February 13, 2013

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

I like this cover with Munch's "The Scream",
as this picture is actually described in
one of the episodes in the book.
This month we are reading and discussing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club, and I'm finally not behind the schedule. Surprise, surprise, I can be organized at times :) But the main reason I wasn't lingering is that I was willing to read this book for a long time already, even since I read Ubik and completely lived it. Philip Dick has a talent for twisting the way we look at the world he writes, to turn everything upside down (and not once) during his stories. And this is the best way to please my brain.

DADOES is set in a post-war world, where people massively migrate from Earth, driven away by the dust, which causes genetic illnesses. There are few animals left on Earth, and they are all kept as pets, which is not only a question of showing one's empathy (obligatory for everyone!), but also a status thing. Real animal is more prestigious than an electronic one, and the bigger and rarer your animal is, the better. And in this world androids are manufactured to help colonization. But, becoming more and more complex and clever, sometimes they run away from their masters and come back to Earth. They need to be "retired", but first they need to be detected by special psychological tests.

The main character is the guy who hunts and kills these androids. But this new task is different from the previous ones, because now it's a group of new generation androids who are very sophisticated and difficult to catch. They also get help from one of the "specials" - a guy, whose brain is already damaged by the dust. And of course the first android of this type that our hunter meets is a nice girl and... well, you know how this usually turns out.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. It's very atmospheric and the whole world makes sense. There is also a lot of moments when you can't guess if some character is an android or not, and I love these small riddles, they add some nice turns to the plot. However, to the end the book slides into more philosophical, religious mood, and some things are not explained - thing I can't stand in science fiction. Somehow it reminded me of the ending of Brave New World, that I reviewed earlier - there the ending was also spoiled for me with some crazy religious stuff. Don't get me wrong - I rather liked how Mercerism fit the world described in DADOES, it is clear how it works, it is clear why it appeals to people. But when the main hero meets Mercer outside the empathy box, and then gets inside the box himself by just driving outside the city... Now, this is inexplicable and completely ruins the picture.

I also watched Blade Runner immediately after I finished reading, and it really differs a lot from the book. Now I can't decide which is creepier: the book has this religious stuff, but the film has eye-squeezing and other horrible episodes. Strangely enough, I loved them both! :)


  1. I've seen Blade Runner, but haven't ever gotten to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Again, a book I've always planned on reading...but I tend to prefer softer science fiction (biomedical rather than hard-core science).

    Some day! I really will read it. :)

    1. Well, I watched Blade Runner the very same evening I wrote this, and it has NOTHING in common with the book whatsoever)) So you should really read it!)


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