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

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This like ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is another book from my University course, it is also another book that I very much enjoyed reading. First written in 1968 it became the basis for the iconic 1982 film ‘Blade Runner’ although many of the characters differ from the film in reading the book you get a different perspective on the same haunting concept – who is worthy of life. A basic outline of the plot is that the book follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, whose job is to retire (this is a nicer way of saying kill) eeirely humanoid androids. The novel is set in a heavily polluted 21st century earth where the majority of the inhabitants have fled to colonise Mars with androids as their servants. The reader never gets to hear the perspective of a new Martian human so there is always the fear that life in the stars in no better than life on a kipple infested, post-nuclear war earth, where the same television show plays 23 hours a day and the inhabitants rely on emotion inducing machines.

I first read this book back when I was studying Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ at Alevel, I saw some interesting parallel is both books between the human creators and the perceived monsters. In ‘Frankenstein’ the reader is left the wonder whether it is Victor Frankenstein’s fault that his monstrous creation turned on him and the people he loved as a result of Victor casting him out – in other words, did he become a monster because he was treated as on or was he born a monster? Furthermore the reader wonders who the real monster is, and who is to blame for the blood shed throughout ‘Frankenstein, is it Victor for creating the creature or is it the creature himself. In ‘Do Android…’ the androids and the bounty hunter exist with a similar relationship with both groups reasoning without themselves to excuse their actions. The bounty hunters see the androids as creature unable to feel true human empathy and therefore not worthy to live outside of set parameters; while the androids feel they have as much right to live as any human, and have a right to live a free life.

There is an interesting plot in the novel where Rick suspects one of his fellow bounty hunters of being an android because he feels no empathy for the ‘andys’ he retires, yet it is this same empathy that ultimately ruins Rick’s career. He stops to think about his actions, turning himself inside out in an attempt to find more and more excuses for his behaviour.

This novel is concisely written, witty and sharp. It cuts through what it means to be human by reflecting it back at us in the form of almost perfect androids. Philip K. Dick paints a bleak image of the future where technology controls everything from our social standing, to our emotions and even our right to live a free life.

Overall rating: 3/5

 

 

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