Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Before reading I thought that this question was totally metaphorical, especially after seeing the film adaptation by Ridley Scott. But it wasnt. Electric sheep does exist in this novel along with the rest of "animals" representing the real, breathing animals currently extinct in the face of the planet after a nuclear war. Replicant animals here are considered as objects of status symbol, the same as owning an endangered species and keeping it like a trophy and a household pet.

But the best part here is the author's  depiction of androids in contrast to animals. Humans in this age adore animals but despise the androids. Androids may appear highly intelligent, logical and skillful with varying degrees according to their model/type but they have no empathy nor sense of moral judgment. Philip K Dick while writing this in 1968 probably was thinking more about the android's lack or absence of soul than the absence of what we consider today as emotional intelligence. A scientist can never manufacture courage and spirit in a mechanical beast.

This book can really make the reader think beyond the current prejudice and beliefs about the sense of self and identity. PKD toys with your thoughts, and what made this a classic sci fi novel hinges on the idea that the main protagonist here, the bounty hunter---Rick Deckard, could possibly be an android---the very thing that he's been hunting for all his life. As a reader of thriller fictions, one can never forget the feeling of paranoia when you encounter that interrogation scene in a secret agency. Deckard may have proved that he's a genuine human based on his fluctuating empathy but his alienation with his job and the system itself is not that far from the situation of the replicants. Man and machine both seek survival and freedom. Maybe, this is what the loyal PKD readers refer to as his trademark "mindfu*k." But it's a cool "mindfu*k" none the less.

This novel is also not free from historical biases, but I forgive the author. The idea that Filipinos eat boiled dogmeat with rice is a recurring racist issue but I think it's understandable since the author puts it in the eyes of an obscure android. I just want to clarify that eating a dog meat is not exclusive to one race only. This book being written with good extrapolation, also never runs out of funny ideas and scenes. The emotions in reading this is different to the moody, dark, and melancholic atmosphere of its film version Blade Runner. If  the movie ended with a dramatic scene, the book ended with a funny scene of Deckard realizing that his newly discovered toad is actually a fake one, complete with an electronic control panel.

My final comparison is this: if the movie was dramatic and mythological, the book was cynic and philosophical. The end.

Favorite Quote from the Book:
The old man said, "You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe."

Blade Runner (1982)
Rutger Hauer stole the show from Harrison Ford in this classic scene "tears in rain."

Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 4 Penfield Mood Organs out of 5

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