‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ is a science-fiction exploration of humanity and humanity in androids, written by Philip K. Dick, a popular and prolific that I’m sure many science-fiction writers and readers have heard of. That being said, I have never watched any Blade Runner films or looked into them, so by reading the book first I had an opportunity to gain an unbiased opinion of the characters and story.
Here is my spoiler-free review of ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’
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The Short Summary
The story follows an android bounty hunter named Rick Deckhard. Rick is tasked with hunting down a new generation of androids, which are smarter and thus, deadlier. While he puts himself at risk with every android he hunts down, he gets paid a small fortune with each ‘retired’ android to compensate.
However, the book is not resting on a single pillar to story-telling. Facing more human-like androids is making Rick challenge his own opinion of synthetic life. Rick, and many others, are put through trials that make them examine humanity, in a world where real emotions are dwindling.
Of course, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ is not the first story to draw attention to the value of life, real or synthetic. Yet, the not-so-subtle philosophies are made more compelling when lives are at risk.
Speaking of characters, there is plenty to talk about.
First, we have the protagonist, Rick Deckhard, a bounty hunter who is saving up to buy a real animal, instead of the electric sheep he currently owns. Without going into too much detail, animals have a much greater significance in the world than they do in our own. Rick starts somewhat likeable in the first chapters, but then quickly establishes himself as a troubled character doing many questionable things.
Next, we have John Isidore, a lower-class person because his mind has been affected by the hazardous world-space. He ends up being manipulated by androids and made to harbour them in the empty apartment building where has been living. He offers a perspective of a different kind of person in such a broken world.
After Isidore, we have William Mercer, a messianic figure in a new religion taking over the world called Mercerism. Mercer is a mysterious figure at the beginning of the story, but his importance is made clear by the end of the story, as well as his effect on the major characters.
Finally, Rachael Rosen, a character that perplexes Rick, but I won’t say much more on that.
From then on, characters are appearing for short periods, not giving you much time to figure out much about them and who they are. Of course, this is very much down on purpose and to explain any other characters would give a lot of the story away.
Philip K. Dick starts the book off slowly to give you a moment to understand the world and how it works. Once the story begins, the novel’s pace speeds up, only really lingering when characters discuss their philosophy.
Despite these slow dialogues, the action remains tense and exciting. So, whether you are looking for a deeper story or a thrilling adventure, you will find both in this book.
Finally, my take on the story, which can be entirely different from yours.
I found the book a little rushed. The message and questions that Dick raised in the story are solid enough, the characters are all there, but it also feels like things move a little too fast to be believable.
As for the philosophy, I felt it was more than a little forced. At some point I found myself comparing his analysis of humanity and the clashes between real and synthetic life to other science fiction novels, having heard it all before. Of course, I hesitated in my comparisons, wondering if ‘Do Androids Dream’ was the book that started the trope.
I then remembered Frankenstein, a much older example, then understood that Dick’s take on the trope is unique enough, especially thanks to other elements in his story. I can see why the story was made into a film that went on to become a cult classic. It offers just the right amount of thought-provoking hypotheticals to give characters their depth while maintaining a gritty, dangerous atmosphere.
‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ gave me all the elements of science-fiction and did a decent job of cutting out the unnecessary. The events of the story took place over a single day and I could feel that much from the story, the pace and exhaustion of the characters, which is another mark in favour of the book.
Yet, despite all this, I didn’t find myself forming an attachment to the characters, or the world, or the atmosphere as I thought I would. It is science-fiction that wants to keep its feet firmly grounded, not daring to introduce any fantastic elements of the future as it would break the noire atmosphere that Dick created.
Yet, while it may not be a book that fits my tastes, it certainly isn’t a bad book either. If you are looking for a book centred on humanity in a harsh science-fiction future, this is certainly the book for you!
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!