Friday, March 22, 2013

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
Philip K Dick

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey.
When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward.
But in Deckard's world things were never that simple and his assignment quickly turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit - and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted.



Rosy's scrawlings on Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
I don't believe I've ever seen the movie Blade Runner but my memory of some of the movies I watched years upon years ago is nowhere near as good as that of the books I read. It is probably safe to say though, that I haven't, except for the famous scene of the Nexus-6 giving his dying speech. I've heard reports of the movie being fantastic and also of Harrison Ford's acting being absolutely wooden and his final tears a bit out of 'character'. So when I first approached Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? I did so purely on the worth of its literary reputation, which is far and away better than that of Blade Runner. Still, I have noticed that many people have watched the movie but not read the book despite the two being quite different at times, especially concerning the ending, that famous speech and the Nexus-6 Roy Batty. So I decided that I should give the book a reread, refresh my memory of this complex story and write up a recommendation as I believe anyone who loved Blade Runner will greatly enjoy the book too. It is always interesting to see favourite characters fleshed out again in different ways, meaning I'm going to do the reverse and watch Blade Runner.
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is, as I mentioned, a complex story. Enough so that most readers will come away with different interpretations and impressions of the issues addressed. Central to the story, however, is the difference between organic life and artificial life, illuminated by Rick's struggle to understand and the remaining six Nexus-6's struggle for survival. It is proposed by mainstream culture, which is supported by the odd structures of empathy boxes, emotional implantation and peer observance/pressure, that the main difference is empathy. Humans are supposed to be naturally empathetic and this is highlighted by their near obsession with caring for the organic animals that have survived the dust (no one knows how the apocalypse happened but it all sounds rather like nuclear war with androids in the mix). Rick, however, has an electric sheep that he uses to disguise the fact that his organic sheep has died. When Rick begins his hunt for the six Nexus-6 androids he is almost entirely concerned with gaining enough money to replace his despised and shameful electric sheep with an organic one.
Rick's hunt takes place over a single day and during that day his entire understanding of the world is challenged, in particular his concerns over the difference between android and organic life. Rachel is the first to challenge his views of electronic life and from there he's views begin to crumble and reform. By the end of his hunt he does not reach a clear conclusion, leaving the conclusion up to the reader. Empathy seems to work for each form of life within the bounds of each form of life, with androids assisting other androids but showing no empathy for humans or other organic life and humans caring for themselves and the organic over android life. Only Rick's wife seems to have a more inclusive view of life. At the same time, humans use technology to reach each other, reinforce empathy and manipulate their own emotions in a rather AI fashion while the androids work hard to imitate and assimilate themselves into human culture, taking on roles that aren't technologically focused such as opera singing. So is AI life in any way less or more than organic life? It seems that each mirrors the other and that each lacks somewhat in different areas. The conclusion to this and other themes I will leave to you, dear reader of recommended reads. What is so great about Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is that Rick doesn't come to any clear and grounded opinion, leaving it up to you to take it as is or draw your own conclusions.

I'd recommend this book to: those who love robot, cyborg and android stories, futuristic settings, post apocalyptic tales as well as works that address identity, what it is to be human and what life is and means.

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