Monday, May 8, 2017

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

I bought Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep  by Philip K. Dick at the same time that my brother did. But where he has read it and A Scanner Darkly long before now, I only just finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep tonight.

Reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was an interesting experience because I have seen Blade Runner. But I felt like reading the book gave me a lot of missing context for the story. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the story of Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who works with the San Francisco Police Department. His job is to hunt and retire (ie kill) androids who are living on Earth. Due to World War Terminus, most of humanity has left the planet; as an incentive to leave, everyone is given an android. The androids have become increasingly life like, to the point that the current Nexus-6 models are virtually indistinguishable from humans. Androids kill their human masters and flee to Earth in an attempt to make a life for themselves. These are the androids that Deckard has to hunt. Deckard is armed with an empathy test, which is the way you can tell androids apart from humans becaus androids have superior intelligence, but lack empathy. Deckard's test measures the speed of the subject's reactions to moral questions. Deckard is first sent to Seattle to determine whether his empathy test will work on the Nexus-6 androids. From there he returns to San Francisco to track down the group of androids. His colleague, bounty hunter Dave Holden, was badly injured by one of the rogue androids. Holden had already retired two of them. It's up to Deckard to get the rest.

Oh one thing I forgot to mention: Deckard owns an electric sheep. The humans who remain on Earth all want to take care of an animal, but many of them are extinct in the aftermath of World War Terminus. Deckard owned a real sheep, but it died; he got the electric sheep to replace his sheep so he didn't lose face with his neighbours. But now Deckard really, really wants a live animal to care for.

Along with Deckard's story, we learn about John R. Isidore, a man whose brain was mentally damaged by the fallout from the war. Isidore is classified as a "special" (or known as a chickenhead) because he failed an IQ test. Isidore meets Pris Stratton, who moves into his otherwise abandoned apartment building. Isidore falls in love with her before discovering she's an android; he doesn't really care though because he's happy for the company. Isidore decides to help Stratton and her other two friends against the bou ty hunter they know is coming for them, not really understanding what they have done to get to Earth.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep takes some really unexpected and crazy turns half way through the book. There were moments where I really didn't know what was real and what was false in the world of Deckard. Was he really a delusional android murdering innocent humans? Did he just time travel to a point where the police department didn't know he or his boss existed? Or was this some crazy ruse set up by the androids? The book was really intriguing from this point, as Deckard had to take a good hard look at his job, his life, and other various moral dilemmas. The end of the book was a bit disappointing and weird in my opinion, but it didn't significantly detract from the book as a whole. All in all, I really enjoyed Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and am really glad I got around to reading it!

Oh, I should also mention how the book is a bit dated, specifically in the ideas of women. Women are basically secretaries or else stay home and take care of the animals while the men go off and work (I realize that it is a product of its time, having been written in the sixties). It's also a bit dated in that it was looking at the future (2021 in the edition I read) and we don't have hovercars or laser-tubes (guns?) 

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