Title/Author: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Publisher/Year: Random House, 1968
Where I got it: Every year, my university has the incoming freshmen read a book. Last year, I had to read The Grapes of Wrath, and this year the freshmen had to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? My parents are alumni, and for some reason the university sends alumni free copies of the books, as they do with the freshmen. So I got this from my parents’ house.
Why I read it: It sounded like something I’d like. Well, really, I just liked the title.
World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't ‘retiring’ them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal -- the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were never that simple, and his assignment quickly turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit -- and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted...
I have to admit: I haven’t actually seen the movie Blade Runner, which was based on Dick’s novel. From what I’ve heard, though, Blade Runner is quite the action/thriller. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, though centering around Rick Deckard’s search for and elimination of Nexus-6 androids, is much more about perception, introspection, and the emotional reasons behind humanity. While these traits might not have led to quite as good of a movie, I think that the emotional challenges faced by the bounty hunter Deckard and the “special,” or “chickenhead” J.R. Isidore are what have allowed this novel to stand the test of time.
While the Goodreads summary above doesn’t even mention Isidore, a good portion of the novel centers around him and his struggles as someone deemed too unintelligent to leave Earth. These were the portions of the novel I found the most fascinating. One of the novel’s main themes is the difference between androids and humans, namely the android’s lack of empathetic abilities. While Deckard is supposedly the “normal” human, in comparison to Isidore he could nearly be classified as an android. Isidore has such an interesting way of thinking and responding, and is much more poetic and real than the often petty Rick Deckard, and consequently I loved reading about his thoughts and feelings.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a short novel and a very quick read, but I think that Dick fit in as much character development as possible in such a small space. I loved that the novel is filled with juxtapositions of the emotions and perceptions of Deckard, Isidore, and the androids. While there are, of course, parts of the plot that could have been developed further, such as the nature of the androids (and specifically one android), I still found this to be a great novel, and one that bridges the gap between science fiction and literary fiction.