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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by…

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (original 1968; edition 1996)

by Philip K. Dick

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12,057316214 (3.96)2 / 543
Title:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Authors:Philip K. Dick
Info:Del Rey (1996), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)

1960s (238)

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English (298)  French (5)  Spanish (4)  Italian (2)  Polish (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Romanian (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (314)
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
This is my first time reading anything by Philip K. Dick, a classic Science Fiction author. Being an observant person, I deduced from the title that the book would probably be about androids. However, aside from that, I didn’t have any idea what to expect. I know the movie Blade Runner is based on this book, but I’ve never seen it.

I was pleasantly surprised, at least in terms of the story’s entertainment value. It’s a post-apocalyptic story set on Earth. The main character, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter whose job is to destroy rogue androids who have escaped and possibly killed their owners. The androids look and act very much like humans and are difficult to detect. Learning who was and wasn't an android was one of the more interesting aspects of the story, and I also liked the parts that discussed how to prove an android was really an android and what made them different from humans.

The story held my attention well and there was a section around the middle where I was especially riveted. The story got a little twisty and I wasn’t really sure what was what for a while. Where it fell apart for me was toward the end. It got a little weird, with strange occurrences that were really just left up to the reader to try to interpret and make sense out of, and I felt like some things weren’t satisfactorily explained by the end. At only 250 pages, this book could have used several more pages to fully explore and flesh out the many ideas and plot elements it introduced.

I usually know what rating I’m going to give a book from the moment I finish it, if not sooner. With this book, I had a lot more trouble deciding. I enjoyed most of it at a four-star level, with a brief rise to the five-star level around the middle. The ending, however, was three-star at the best. An ending carries a lot of weight with me because it retroactively affects how I see the rest of the book, as well as how I remember it. I think I’m going to give this book 3.5 stars, but round up to 4 stars on Goodreads.

I have a bunch of additional comments that would spoil the story for anybody who isn’t familiar with it, so the rest of what I have to say will be in spoiler tags. It’s a bit long, sorry. This is one of those cases where I thought I only had a couple things to say and then I ended up writing a book.

The main thing I disliked about the ending was all the Mercer stuff. It just didn’t seem to have any logical explanation. We learn, not surprisingly, that Mercer was a fraud. Then, shortly after that, we have two very different characters at separate times and places believe they’re having a personal experience with Mercer. Given that we know he’s a fraud, I find it unlikely that these were real experiences. I find it more believable that these characters, given what they had recently been through, each had a mental breakdown and imagined what they experienced. On the other hand, two people having a similar type of breakdown with a similar type of experience within such a short time span? That doesn’t seem realistic. Maybe the author was trying to say that people’s belief in Mercer gave the religion a life of its own, which kind of fits with the way people would get wounded by imaginary rocks when using the empathy machine. That still seems kind of "out there", though.

It seemed like there was something going on with Dave Holden, Deckard’s fellow bounty-holder. Deckard never did manage to talk to him, always getting the brush-off when he tried but without any solid explanations. I can think of several speculative explanations, but I wanted a real answer or at least some sort of closure. The author kept bringing it up, after all.

I wanted to know more about what life was really like for the people who had emigrated. There were hints that all wasn’t as it seemed, but it was difficult to trust any of the people who gave us glimpses into life on the other planets because everybody had their own agenda and the reports were contradictory.

I expected the androids to be the sympathetic characters in this story, as has often been my experience with stories featuring androids. I didn’t find that to be much the case here. Admittedly the humans weren’t very sympathetic characters either, but that doesn’t make the androids any less awful. Sometimes they acted in sympathetic ways but then, as the story progressed, we’d see that they had actually just been manipulating the humans they were interacting with the whole time. Pris was horrible to Isidore, calling him names and treating him like a mindless servant. The scene where she cut off the spider’s legs one-by-one was just disturbing. Heck, I think the spider (and the cat!) were the most sympathetic “characters” in the whole book.

