Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
© 1968 Phillip K. Dick
In a world ruined by nuclear war, most animals are extinct and most humans who can have fled for the cold, distant colonies of Mars. Technical civilization has survived, creating artificial pets for people to cherish. It has also created lifelike androids for people to fear– such constructs are barred from Earth, but still prefer operating on a planet where nuclear fallout is included in weather reports to barren wastelands like Mars. Androids who escape the colonies to return to Earth are the business of ‘bounty hunters’ like Rick Deckard, who hunt them down and ‘retire’ them — permanently. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Deckard takes on the challenge of finding six recent escapees, androids that so perfectly replicate humans that the conventional diagnostics might not even detect them. The case will, for him, blur the lines between living and dead, between reality and fiction. It is a thriller which, halfway through, features three characters sitting in a room with trained guns on another, two convinced of fiction and one knowing the truth. The one isn’t Deckard, nor is it the reader, and the sudden plot turn succeeds magnificently. The world of Dick’s imagination is fairly dismal: empty buildings, sparsely populated by lonely people who get their emotional life from plugging into a ‘mood organ’ that manipulates their brains. This is part of a new religion, Mercerism, which features heavily in the confusing ending, one in which the reader is left wondering what was real and what wasn’t. This was a definite success as a thriller, though one that left me missing the safe optimism of Asimov’s robots.
Asimov’s Robots books, including the slightly more grim books not written by him.
I read this *ages* ago and can hardly remember anything about it. I did like the way PKD bent your mind though!
Absolutely. That scene where he gets picked up by the police — who he has never seen, who have never heard of him, who are utterly guileless — was brilliant.
I generally love Philip K Dick and this id one of my favorite books of his.
I found a lot going on philosophically with this work. I is certainly different from that of Asimov and similar optimists.
I wrote about it in some detail here:
Wow, thanks for that! Particularly helpful in understanding Mercerism. Those scenes almost seemed random to me, but reading a novel once is never enough to pick up most of what an author is trying to convey. Do you re-read PKD's material often?
Well done! What I liked about the novel when I read it was the universal, timeless theme: a person can never really know about anyone else; hey, knowing the self is difficult, but knowing others is impossible — which then leads to the big problem in life (i.e., whom do you trust?).
Postscript: Your fine posting has me poised to revisit PKD's novel. Thanks!