What makes a human a human? What separates us from nature, from artifice, even from each other? Are some non-human entities just as human as we are?
These are all very compelling questions, all posed by author Philip K. Dick in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Serving as the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s 1982 blockbuster Bladerunner, Dick’s book follows Rick Deckard, a San Franciso bounty hunter working to eliminate a new model of android, one that is more humanlike than any previous.
Besides Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, this was really my first endevour into the world of science fiction. I must say, it was quite an introduction.
First thing I’d like to say; this book is one the most thought provoking novels I’ve ever read. It’s more than a science-fiction story. It’s an examination of what it means to be human, to be a living being with thoughts (and perhaps more importantly) feelings. It’s about the beliefs that survive and the beliefs that are destroyed in the midst of change.
The themes and ideas explored in this book are excellent. As alluded to before, this one really makes the reader think. It challenges you to put yourself in Rick’s situation and wonder about what you yourself would do. Perhaps the same thing, perhaps something different. Only you (the reader) can decide.
My main criticism of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is its length. At only two hundred and ten pages, it’s not very long at all, and reads more like a novella than a novel. I would’ve liked to see just a little more, maybe a few other viewpoints, just to see the world from a few more angles. The rules are certainly established, but I feel that they could be fleshed out even more.
I also feel that the character J.R. Isidore is underused. He is quite compelling, and yet he has very little effect on the plot and really doesn’t get all that much attention. Isidore is a symbol of the destruction caused by “World War Terminus,” and yet he’s barely in the book at all. A small detail, really, but nonetheless, one that deserves attention.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an excellent piece of science fiction. A fascinating premise combined with interesting themes make for an excellent read.