DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by PHILIP K. DICK (1968, Gollancz/Orion Books Ltd., Paperback, 214pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Through the mean streets of a grim 21st century megalopolis, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, searching out the renegade andys who were his prey. But this assignment involved Nexus-6 targets and as a result Deckard quickly found himself involved in a nightmare kaleidoscope of violence and subterfuge – and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted…
I saw BLADE RUNNER on its first release, when it sank without a trace and I was one of those who was enthralled by the nightmare world it presented and championed the movie. The film has been re-edited and re-appraised since and is now regarded as an SF masterpiece. The book it is based on is a 1968 pulp novel by Philip K. Dick curiously entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Many of the elements of the book found their way into Ridley Scott’s film, but just as many were jettisoned. Dick’s novel is a mix of themes of spirituality and technophobia. Scott’s movie focused on the latter, ignoring the references to Mercerism (a kind og mystic religion) and keeping animals as pets to replace the fact no-one can have children. As a result the mix adopted in Dick’s novel gives the book a different feel to the movie. Here Deckard is in an unhappy marriage where mood machines are used to control people’s emotions. Deckard is a loner and a bounty hunter who starts to question his actions, as he seeks and “retires” six escaped Nexus-6 androids. He even has a dalliance with a female android, Rachael Rosen, whose creator is responsible for the Nexus-6 programme.
The emphasis of the book is on the contradictions of a post-nuclear life and the compromises made. It taps into an age of paranoia and is a thoughtful book that is thankfully not steeped in the cod-literacy that often dogs the genre. It is a quick read and recommended to anyone who wishes to explore Dick’s vision further.