Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (4/5)

The back says: It was January 2021, and Rick Deckard had a licence to kill.

Somewhere among the hordes of humans out there, lurked several rogue androids. Deckard’s assignment – find them and then... “retire” them.

Trouble was, the androids all looked and acted exactly like humans, and they didn’t want to be found.

I say: Prior to reading this I have always thought that the title referred to counting sheep; as they tell people to do if they can’t fall asleep. Don’t ask me why, nobody knows why my mind works the way it does.

Having admitted that ridiculous folly, I will follow up by saying that I really liked this novel. It had all the makings of the type of novel I normally shy away from, but since I’ve read great reviews by bloggers who I’ve learned to “trust”, I just had to give it a go.

So, Rick is hired to retire, i.e. kill, androids, a job that he doesn’t particularly like but does mostly because of the huge bounty. He wants to own a real animal, which have become scarce and ridiculously expensive since “the war,” so he sticks with it. However, while hunting the latest model of androids he realises that he has somehow come to empathise with them, making his job a lot more difficult.

Dun dun dun duuuun...

I liked the plot well enough; it’s been done before and was presented in an exhilarating way here, but wasn’t really what made me want to continue reading. Strangely enough I wasn’t so interested in whether or not Rick would find and retire these androids, but more the small subplots that kept popping up; like whether or not Phil Resch was an android, what was going on with John R Isidore, would Rick ever get his sheep, and what was the deal with Mercer and the empathy box?

How come they bled from the rocks?

As much as I liked the empathy box; a thingy (yes, that’s the technical term) that allowed you to connect with other people connected and share your emotions while talking to Mercer, some form of prophet-type person, and climbing a hill where rocks were thrown at you, I did think that the whole connecting with others and sharing their pain and joy was laying it on a tad too thick. Yes, there was a war that left the earth a desolate place (healthy people emigrated to Mars, I think) and if you were alone this may be your only connection to other living entities, but even so.

One of the ways that Rick tested androids was to measure their reaction to certain situations that would make humans uncomfortable; such as witnessing animals being harmed. In this post-war world, all humans supposedly react emotionally when hearing/imagining these things, and it felt quite heartening that they lived in such a world – unlike certain humans of our present age. And not just that, as much as we were supposed to pity those unable to leave earth, I still liked the way they lived. Yes, there was dust everywhere, buildings were crumbling, no animal life to really speak of, but I never got that defeated dystopian feeling.

Also, whenever they felt down they had a moon stimulator that allowed them to set their own moods.

Can someone invent that now, please?

So yeah, as much as I enjoyed it I’m not the least bit interested in seeing Blade Runner. What I am interested in is reading more works by PKD.

*This is my twenty-fourth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).


  1. I love PKD. He's probably my favorite sci fi writer!

    1. I've only just discovered him and am slowly falling in love with him. The way his mind worked is amazing; where did he come up with all this stuff. I'd like to have lived inside of it for a day - his mind and Stephen King's. Scary places.

  2. I just skimmed over your review because I didn't want to know much about this book as I'll be reading it next month for my novella challenge. I also thought it referred to counting sheep...as in androids being similar to humans, and so if they want to fall asleep, they count electric sheep (whatever those are) as opposed to regular sheep. The only other thing I knew was that Blade Runner was based on this book. I can't wait to read it and hopefully discover some more by PKD as I've heard he's a genius.

    I'm glad you liked it as you're one of those trusted bloggers for me. Case in point, I just got The Day of the Triffids at the library and can't wait to start reading it! :)

    1. Yay for PKD - I'm only just getting into him and loving him so far (2 books in). I'll make sure I pop by for your review - I'm looking forward to see how that challenge goes.

      Also, yay for The Day of the Triffids - I hope you like it. I always get a bit nervous when I recommend books, but I can't see how anyone would not like it.