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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

>> Monday, December 7, 2009

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: 1968
Pages: 244
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #51
Source: Library

Yes, I’m well aware that this book is way far out of the norm for me. I don’t read that much of this type of book, but there is a good reason it’s here. Earlier this year Newsweek Magazine published a list of what they called “50 Books for Our Times” I was a part of a conversation on Twitter about how soon a challenge would be posted for reading this list and before too long . . . Voila! Amy at My Friend Amy’s Blog found herself hosting the Newsweek’s 50 Books for Our Times Reading Project. The best part for participants was that we only had to sign up to read one of the books and then post about it.

I chose this book because it was supposed to be the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner. I remember seeing this movie in the theater when it was first released. I was much more into Science Fiction movies and books back then. It’s been many years and I hardly remember the movie, but I remember thinking it was OK, but not the cult classic that many folks seem to think it is.

So – I read this book and now I’m supposed to tell you what I think of it and whether or not I think it qualilfies as a ‘book for our times’. The quick version of my thoughts are that considering that this book was published in 1968, there are aspects of it that I do think are relevant and perhaps even more relevant now. I can also say that although I don’t remember a lot about the movie, I do remember enough to say that the book is better (but isn’t it always?).

It’s the year 2021, after World War Terminus. Earth has lost much of it’s population and animal species. Humans have been encouraged to emigrate to Mars, lured by the promise of androids to serve them. Androids are not allowed on Earth. Rick Deckard is a Bounty Hunter working with the San Francisco Police. His job is to hunt down and ‘retire’ (kill) androids that are hiding in plain sight and trying to blend in as real humans. At a time when most animals are extinct or extremely rare, owning an animal is a status symbol, to the extent that electronic animals are often the best that some folks can afford. Those who can only afford false animals can hide this with maintenance services masquerading as veterinarians.

The focus of this book is what is it that makes us human? The tests that Deckard uses to identify androids key in on empathy as the trait that separates humans from androids. On the other hand the humans in this book can select their mood with a device called a ‘mood organ’. By the end of the book, the androids at times seem less mechanical than the humans.

For a book that was written in 1968, I was surprised at how relevant this book still is. In a time where robotics and cloning are becoming more common, the ethical questions raised about what is it that makes us human is still and maybe even more pertinent. I don’t remember that being something I got out of the movie Blade Runner, but as I said, it’s been many years since I saw it. There were also themes of religion and mass media that I found to be quite relevant to present day

3.5 Stars Rating 3.5/5


Kailana 12/07/2009 3:37 PM  

I have wanted to read this for a while, but haven't got around to it yet. One day!

SuziQoregon 12/08/2009 8:34 PM  

Kailana: I hadn't even heard about this book till I read about it in the Newsweek article. Probably because I didn't like Blade Runner enough to explore it further. It wasn't a great read for me, but it definitely was one that made me think

Les 12/11/2009 4:06 AM  

I've seen the movie a couple of times, but it's been a while and I don't remember too many of the details. I doubt I'll read the book, but I am interested in another he wrote -- Minority Report. Loved that movie!!

Seth 12/11/2009 11:03 PM  

I read a collection of Philip K. Dick's short fiction and loved nearly all of it, but I've yet to read a full-length novel of his. I might have to give this a look at some point, though I must say I'm not a fan at all of Blade Runner.

SuziQoregon 12/18/2009 9:57 AM  

Les: I really didn't remember that much about the movie, but the book was actually quite interesting. Didn't realize he wrote Minority Report - might have to check that one out.

Seth: Give this one a shot - it's short and from what I do remember about the movie, I think the book does a better job of questioning what makes us human.

John Anealio 1/10/2010 7:16 PM  

Blade Runner the movie is quite different from the novel. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is surprisingly quite relevant to this day. They do both ponder the question of what it means to be human.

dog eared copy 10/04/2011 2:34 PM  

One of these days I'm going to have to take another look at this book. Your review makes it clear that I've missed something. I've read it a couple of times over the decades; but it just has never resonated with me; whereas the movie ... well, I just adore the movie. I think the script is far superior in elegance in terms of writing and style and, the movie as a whole has so many layers. The book just well... doesn't.

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