Written By Jack Garner
“He seated himself beside her, bent over her, and explained softly. ‘If you set the surge up high enough, you’ll be glad you’re awake; that’s the whole point. At setting C it overcomes the threshold barring consciousness, as it does for me.”
I would not me moved by such to suitably call it a shame, rather Ridley Scott’s cult essential Blade Runner discredits Dick’s story in several ways. Do not grab the wrong end of the hypothetical stick with vehemence here, I adore Blade Runner. Let’s be as candid as possible, which dystopian sci-fi aficionado doesn’t like that particular film. Despite this, as the typical debate between ‘the book and the film goes’, I think Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep does, in this instance, go a little further. So, hear me out. The film industry has a duty to display a visually pleasing story, packed with scenes of pure excitement, which are in turn accompanied by the various characters that populate then. The difference between Dick’s novel and Scott’s adaptation for the big screen is obvious, and that fact is palpable by merely observing the title. Compare each with a little more tact and we see a strikingly different approach in regards to the portrayal of protagonist Rick Deckard’s story. More than any other science fiction writer I have encountered, personally, Philip K. Dick engages the reader with more than an exciting visual environment we can look at, and achieves much more through original textual practices.
“Roy Baty snarled, ‘There’s a bounty hunter in the building! Get all the lights off. Get him away from that empathy box: he has to be ready at the door. Go on – move him!’”
He writes in a way which really opens up the raw emotion, personality and passion of each character to the reader on an individual basis which leads us to believe we genuinely care for their well-being. This is substantially more feeling than one can muster up when observing a few hours of special effects. It is unusual in any form of literature to find yourself becoming enthusiastically committed to an authentic sense of care for any fictional character. Dick creates novels in a way which remains thoroughly entertaining, but develops them past the point of showmanship, and into the arena of human compassion. We learn to deeply connect with his characters. Despite this in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep we are often befuddled between which characters are human and which are androids. This proves the point he was trying to convey. In a nut shell, give a robot consciousness; can we genuinely care for their wellbeing? As I was explaining, the connection the reader is able to make to the characters in the novel, whether they are human or otherwise, is creepy as we prove to ourselves it is possible to care for that which isn’t directly human.
“Suddenly for the first time in his life, he had begun to wonder.”
Despite my praise of the novel, the overall plot of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is by no means spectacular. It is the ‘down to earth’ connection we make with the characters and their philosophical dialogue that makes it an epic. Compared to other sci-fi extravaganzas, Dick’s plot thickens, but is still easily sucked through a straw, so to speak. It is the substance which makes the taste brilliant. The narrative follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he tracks down several androids in order to ‘retire them’. As probably guessed, he doesn’t want to put them in an old folk’s home to then reluctantly visit at Christmas, but rather he aspires to permanently put them down. He works for what can be considered the police force, in an attempt to find androids that have developed the unfathomable human condition of consciousness. The majority of planet earth have packed-up and moved to the further reaches of space, leaving a desolate and dusty ball of rock behind. It is Rick’s job to keep that ball as clean as possible. If you are into the electronic animal business, interested in hooking yourself up to an empathy box or mood organ, or perhaps just want to be escorted from one dive to another via hover vehicle; this is the book for you. Sure, all that stuff sounds stereotypically cheesy, but as I have stressed time and again, you will not find such authenticity of care for any androids outside of this novel.
“He would earn the bounty money. Every cent. Assuming he made it through alive.”