My very first PKD. A rite of passage, perhaps? That was really… weird, but interesting.
About the Book
Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: science fiction, dystopia
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
“By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force.“
The most accurate word I can think of to describe this book is… desolate.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in a post-apocalyptic society in the aftermath of a nuclear war (as many such stories do). Humans have also managed to colonize Mars. And it’s 2021. Which was kind of jarring to read.
The only people left on the irradiated Earth are really old people and “specials” who aren’t allowed to leave because they have brain damage from the radiation. Everyone else is encouraged to leave (nice government slogan: “emigrate or degenerate!”)
Humanity has also managed to get really good at AI, which leads to the book’s main plot. In this world, there are humanoid robots (the eponymous androids) that are so lifelike that they are indistinguishable from regular humans except in that they don’t have the capacity for empathy.
They are used on Mars basically for slave labor, and sometimes they escape and come to Earth, where they must be terminated so they don’t mess things up.
The first main character, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter tasked with tracking down six escaped androids and killing them, so he can get money to buy a real animal to replace his robot sheep because for some strange reason, an fake animal isn’t enough for them.
He thought… about his need for a real animal; within him an actual hatred once more manifested itself toward his electric sheep, which he had to tend, had to care about, as if it lived. The tyranny of an object, he thought. It doesn’t know I exist. Like the androids, it had no ability to appreciate the existence of another.
Anyway, he has to locate the androids, administer a test that detects whether they are human or android by measuring empathy on a certain threshold, and then laser them.
Easy, right? Wrong. Because they look just like humans and act just like humans. And they also don’t want to get lasered. Which leads to some very awkward questions about what separates humans from androids, and who is an android and who is not, and who has fake memories and who is an actual person, and who has empathy for whom, and why any of this matters, and why we shouldn’t all just have electric sheep because it’s the same thing right?
It’s a really intriguing examination of what separates humanity from androids, what separates androids from animals, what is the value of authentic life, and other such questions. I was… pretty depressed when I finished the book, but overall it was pretty good.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of it as I was reading, but analyzing it afterward elevated my opinion (as it so often does)
Overall, this was a really interesting classic sci-fi book that I am glad I can finally say I have read. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in reading all the sci-fi classics canon.
Have you read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick? Any other good science fiction books? Let me know in the comments!
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