ebookclassics

Guest Post: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Please enjoy a guest post from one of my favourite bloggers, Laura from Reading In Bed.

The Assignment

Back in December, CJ of ebookclassics gave me the gift of DADEoS. Kind of.

A couple of us bloggers did a Secret Santa thing where the “Santa” assigns a book to read. CJ was kind enough to choose something on my Classics Club list. I wasn’t that excited about DADEoS back when I added it, I just felt like I needed some sci-fi and that PKD was someone I need to read. But, CJ, ya done good. I loved it so much that I broke my year-long TV ban to watch Blade Runner (though in hindsight, I should have just stuck to the book.)

The Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?dadeos

My rating: a solid 4/5 stars.

The thing about DADEoS is that it’s set in a really specific time and place, and has a pretty limited cast of characters, but somehow it’s about everything: religion, consumerism, colonization, the environment… it reminds me of that oft-quoted line of DFW’s, “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” That’s literally what the book is about – it asks “are androids human” but really asks “what makes us human?”

Pretty ambitious for a novel that’s under 250 pages, and seeing as it’s set in a future dystopia, devotes a fair amount of those pages to setting the scene. PKD starts in right away, with the title – posing a question is a bold move, and, it gets you thinking: what does it mean, to dream of electric sheep? How is that different from dreaming of a real sheep? Don’t we all picture cartoon sheep in this context anyway?

Empathy, not dreaming, is the only way to tell the difference between “andys” and humans. Our hero Decker is a bounty hunter who administers a lie-detector type test that gauges empathy. It’s pretty archaic (today) and I kept expecting Decker to break out in a Maury-style “and THAT was a lie,” but this book was written almost fifty years ago, so I’ll give it a pass (and a pass on the flying cars. Everyone thought there’d be flying cars.) There’re some interesting ideas about empathy and why (if?) we have it, and possibly some vegan propaganda going on in this instance:

“Empathy, he once had decided, must be limited to herbivores or anyhow omnivores who could depart from a meat diet. Because, ultimately, the empathetic gift blurred the boundaries between the hunter and the victim, between the successful and the defeated.”

Deckard comes to think that it doesn’t really matter whether an android has empathy, it matters whether we have empathy for them. If a human empathized with an android, has sex with an android, loves an android, is it not human? The human-android sex scene may be the unsexiest thing I’ve ever read (“exposed her pale, cold loins”) but Deckard was into it – so was Rachael, possibly even more so.

And further – as humans continually try to control the body and the mind with drugs or diet or whatever, isn’t an android the end game? Still made of organic matter, but never gets sick, never gets depressed? Insert “whoa” face Keanu Reeves here.

keanu

Whoa.

DADoES isn’t just introspection and navel gazing. PKD created a convincing dystopia in which various disasters have killed off much of the population, and Earth is so devastated that those who can leave to colonize Mars. This many not sound that groundbreaking now. The Year of the Flood, Children of Men, and even kid’s movie Wall-E all cover similar territory, but PKD did this years earlier. He also did it in such a unique way, with the strange cult of Mercerism, the worship of animals, the Buddy Friendly TV show/propaganda machine, and kipple. What a great word. And what a frightening, confusing, yet somehow familiar world.

I love this book for being deep yet accessible, for being of a specific time yet timeless, and for being both a great example of a genre book and a book that kind of straddles all the genres.

The Movie Review: Blade Runnerbladerunner

My rating: 2/5 stars.

I’m not very good at watching movies. Since I quit watching TV last year, I can’t fathom just watching TV for an extended amount of time. I start itching to do something – read, write, call someone, clean something – after about 15 minutes. It took me four sittings to watch Blade Runner, over about two weeks. I realize this is not ideal.

I didn’t enjoy the movie that much. I realized it was more “based on” than “adapted,” and a lot of the weirdness I loved in the book didn’t make it to the movie. Decker was different, too; suddenly a bachelor and much more of an action hero. Harrison Ford and Sean Young were pretty good. I shouldn’t have consulted IMDB, because has I not been reminded of Young’s role in Ace Ventura, I may not have thought “LACES OUT” every time she was on screen.

The treatment of the romance between Deckard and Rachael was very different too. In the book, it was almost absurd, but very much consensual (as far as an android can consent to anything. I’m not even gonna go there.) In the movie, it was not so clear. The sex scene felt more like coercion than consent, so the happy ending for Deckard and Rachael seemed a bit off. This is an interesting take on the sexual politics in Blade Runner, and it includes an alternate ending in which it’s suggested that Deckard is an android himself – something I wondered about while reading, but didn’t think much about in while watching.

