I’m now halfway through my 2016 reading challenge – I’ve read 15 of 30 books, yay! I only managed to read one book in June, but I’m really making my way through the sci-fi classics this year – it was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which inspired Blade Runner.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick ★★★★☆
I have been meaning to read Androids since doing a module on dystopian fiction in high school, but for some reason didn’t get round to it. I watched Blade Runner a few months ago which gave me a push to finally read it.
Firstly I want to get all book-film comparisons out of the way and just say that the book does differ quite radically in tone and plot from Blade Runner. The most notable difference for me when reading was…what the heck is with the characters’ obsessions with animals?!
Of course, the answer is obvious – the humans cling to their connection and ability to care for pets as a symbol of their humanity. Androids can’t look after pets, they simply don’t have the motivation or capacity. So having an animal (even one as obscure as the titular sheep, or emu) proves you’re not an android, basically. I found it pretty comical though; I think it’s because Rick Deckard is ultra-masculine, detached, unfeeling, yet pines after ownership of owls and other quite twee pets? Maybe this is because I code love of animals as childish or feminine – and to be honest that’s not very feminist of me. It just seemed bizarrely amusing when reading.
On the subject of Deckard and feminism – wow. He does not act kindly to the significant women in his life. However, I was glad to see a distinction in the book with the sex scene with Rachael – in the film it’s very uncomfortable and I viewed it as basically a rape scene. However, in the book both parties consent, and Deckard is kind of played and outsmarted by Rachael later on. Hell yeah.
(Going back to the point about Deckard and animals – he doesn’t seem to actually want to care for the pet, he just wants it as a status symbol – I think this lends itself to the ambiguous Is Deckard a Replicant conspiracy! I’m going to read up about that, because theoretically it’s quite possible… I like that Dick keeps it open though.)
Generally I really enjoyed Androids; the characterisation was good and so was the plot and pacing. I would read more of Dick’s work. I think he is great at immersing the reader in the very classic science-fiction-y world he sculpts, and in this book he did what good sci-fi needs: called up the bigger questions; about humanity, kindness, and intelligence.