Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?I can see how the movie Blade Runner was *inspired* by this book, but the stories diverge significantly. The protagonist Richard Deckard is a cop, specifically a bounty hunter tasked with searching and destroying/retiring androids (andys). The book as with the movie is set after a devastating World War Terminus that has left fallout everywhere and killed most living things. As a result those people who could, have moved off world. Population density has decreased dramatically (look to Detroit as an example) and abandoned buildings are everywhere. Animals are highly valued socially and extremely expensive. Deckard pines over replacing his fake electric sheep with a real animal. Possession of a fake animal is a deep embarrassment. Looking up catalog values and window shopping for animals is frequently brought up. Deckard eventually purchased a goat. While this was somewhat touched upon (the value of real animals) in the movie, the book spends much more time on this topic. What the movie completely cuts out is the incessant TV show Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends as well as the empathy box and Mercerism. The empathy box allows people to have a shared pseudo religious experience of Mercer and his climb from the tomb world of bones and decay up a hill to… elation? While being pelted with rocks that manifest real injuries. The empathy box doesn’t work with androids. Other omissions are the mood organ, another device that the user “dials” to invoke a specific human emotion in themselves (or others). I think this is an interesting device because it demonstrates how people can be programmed like their android counterparts. The basic plot of Deckard being tasked to retire several newly arrived androids, using the Voight-Kampff device to differentiate human from android, Rachel the Nexus-6 from the Tyrell/Rosen corporation, Pris, Roy Baty and J.R. Isidore are all there in the movie and book but they are not exactly the same kind of characters. There is scene in the book that seems like it was put there just to warp my mind, but once you sit back it seems logistically improbable/impractical and downright stupid. I’m referring to the “shadow” police station apparently populated and run by androids in  a different section of San Francisco that Deckard hadn’t even heard off. Furthermore, they hired a human bounty hunter just to add to the authenticity. What?! Retiring the androids is somewhat easier than in the movie. In the movie, Roy Baty was a force to be reckend with, but in the book, Pris, Roy and his android wife are easily dispatched. However, in the book andoids seem to be everywhere – Buster Friendly, and fake police station. Much more pervasive a threat than in the movie. PKD makes a strong point that empathy is what distinguishes man from machine. Not only with the V-K test, but also with the behaviour of the androids – they way they quickly change emotions, they way they cruelly treat animals (Rachel pushes Deckard’s goat from the roof, Pris pulls the legs off a spider). In Blade Runner there’s a hint of possibility that Deckard himself might be a replicant, but the book leaves no such possibility. Deckard loves animals – the thought of discovering a wild toad made him giddy. He used the empathy box. He fused with Mercer. Definitely human. But in the book there was another bounty hunter, the one attached to the fake police station. He seriously questioned his humanity. After discovering his boss as an android he had doubts about himself. Finally, about Rachel. Deckard has sex with her/it in the book. It’s illegal, but Deckard was curious. He was worried afterwards he’s become emotionally attached and be unable to retire Pris (an identical model). But Rachel admitted to using sex to dissuade/confuse bounty hunters. She had seduced nine other bounty hunters before Deckard. In the book, the corporation used her experiences with bounty hunters to improve their products and avoid detection with each subsequent upgrade. Apparently until she had met Deckard she didn’t even know she as an android, like the book, but given her occupation, it seems unlikely she wouldn’t have been discovered earlier.

PKD writes good characters, and the story does move along at a good pace. Parts of the story seem improbable, and don’t seem well thought out from a rational/logistical point of view. And parts are just plain trippy. Signature PKD.

(Amazon) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


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