PKD is proving to be one of my favorite authors. Not that I've even read much of his stuff, I still have many of his major works to tackle, but what I've read from him so far has left me impressed.
I needn't dwell on the novel's synopsis (see the Goodreads page, Wikipedia, or the back of the book for that), just know that it involves a post-apocalyptic Earth, human colonies on Mars, and plenty of androids.
Like any good work of philosophy it focuses on the questions rather than the answers. After all, even the book's title presents you with a question. When philosophy begins to answer more questions than it asks, it becomes a religion. Fortunately, Do Androids Dream
is very much a work of philosophy, almost as much as it is a work of science fiction. There are plenty of questions to ponder in here, and Dick does a fabulous job making a futuristic world feel normal.
Perhaps what Do Androids Dream
does best is to blur the definition of humanity and what it is that makes us human. It takes place in a world where empathy is considered the highest quality; empathy towards other humans and equally towards animals and insects. But, never towards androids, who are identical in humans in virtually every way besides one thing: they lack empathy.
We see humans becoming more like and relying more on machines, while we also see androids becoming more and more human. The main character's morals are constantly challenged when he finds out that what he thought was a human was actually an android and what he thought was an android is actually human.
What makes a human humane? Should we not show empathy to someone or something simply because they can't show empathy back? Is it not selfish to only be kind to those who can appreciate it and not to those who can't? Can religion be beneficial even if it has been proven untrue? You can find hundreds of questions within this novel, if you chose to look for them.
I think what I like most about Philip K. Dick's stories are that he doesn't create a world and imagine what everything will be like in the future. Instead he changes one thing and imagines what everything will be like because of that one difference. In A Scanner Darkly
that one difference was the scramble suit; in Do Androids Dream
it is androids. Take out the one or two fictitious things in a PKD novel and you will be left with the normal, everyday world as you and I know it.
I won't make much comment on the film adaptation, Blade Runner
. All I'll say is that if you enjoy the film you will enjoy the novel, and vice versa. The film is an amazing work of art in its own right. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
came very near to earning a 5 star rating for me, and though I can't really pinpoint its shortcomings, I don't feel that it deserves the perfect rating from me. However, it is a novel that warrants and almost demands repeated readings, and surely I will come back to it one day and who knows what rating I will give it then.