Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Review

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?--well-known classic science fiction novel.  Made into the cult-classic film Blade Runner.  It's been on my science fiction radar for years and I finally decided that this was the year to read Philip K. Dick's post-apocalyptic story of too-realistic androids run amok and bounty hunter who is hot on their trail.  I've had a fuzzy idea of the plot line and was expecting a knock-out classic SF story.  

What I got was some pretty decent ideas, a fair plot, and some general all-over the place storytelling.  Human-like robots (too human-like)--yep, we got them.  We also have an electric sheep and other electric animals.  And Rick Deckard's obsessive need to own a real animal--either a sheep like he had or a horse or an owl or a goat.  He's not picky.  We also have his depressed wife.  And the so-called sub-human "chickenhead" J. R. Isidore and his need for friends--even if those friends are androids.  Sometimes following multiple storylines works really well for me.  This time it felt messy.

I absolutely understand what Dick was trying to do.  By having pseudo-humans and pseudo-animals, he wants us to think about what makes us human; what gives us life and makes us "real."  There is irony in the "mood organs" which make the "real" people feel the way they are supposed to feel in any given situation. Because, you know, the ultimate test of whether you're dealing with a real person or an "andy" is emotional...persons in question are given an empathy test to determine whether they are reacting emotionally as a human should.  But how valid is that if the "real" people are fed their emotions on a daily basis?   

One really extraordinary thing that this book did for me was to lead to a really interesting conversation with my son last night in the car.  He watched Blade Runner when he was in high school and when I told him I was reading the book that the film was based on we were off and running discussing differences and themes....and, man, do I wish I'd had a recording device on me.  The discussion was awesome--you're going to have to trust me on that.

Three stars for a solid science fiction read.  I was hoping to be handing out more.


Gram said...

I read this a few years ago and was also disappointed. I guess I expected to be blown away. That didn't happen.

Yvette said...

Never read this, Bev, but like you, it's been on my radar forever. But unlike you and your son, I never have been able to sit through the film.

Maybe one of these days.

kamo said...

It's been years since I read this. I don't remember being as nonplussed as you seem to have been, but I do think it was one of the first times I was knocked out of my snobbish assumption that the book is always better than the film. Still, they do say Dick is more about the ideas than the story or the prose, ideal adaptation fodder, in that respect.

Jennifer said...

I'm glad to read a review of this one by someone whose judgment I trust, because I've thought of reading it numerous times, but have never gotten around to it yet. I've seen Blade Runner (a long time ago, and it didn't really make that much of an impression), but never realized before that the two were connected. Still, if it inspired a conversation like the one you described, then I'd say reading the book certainly proved to be worth it for you.

fredamans said...

If this book was based on Blade Runner, then I should check it out. LOVED that film! Great review! Glad it led to a fab conversation with your son. Those are sometimes hard to come by. :-)

Bev Hankins said...

Jennifer & Freda: It was definitely worth it for the conversation with Kyle. And...he says he wants to read the book. That, too, is super-amazing.