Off the Shelf
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
By Marcus Pan
A friend gave me this book to check out. Admittedly, the title
seems a bit surreal, but after noticing two main items of interest I decided to
take his advice and give it a read. The first was that it was written by Philip
K. Dick - a science fiction author who's name I have heard tossed around for
some time even among such company as Bradbury, Asimov, Orwell etc. And even
Oddlystrange mentions him in her piece Required
Goth Reading (Legends #82) and states
that it is a must to read works by Philip K. Dick to aspire to become a
"Net.Goth/Industrial." Well, that's me. So what the hell. The second item was
at the top of the cover was emblazoned "The Inspiration for Blade
Runner." I don't know about you, but Blade Runner? THE Blade
Runner? Well, hell, it's a keeper. So I delved in expecting morbid
neo-industrial settings, awesome futuristic fight scenes and without having the
least bit of a clue where the electric sheep fit in and who would want an
electric sheep anyway? Do you mean an electronic animal or was this some
made-up futuristic slang for some other object?
It wasn't slang. Nor is it the "book of Blade Runner"
either. But I did quite enjoy it. While I went in with precepts concerning the
aforementioned imagery, I was instead given a rather good science-fiction book
that touched upon religious and theological subjects - and the Big Brother scam
of the millennium. While the book is, again, not Blade Runner, you have
to look at the cover again. Notice the word "inspiration," as in the idea that
it isn't the book, but instead might have caused a spark that developed into
the great industrial classic we now call Blade Runner. That I can see.
Entered are we into a post-apocalyptic world (if I had a
dime for every time I had to say or write that). Following the end of World
War Terminus as they call it, the fall-out as expected ravaged the
landscape. Animals and people died and entire species have become extinct.
Suddenly it's not cars or huge houses that are considered elite in what's left
of Earth's population, but instead owning a true animal. Seriously - just
owning a cat grants you social standing. (I have three of them - it ain't that
big a deal
regardless of the fact that mine would beat the fluff out of
yours.) Animals are that scarce that buying an ostrich is tantamount to
entering a car-leasing deal in this age. So electric counterparts - animals
that are fake - have become commonplace and people will use them to raise their
status in society. Just don't tell anyone that when it moos it's recorded and
We wake up with Rick Dekard, a bounty hunter for the local
police department. Only he doesn't hunt criminals - that's police work. He
hunts androids. And really this isn't as easy as it sounds, as androids have
become so sophisticated there is only one way to tell them apart from an actual
human and that is using empathy - feelings. Feelings of these type have always
been what most die-hard theologians point to as whether or not something has
sentience. And, not accidentally, it is also the kind of thing that die-hard
spiritualists use as well to define what does and doesn't have a soul. (As near
as I can tell, I don't seem to by those guidelines. Guess I won't be at your
parties in the next world [sigh].)
Expect to have your ideas of sentience shaken here, as is
Rick Dekard's, as you spend the couple days with him looking for the latest
pack of escaped androids. I'm not going to reveal any more about the story,
such as the Big Brother scam as that's a main climax, but I think I've laid
enough groundwork about it thus far for all of you to determine if it's "your
thang." Philip touches upon the theological and philosophical issues without
dropping like a stone too far into its depths - kind of like watching just the
waves on the surface of Lake Theology after tossing in a pebble or two. It
reads fluidly and is somewhat short, so you should get through it rather
If you have a passing interest in exploring sentience, but
don't want to get mired in it, then this is a story you'll enjoy. While the
characters and people you'll meet aren't particularly memorable, it's their
shaken ideals that is the focal point of the story and not the people
themselves. It's the socio-control exerted over a thinning populace, the
question of whether or not a computer-brain can learn enough to be "alive" and
the shaken mind of a bounty hunter who once thought he was doing the right
thing, but now isn't so sure. That's where the story is.
"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K.
Published by Ballantine Books
Copyright © 1968 by Philip K.
Click to Buy!