The book is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. It was originally published in 1968 by Doubleday and Company Inc. I read the 2017 Del Rey paperback edition.
It’s the basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner. I like that movie so I wanted to read the book. Also, I don’t read much science fiction and I’ve heard that Dick is a more palatable, “real world” sort of sci-fi, so I thought I’d check it out. I’ve never read Philip K. Dick before and I thought he’d be a good way to dip my toe into sci-fi literature. I usually can’t stand sci-fi. With all the made up machines and creatures, it seems too visual for me. I like sci-fi comics and movies well enough. But in a novel…meh. Maybe I just don’t have a good enough imagination.
It wasn’t so sci-fi, in the traditional sense. It was set in 2021 San Francisco which is hilarious because it’s full of flying cars and life-like androids. If only Dick knew how bizarre the early 20’s we’re going to be, maybe he would’ve written political thrillers instead.
I wasn’t entirely convinced of the main character’s motivation. Although, that isn’t to say I didn’t get anything out of it. Rick Deckard’s (the protagonist) motivation is to buy a real living animal. In this dystopian future, most real life animals are extinct or extremely rare. Rick has an electric sheep but it’s cheap and not enough of a status symbol as his neighbor’s real life horse. Maybe it was the fact that they didn’t use the animals in a livestock or agrarian way that bugged me. I don’t know. It just didn’t seem like a valuable thing, even in Dick’s dystopian, futuristic world. It wasn’t that compelling.
I felt Rick’s fatigue as he tirelessly hunts down the rogue androids. The world felt hopeless, like there was a giant void that couldn’t be filled by any motivation offered in the book. I felt little difference between the humans and androids. It seemed like both were living artificial lives just waiting for their batteries to run out.
Empathy was a big theme. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be an allegory for how we ought to be more empathetic towards animals, like a vegetarian ethos. That idea peaked through but didn’t hit me over the head, which I appreciate.
The villains would have to be the androids. But it seemed like their message was that they’re not so different from humans. It’s an interesting premise which might have been served by a longer page count. But if it went longer than 224 pages I probably wouldn’t have read it.
I’d recommend this to fans of sci-fi, to reign them in and bring them back down to a more realistic narrative, or at least to read about places and things that aren’t difficult to imagine. It’s a good way to bridge the gap and take someone from being a sci-fi reader to a noir reader. I’d always recommend that transition.