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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

book review

As I pull Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ off the shelf, I’m caught in the flux of anticipation and wariness. Dick, the ingenious provocateur of the science fiction genre, has an uncanny knack for merging the bizarre and the profound. He doesn’t just write novels; he crafts existential labyrinths that leave your mind reeling long after the final page. So, with trepidation, I dive in, not knowing what lurks beneath the surface.

Plot Summary

Set in a post-apocalyptic 2021, where most of the Earth’s population has emigrated to Mars following a nuclear war, the story focuses on Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter or ‘blade runner.’ His mission? To ‘retire’ androids, known as ‘andys,’ who illegally escape from Mars to Earth. These are not just any androids, though. They’re the latest Nexus-6 model, near-indistinguishable from humans, and capable of emotion and thought.

Deckard’s task gets complicated when he starts questioning the ethics of his job. Are these androids mere machines, or do they possess a spark of humanity? Is ‘retiring’ them right? And then there’s the peculiar obsession everyone has with owning live animals as a status symbol, leading to the titular question, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”

Book Review

‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ is no ordinary science fiction novel. It’s a philosophical exploration clothed in a futuristic narrative. Dick masterfully weaves together a gripping plot, fleshed-out characters, and thought-provoking questions about the essence of humanity and the nature of empathy.

Deckard, the novel’s troubled protagonist, is a riveting character. He is the embodiment of the novel’s moral and existential quandaries. As he wrestles with the ethics of his job, we, too, are invited to contemplate the blurry lines between humans and machines, empathy and apathy, real and fake.

The world-building is stark and impactful, with the desolate, post-nuclear Earth and the strange, Mercerism religion adding layers of intrigue and depth. And despite the book’s heavy themes, Dick’s narrative is brisk and engaging, ensuring that the philosophical musings never become overwhelming.

However, if there is a chink in this otherwise masterful work, it’s in the somewhat hasty resolution. The novel concludes abruptly, leaving several threads hanging and the reader wishing for more. But this is but a small misgiving in an otherwise compelling and thoughtful narrative.

Rating

4.5/5 – A true classic of science fiction literature, presenting a blend of narrative finesse and philosophical depth.

Author Bio

Philip K. Dick was an American writer known for his work in science fiction. His work explored philosophical, sociological and political themes, with stories dominated by monopolistic corporations, alternative universes, authoritarian governments, and altered states of consciousness. His most notable works include ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ ‘A Scanner Darkly,’ and ‘Ubik.’

Book Club Questions

  1. What do you think the novel suggests about the nature of humanity and the role of empathy in defining it?
  2. How does the concept of ‘kipple’ reflect the themes and tone of the novel?
  3. How does the Mercerism religion contribute to the novel’s exploration of empathy and authenticity?
  4. Do you agree with Deckard’s actions and his stance towards the androids? Why or why not?
  5. How does the novel’s setting enhance its thematic exploration?

Electric Dreams: The TV Series

Based on various works from the repertoire of Philip K. Dick, “Electric Dreams” is an anthology series that was aired between 2017 and 2018. The show, in the same vein as “Black Mirror”, offers standalone episodes, each derived from a different Dick short story.

The episode “Human Is,” perhaps, comes closest to the themes of ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ as it engages with questions of humanity, empathy, and identity. But while it draws from the same wellspring of ideas as the novel, “Human Is” is adapted from a different Dick short story.

Although “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” itself isn’t directly adapted in “Electric Dreams,” the series is a testament to the enduring appeal of Dick’s provocative storytelling and his uncanny ability to make us question the world around us. The show embodies his knack for blending narrative inventiveness with philosophical rumination, just as ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ does.

That said, fans of the novel may find “Electric Dreams” to be a different beast. Each episode taps into a different aspect of Dick’s oeuvre, making for a varied, if somewhat uneven, viewing experience. But if you’re drawn to the existential musings and the dystopian world-building of ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, you might find much to enjoy in “Electric Dreams.”

For newcomers to Philip K. Dick’s works, the series could serve as an accessible introduction to the author’s mind-bending concepts and themes. For seasoned fans, it’s a chance to see his vision come alive on screen, in all its bewildering, awe-inspiring glory.

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