Rachael was full of contradictions. After Deckard tests her, he’s told she didn’t know she was an android. Later on in the story, however, it becomes clear that she probably did know because she refers to events that only would have made sense if she knew she was an android, that had to have taken place prior to her meeting Deckard. I guess it’s possible her memory had been wiped and then was restored immediately after Deckard exposed her, but it would had to have happened fast because I think it was less than a full day between the two times he met her. Also, why did she kill Deckard’s goat? If she were a human, we could easily explain it away as revenge, but we’re repeatedly told and shown the androids don’t have empathy, not even for their fellow androids. What did it accomplish? There had to have been a specific objective, especially if the company she works for really values living animals as they claim. On the other hand, the animals at their offices might all have been fake like the owl, so who knows if they really did care about real animals or not. Maybe she was trying to break him to ensure he would give up bounty hunting, since having sex with him didn't seem to work out the way she'd hoped.

There were just so, so many minor plot threads left up in the air. They were interesting threads too, which is why I wish they’d been developed better. On the one hand, I enjoy a book that makes me think. I don’t necessarily need every little thing spelled out for me throughout the story, but I do like to feel like it all comes together into a pretty clear picture by the time I get to the end. It felt like the book needed to be twice as long to sufficiently develop all the plot threads the author wanted to include.
( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Sep 30, 2016 |
Wow. I read through this novella twice, and after the second time I was all set to start at the beginning all over again. I think it's marvelous. The more I read the book, the more nuance I found.

Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who 'retires' androids who have escaped the human colony on Mars and travelled to Earth, an earth rendered a wasteland by a terminal world war. The radioactive dust that has contaminated all has not yet affected him biologically, but others who are so contaminated are considered unfit for migration, or much of anything else. Rick and his wife and others are sustained by self-selected electrical mood manipulation and an religion that acknowledges the hopelessness of life but provides a massive and supportive circuit of empathy. Androids, however, are missing the ability to empathize, even with each other, and this lack allows detection.

At first I was amused by the mix of futuristic predictions and seeming anachronisms - yes to self-programmed mood machines but also coin-operated wired telephones. But that unevenness in imagination is after all unimportant. More to the point, what is the value of a 'natural' person? How well-engineered does an android have to be before it's indistinguishable from a natural person? Will it someday be possible to engineer an android with all the emotional accoutrements of a human - what then?

Could there be a religion that would support a population witnessing the slow ending of the world? What would it be?

Who has the right to survive after world-wide self-destruction? What would we value in such a devastated world?

And of course, the analagous questions are about our own times: What constitutes a valuable person (especially in 1968, when this was published, and now, alas - do black lives matter)? What is the value of the living world? To what purpose are the various religions we honor, and how real are they, and how real do they have to be to be of value? How pure can our actions be, or are we as imperfect as the androids?

Written in the 60s, there are more than discreet echoes of questions of race, the impact of slavery, ecological danger, religion as opiate, opiate as opiate, denial versus reality, love and despair.

The story is so intense and visual it cries out for a movie treatment, which of course is the film 'Blade Runner' - with many changes. Read the book. ( )
  ffortsa | Jul 31, 2016 |
A very dark book, and difficult for me to read with all of the animal extinctions that are worse than what we're living through now.

I saw the movie once decades ago so I could not say for certain where there are or are not similarities between the two. I was glad to read it and have an opinion on it on its own merits.

Again, it presents a dystopian future, one full of dust and electronic animals and robots trying to be people, and the adventures of a bounty hunter who must kill them. His thoughts and experiences form the bulk of the action and the action moves along at a good pace. And his thoughts are not full of the Mercerisms" that are the futuristic Bachelorette and The Voice, with a twist of physical joining to the prophet.

Definitely a must-read for the classic sci-fi context." ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
This book feels unfinished, it does seem like classic material, but I'm not sure Dick even ever had an answer to the questions he posed. Does he agree with Mercer? Eventually we will have to go against ourselves, do something 'wrong'? And what does this say about us? The simpler message delivered, those without empathy we cannot allow ourselves to empathise with, but does that mean we shouldn't? I would also like to know why Mars is 'no place to raise the kids, in fact it's cold as hell*.' That was lacking, as was a final mediation after Iran calls the electrical upkeep company about the toad. It feels powerful, but aside from raising a lot of questions about the nature of humanity... it seems to fall short.

