October 16, 2021

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Book Review #1 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Phillip K. Dick

About the Book

‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ is a Science Fiction novel by the famed Sci-Fi novelists Phillip K. Dick. It is a dytopian sci fi novel, set in a future San Francisco, where human’s have colonised Mars as a radioactive dust cloud has engulfed the known. Android’s from Mars have been sent to Earth, hidden amongst the humans, with only a select few knowing about their existence, and hunting them down. One man is tasked with hunting down a group of rebellious “Nexus-6” Androids and exterminating them as quickly as possible, leading to ethical and moral lines to be drawn and crossed.

About the Author

Phillip K. Dick was an American author, famous for his sci fi novels and short stories. Writing a lot about personal identity and similar themes, and what is real and what isn’t, Dick created a number of works which later were created into a variety of films and TV series. His host of alternative universes, future “what ifs” and stories of far off places in the future, have become hits like “Blade Runner”, “The Adjustment Bureau”, “Total Recall” and “Minority Report”, to name but a few.

My Review

The book sets out the world very well, but still leaves a great deal of mystery. It doesn’t say ‘this happened so it’s like this this happened blah blah blah’. It starts off with Rick Deckard, a San Francisco Bounty hunter for the police, is set the task of killing 6 Androids(Retiring, in the book, as ‘Andy’s’ aren’t considered as being a living being, so cannot be killed). In the beginning he tends to his sheep, electric, as owning an animal is seen as a moral thing to do, perhaps even to show empathy to prove one isn’t an andy. His is a robotic, or electric, sheep, as animals are almost extinct in this world and dealers charge a hefty price for a real, living organism. He also converses with his wife, telling her to hook up to a mood-altering machine to cure her depression. This harks further upon the idea of being genuine and fake in the novel, with the difference between Androids and Humans. If empathy is the only difference between the two, then if the emotions of human’s can be falsified and artificially planted, then there is no difference. It is said near the end of the book that Mercer, the messiah-like figure who brings together people through their empathy, tells Deckard (Whether real or just in his mind, that’s for you to decide) that it is wrong to kill the androids but that sometimes its right to do the wrong things, they are something that has to be done. This just adds more ambiguity to really everything in the story, which I gather is a staple of Dick’s writing.

The character of Rick Deckard, the bounty hunter sent to track down and retire 6 Nexus-6 androids in the novel, is a well written, complex and fleshed out character. Deckard’s a bounty hunter, but retains a sense of morals, and struggled with the idea of killing androids as the novel goes on. He starts out disregarding them as living beings, and that their lives mean less. We see this in the beginning where he is tending to his electric sheep. Whilst tending to it, all he dreams of is a living one, and even tries to buy a living foal whilst doing so, showing he values androids a lot less than a real, living being.

The action scenes in this book aren’t really written at all, in my opinion. Especially the ending, the killing of the androids seems to just be “Rick shot them” rather than a tense, drawn out action scene. Although, I suppose that it could be because the action wasn’t really important. It wasn’t the act of killing the androids that was the point of the book, but Deckard slowly turning more empathetic towards them, and considering them more as people. This is clear at the end of the book, where Deckard has an epiphany towards Mercer and Mercism, and thinks he is the enlightened Messiah for a time. He finds a Toad, Mercer’s more beloved animal, and takes it home, only to discover it was an android. This shows that, with his and his wife’s willingness to take care of it, that he’s learned to value the life of an Android. The act of Rachael, an Android, killing the Goat he keeps, that Deckard is actually better than an android, which further muddles up any point I am making.

Overall, this book was really good. A really easy read and well written that kept me invested, and I told literally everyone I know they should read it, even if it got annoying to them.

4/5 Would read again.