an interesting angle.

In some ways the ending does sort of trail off, but unlike other novels I read, I wasn't left disappointed. It's not a thrill-a-minute ending by any measure, but nor are you left wondering what's happened to such and such, or that the ending has been forced in order to tie things up. The plot plays out quite naturally and I felt this helped my overall enjoyment of the novel itself.

It could be very easy to over-analyse 'Do Androids…', discussing Dick's "social commentary", but ultimately I think it lends itself to allowing the reader to take as much or as little as they want from the book. On one hand there is great scope and hidden depth to the novel, but equally it can be taken at face value and simply enjoyed as a good piece of literature. I personally can't see this being a life-changing read, (unlike, for myself at least, novels such as 'Dune', which had a profound affect on me when I was younger) but it is never-the-less an enjoyable way to spend an evening, (assuming of course that you enjoy burying your nose in a book). For me, it is the first novel of the 'SF Masterworks' that I have read so series that truly deserves its tag of 'Masterwork' without having to try and justify it and I would highly recommend it.

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Comments on this review

  • knight_of_the_soundtable published 13/04/2007
    "Isidore's frustrations and thoughts about his situation are very well written, being just intelligent enough to understand why he is treated the way he is so that he yearning for acceptance is believable whilst, at the same time, allowing" ... allowing what?
  • smudgeybabes published 04/04/2007
    Good review, Blade Runner is a classic.
  • clownfoot published 02/04/2007
    It's a super book, one of the few that has probably been bettered by the film it eventually became (essentially because Scott chose to elaborate on one of the lesser yet more interesting themes from Dick's work). If you enjoyed this book of Dick's then I suggest picking up the likes of Ubix, You'll Remember It For The Wholesale and A Scanner Darkly. If you're ploughing your way through the 'masterworks' then I highly recomment Robert Matheson's I Am Legend - one of the best books I've ever read... Alboy
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Product Information : Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick

Manufacturer's product description

Android animals help expiate human guilt over the extermination of real ones. Rick Deckard hunts and 'retires' illegal android humans, and thereby comes to learn that the new messiah, a messenger of hope in a depleted world, may also be a fake, and begins to question just who is human and what human is. Also published under the title BLADE RUNNER.

Product Details

Type: Fiction

Genre: Science Fiction

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Author: Philip K. Dick

ISBN: 0006482805; 0345404475

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Listed on Ciao since: 05/09/2000