Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) by Philip K. Dick
Read by Scott Brick
Length: 9 Hrs 12 Min
Genre: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is an effective book deftly capturing many of Philip K. Dick’s themes, and taking the reader on an unsettling futuristic ride. Dick asks the ultimate question inherent in science fiction, what does it mean to be truly human, yet the answers are never clear or comfortable. Fans of the Blade Runner movie will find some similarities with the book, but a different experience overall.
I watched the movie Blade Runner back in my high school days and I remember that I was blown away by it. Yet, that’s the crux of the problem, I remember more the feeling of awe then the actual movie. There are some great movies that stick with you forever, that you can vividly recall scenes, moments, lines and little intricacies years after viewing. Yet, for me, Blade Runner wasn’t one of those movies. I have nothing but a vague remembrance of Daryl Hannah, Indiana Jones and the skinjobs. Oh, and flying cars, I sort of remember that to. Of course, Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 futuristic novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I have read a bunch of Dick’s novels over the years, but nowhere near all of them. I have some I’ve loved, like Dr. Bloodmoney, and quite a few that I have had mixed feeling about. Books and movies have quite a weird relationship. I really struggle to think of any movie I loved more than the book, although there have been a few that we pretty on par. When a movie is coming out that is based on a popular novel, I will often go and track down the novel to read it, yet, if I have already seen a movie based on a novel, I rarely seek out the book. It’s weird since I tend to like books more, but typically I enjoy books most going into them fresh. Since I saw Blade Runner, I had never read or listened to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, until now.
For a book written in 1968, I found Dick’s vision of a post "World War Terminus" earth to be pretty fresh. Earth has been ravaged by radioactive dust from the war, and healthy childbearing people are encouraged to emigrate to one of Earth’s colony planets for the good of humanities genetic future. As enticement people are offered a free android upon emigration. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the story of a bounty hunter named Rick Decker, whose job it is to hunt down rogue Androids who escape from the colonies to Earth. Rick takes a businessman like approached to his job, which he dials into his mood organ every morning. Yet, what Decker really wants is a real animal, now a rare, expensive commodity on Earth, to replace his electric sheep. One of my favorite moments of the book is the opening scene between Decker and his wife arguing about the moods they will dial into that morning. It is full of some of Dick’s signature dark humor which is sadly missing from the rest of the novel. Yet, many of the classic Dickian elements are there. The dystopian setting, a strange new religion called Mercerism, and seemingly game changing moments that really aren’t what they seem. One of my favorite classic Dick themes is brought to life in the character of J. R. Isidore. Isidore is a "special," a human who has been rendered less intelligent due to the radioactive dust and branded with the derogative term "chicken head.". Yet, of all the characters, Isidore’s inner dialogue is the most complex, bordering on philosophically poetic. Dick has often uses characters with disabilities in this way, presenting them as more than they actually are on the surface. The overriding theme of Do Androids Dream… is empathy. I found his use of empathy both as a theme and as an actual plot device interesting. I also was unprepared for the range of feelings you had for the plight of the androids. Dick never allows you to get comfortable in your feelings for them, pushing you into a range of emotions from sympathy to anger. This pays off well in one scene in the end of the book involving the androids and a spider. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is an effective book deftly capturing many of Philip K. Dick’s themes, and taking the reader on an unsettling futuristic ride. Dick asks the ultimate question inherent in science fiction, what does it mean to be truly human, yet the answers are never clear or comfortable. Fans of the Blade Runner movie will find some similarities with the book, but a different experience overall.
Scott Brisk is a prolific audiobook narrator whose signature style of narration has won many fans, and quite of few detractors. With the right book, Scott Brick can elevate the text, adding levels not noticed by simple reading. His reading of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is deliberate and mesmerizing. He often chops long sentences off with poignant pauses that some listeners may find annoying. Personally, I found his reading style to fit with the hazy atmosphere that Dick creates in this novel. He gives the action an almost dreamy quality that hits the mark like a stone to Mercer’s head. If you’re the type of listener that wants a narrator to simply read, you may have issues with Brick’s reading, but if you are like me, looking for a reader with an understanding of the text who tailors his reading to that understanding, you will enjoy Brick’s mesmerizing style.
This review is part of Curiosity Kills the Bookworm’s 2012 Science Fiction Challenge’s February read along.
This review will also be included in Presenting Lenore’s Dystopian February.