*lyrics un-abashedly taken from Elton John's Rocket Man ( )
  knotbox | Jun 9, 2016 |
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is Philip K. Dick's most famous work, partly because it is one of his most accessible but mostly because of its association with the 1982 film Blade Runner, which was based on the novel. It covers that most Dickian of themes: whether something is true or false, real or fake. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who 'retires' escaped androids (they're called 'replicants' in the film) and comes to harbour existential doubts about his approach. The bounty hunters are compelled to deploy increasingly fine-tuned tests to identify androids; the very fact that they need such precise tests suggests that there's only a hair's-breadth of difference between human and android anyway. Deckard notices, amongst other things, that many androids have "more vitality and desire to live than my wife" (pg. 82) and that many seem to have hopes and aspirations. In a post-apocalyptic world where real animals have become status symbols, and all-but-indistinguishable android animals are seen as a shortcut, does the android behaviour that Deckard witnesses mean they have a soul? Hence the searching title.

Dick reinforces this central message with clever allusions to the artificiality of life in the future: characters talk about how the "basic condition of life [is] to be required to violate your own identity" and nature (pp 155, 201) – are we sure this is the future and not the compromises we face in the present day? When an android states "We are machines… It's an illusion that I – I personally – really exist; I'm just a representative of a type" (pg. 164), she could easily be a human talking about the angst and pressure to conform in modern society, and how we are shaped by the circumstances and limitations we live with. Right from the first page of Dick's novel, humans regularly take artificial mood stimulants, and by page 23 we learn that people have organic plastic body parts made for them when they're injured. It's the old philosophical question of the old broom that's been through three new brushes and two new handles. Forget whether androids dream of electric sheep, are humans even truly human anymore? This, surely, is the germination of the theory that Deckard may himself be an android.

It's all fascinating to ponder, and you may be wondering why with such heady ideas whizzing about I'm not gushing with praise for the novel. Aside from his forgivable counter-culture quirks (words like 'thalamic' and 'cephalic emanations' abound in otherwise ordinary conversations) and the odd stuff about some transcendental alien guru named Mercer that I still don't really understand, my reticence about Dick comes from the fact that he doesn't do a great job of leading you in the right direction. He requires his readers to think for themselves, and whilst this is fine – no intelligent reader likes to be spoon-fed – the absence of any guiding light from the author means you only truly appreciate his books' themes when you've finished them and taken a step back, rather than when you're in the active process of reading them. Some of the potential power of the book is, consequently, lost. Even the idea that Deckard may himself be an android – a fascinating twist that deserves to be exploited – is only hinted at once or twice in the novel, whereas we get pages of guff about 'Mercerism'.

Dick's novels are like a Meccano set: he provides the material but the reader has to work hard to piece it together. This, paradoxically, can be one of the joys of reading Dick, for one reader may end up with a construction and an interpretation far different from that of another. It perhaps explains why Dick's stories have been mined so thoroughly by Hollywood: he provides the raw material and film-makers can distil it through their own medium without being accused of distorting it. But, with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it did mean that I'd already been exposed to a powerful interpretation of the story in the film Blade Runner. This made the themes of the novel much clearer through the lens of the cinema and it is strange to recognise that much of Dick's reputation rests on the popularity of film adaptations of his works than the works themselves. Nevertheless, for all their acquired taste, Dick's books contain ideas which firmly establish him as one of science fiction's most original minds. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dick, Philip K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dougoud, JacquelineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duranti, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michniewicz, SueCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sleight, GrahamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Struzen, DrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wölfl, NorbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zelazny, RogerIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And still I dream he treads the lawn,
walking ghostly in the dew,
pierced by my glad singing through.
~ Yeats
To Tim and Serena Powers, my dearest friends
To Maren Augusta Bergrud
August 10, 1923 - June 14, 1967
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A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
It was January 2021, and Rick Deckard had a license 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!
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345404475, Paperback)

"The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world."
--John Brunner


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time.

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.

Emigrées to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in.

Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.

"[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from."
--Paul Williams, Rolling Stone

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:14 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

THE INSPIRATION FOR BLADERUNNER. . . Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time. By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans. Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 13 descriptions

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