Don Rea's Reviews > Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
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May 19, 08

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Read in May, 2008

Since "Blade Runner" has been one of my favorite movies my entire adult life, it's odd I never read this until now. I expected it to be pretty different from the film, but still, it's not like I don't read SF by the metric ton anyway. I think I just never happened across a copy until recently.

If you've read a lot of SF from the 60s and 70s, you'd know this was written in the late 60s by the end of the first chapter. It has the smell of that period all over it - everyone "official" in any way has two or three layers of hidden agenda and an impressive repertoire of manipulation technique, there's a whole religious/mystical dimension to the story that's never really explored, and of course everyone's speech includes invented slang (though the film's "skin jobs" has a great deal more reverberance than Dick's more believable but less colorful "andys").

And the concerns of the story are also very much of that time. Rick Deckard, the protagonist, is a bounty hunter, a de facto freelance killer of rogue androids who is de jure attached to what passes for a police department in a San Francisco depopulated by nuclear war and off-planet emigration. He inherits an assignment to "retire" a group of androids who have illegally returned to Earth from the colonies. This group were made with a new type of brain unit that makes them almost indistinguishable from born humans, except for a lack of empathy. In one view, the whole book is about empathy, what it is, whether anyone actually has it, and how it is experienced and expressed. Deckard experiences a serious crisis of conscience when he begins to question his own ability to empathize, and then his ability to avoid empathizing with the andys he must kill. That leads to his over-empathizing with, and confusing himself with, Wilbur Mercer, the possibly invented central figure of Mercerism, a quasi religion that seems to be about empathy and nothing else. Ah, the age of LSD and MDA!

Despite its obvious datedness, many of the questions considered are still interesting (and relevant). PKD handles them with genuine concern though he delivers little satisfaction, having no answers himself.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Jovana Vesper I couldn't agree more. My personal problem is that some things, better say questions, are never answered. I wish Philip explained more the creation of Mercerism and person(s) behind it. I wish he said more about Isidore and how he deserved his deliberate brain damage? At some point I even thought he was a shadow of a Mercer himself, just of course, changed into chickenhead. As well, why is it that Rick never act against Rachel after killing his goat? Is it because he feels they are even, after he kills Batys and especially, Pris. And several other questions. I guess he never meant to explain further, this book was more about asking questions, pondering on given themes, especially what is empathy and unto what extent it goes.

Chris Daniels MDA??? I heard of DMT in the sixties, but MDA? Do you have a personal experience to tell?

spikeINflorida Hey man, whatever's on the blotter or the sugar cube :] Great review!

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