Year of Publication: 2007 (originally published in 1968)
Series: Blade Runner #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy
Strong Point: The philosophical questions you make yourself while reading
Weak Point: The unnecessary characters and the many loose ends.
Books on Tour Rating: (2/5)
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.08/5)
WHAT IT SAYS IN THE BLURB
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 exactly like humans, and they didn’t want to be found!
REVIEW OF “DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?”
*This review contains spoilers!!
This review is going to be a hard one to write. “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” has a lot of fans and people consider it a classic of the science-fiction genre. You can always feel under pressure to read a book which is so beloved, so well known. Your expectations can be quite high and if, in the end, you don’t end up liking the book, you can feel as if you are missing something from the text because you are dumb not to see what others can.
With all this being said, here we go!
Philip K. Dick narrates a story placed in Earth, or what was left of it after some kind of war (World War Terminus) happened and the air was so polluted that people who breathed too much of Earth’s air and the dust falling from the sky would end up called “chicken-head”.
For this reason, humanity left the planet and lived in Mars. Only some were left behind, including the above mentioned chicken-heads, and others who couldn’t or didn’t want to leave the planet. One of them was the bounty hunter Rick Deckard.
Androids are a normal everyday object. They do the dirty job for humans and are not suppose to complain. They cannot migrate to Earth and are to remain in Mars no matter what.
Deckard works for the police department to hunt and “retire” androids which did not behave as expected. First, of course, he must be sure that the “individual” in question was really an android, for what he has to run the Voigt-Kampff test which measures the subject’s empathy and compassion. The less empathy, the more probabilities there are that the specimen is an android.
All this is necessary because the newest model of android, the Nexus-6, released by the Rosen Association, is practically impossible to physically differentiate from a “normal” human being.
CHICKEN-HEAD & ELECTRIC ANIMALS
On the other side of the story, we find John Isidore, a man who could not go to Mars due to his low IQ and that remained in Earth, breathing the poisonous dust and becoming more and more mentally ill.
He lives alone in an abandoned apartment building and works in a company who repairs electric animals. Yes, you have read well, “electric animals” because after the War, all animals started to die and most of them have already extinguished.
Because of this, the animals which do still exist are highly valuable and people can only buy them at very high prices that almost no one can afford. So, the only affordable option, is to buy an android animal. However, funnily, people behave as if these android animals are real animals and do not want the neighbours and friends to know that they are just machines! And they lie about it!
So I was speaking about Isidore and how he comes in contact with some escaped androids that Deckard has to “retire”, which escaped from Mars and came illegally to Earth. Their reason to come back here is because they want to meet their Maker, Eldon Rosen, and ask him to mend a big failure existing in their organism.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
However, everything goes south when Deckard meets Rachel, a beautiful woman who later turns out to be an android. He falls in love with her and they have sex (which it seems is against the law!).
From this moment, Rick starts to feel as if his set of principles and his way of thinking totally changed. Before, he had wondered why he could not feel any empathy at all for the androids he had eliminated. He also reflected about if this lack of empathy makes him an android too (a feeling that I sometimes had too during my reading of “Do Androids Dream”).
And now, to make matters worst, he is in love with one of them, which makes Rick even more depressed and moody, as he thinks he is not going to be able to continue with his job of retiring androids.
MERCERISM IN “DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?”
A completely odd concept that K. Dick introduces in the book is the concept of Mercerism. For what I could understand, Mercerism is a kind of religion in which men, by means of a special machine, the “Empathy Box”, can “merge” with other people around the world, in a sort of “physical merging -accompanied by mental and spiritual identification” with the leader of this religion, the Christ-like Wilbur Mercer.
In this “merging” process, people can “feel” different emotions like sadness, pain, but also hope and happiness. I must confess it is perhaps the part of the book I have not fully understand. Because, although it is a type of religion, it functions more like a cult…which brings me to the question of if this is really the purpose of the author, to imply that all religions are in the end cults…
Another question emerges: Why humans, if they are humans, need a machine like the “Empathy Box” or to merge with other people around the world to feel empathy? Are we then not so far away from the non-empathic androids?
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT “DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?”
Unlike other science-fiction books I have read, with this one I haven’t been entirely immersed in this post-apocalyptic world K. Dick had created.
Furthermore, there are many inconsistencies and loose ends that the author does never fully explain.
What about the weird character of Buster Friendly? He is a TV celebrity who seems to profoundly dislike Mercer. But apart from this and what he disclosures about Mercer in his TV programme, I don’t exactly know why he is given so much notoriety.
What about the strange concept of the “Mood Organ”? The author does not explain why humans need this machine in order to manipulate their moods. Is it in the end a substitution for drugs? Do they suffer from this as a post-War side effect?
What happened in the end with Mercerism after Buster Friendly exposed it? Did it continue existing or not? Is Mercer a real person or is he an android?
As I continue reading, the way K. Dick describes events, it seems that nothing is ever happening. You read the words, scenes come and go, but a stillness and oppressing feeling is floating in every single page of the book. I experienced something quite similar when I watched the movie loosely based on this book called “Blade Runner”…
To sump up, the book raises some questions in me: Is the ability to feel empathy only human? Do all humans feel empathy? If not, should they be considered as less than humans? Is religious really important? Are all religions just fake and a fraud?
Those are all very interesting questions so I am thankful to this book for having made me reflect on them. But, that is all there is. I don’t think it is a masterpiece.