Another thing that bothered me about the movie was how dark it was. I don’t mean in content, I mean literally. It was always night time, and raining; everything happened in alleys or abandoned buildings with no light. I know, film noir and all, but I felt like I couldn’t see what was happening. I realize not liking a movie because of its lighting is about as dumb as not liking books with blue covers, but there it is.

Further Reading

If you’re new to PDK, check out this excellent flow chart, created by SJ of Snobbery. Answer a few simple questions and find out which PKD book is right for you. I got DADEoS, so there’s something to it!

And do check out the other secret Santa guests posts. We’re still waiting on a few, actually – whew, I’m not the last one!

Thanks again CJ! Let’s do this again next year.

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28 comments on “Guest Post: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

  1. ebookclassics
    March 29, 2014

    Is it weird I’m commenting on my own blog? Philip K. Dick is one of my favourite classic sci fi writers. I agree that the book is so much better than the movie! So much of its depth and humour is lost. I don’t love the movie, but I can appreciate some of its qualities if I view it as something separate from the book.

    Like

    • lauratfrey
      March 30, 2014

      Yeah, there were good parts. Some of the city scenes were cool. The music was pretty cool in an “what we think the future will be like in the 80s” kind of way.

      Like

  2. Naomi
    March 29, 2014

    I’ve never read Philip K. Dick, so I did the flow chart and got The Man in The High Castle, which I have never heard of, but I’m going to check it out. This one sounds great, too, though. Love the review!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      March 29, 2014

      I haven’t read The Man in The High Castle yet, but I believe it’s supposed to be one of PKD’s greatest works. Hmm, makes me think I should get around to reading it.

      Like

  3. Heather
    March 29, 2014

    I am the same way about movies and TV show episodes that are dark (lack of light)–I get so frustrated because I can’t see what’s going on, and I always end up missing something because of it. So annoying.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      March 30, 2014

      I have the same problem. Shows like The X-Files are the worst.

      Like

      • Heather
        March 30, 2014

        Interestingly, the X-Files is one of my all-time favorites…but the super dark scenes in that one annoy me, too.

        Like

        • ebookclassics
          March 30, 2014

          I love the show too and just discovered it’s on Netflix (so tempting!), but I remember rolling my eyes all the time at yet another episode where they’re poking around in the dark with flashlights.

          Like

    • lauratfrey
      March 30, 2014

      Okay, I’m glad it’s not just me! And if I’m not wearing my glasses, forget about it. I’m so old 🙂

      Like

  4. sj
    March 29, 2014

    Ahhh, Laura! Thanks so much for sharing my flow chart!

    If I can get more people to read PKD, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      March 30, 2014

      It was a great chart! And more people should read PKD, especially since they’ve already seen so many of his stories adapted into movies.

      Like

      • sj
        March 30, 2014

        The only one I think was done REALLY well was A Scanner Darkly. The rest range from meh to truly terrible.

        Like

        • ebookclassics
          March 30, 2014

          A Scanner Darkly is probably the one of the PKD movie I haven’t seen. I agree most of them are just awful, but on second viewing they always seem to grow on me in a so-bad-it’s-good way. 🙂

          Like

          • sj
            March 30, 2014

            Oh, I highly recommend it.

            Like

  5. Rory
    March 30, 2014

    Great review!

    I shouldn’t point out what a slacker I am, but I totally am (even though she won’t see this, sorry Heather!). I just read this book too and I really liked it. I liked Blade Runner well enough before reading the book, but overall it’s rather boring as an action film (which is sort of what I thought it was trying to be).

    Like

    • lauratfrey
      March 31, 2014

      Yeah, I was just thinking I need to publicly call you and Heather and Rick out… though Rick seems to have disappeared again! Did you read your book yet?

      Like

      • Rory
        March 31, 2014

        I did. In February. Life stuff got in the way of writing up the review though. Lame all around…

        In theory, with fingers crossed, I should be able to get it written up this week.

        Like

        • lauratfrey
          March 31, 2014

          Well I read mine in early January, so you’re actually doing better than me if you get it posted soon!

          Like

  6. DoingDewey
    March 30, 2014

    I didn’t enjoy Blade Runner very much and I think that’s made me less excited about picking up the book. I did still want to read it though and the fact that you liked the book so much made me much happier about the idea of reading the book 🙂 Thanks for the review Laura!

    Like

    • lauratfrey
      March 31, 2014

      They’re quite different. You could almost think of them as separate things altogether. Same main character, that’s about it!

      Like

      • ebookclassics
        March 31, 2014

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they are planning a reboot of the movie and they are going to have someone in their mid-twenties who we would never expect play Decker. Maybe Chris Pine or Channing Tatum? LOL, Harrison Ford can play his dad!

        Like

  7. Pingback: In my bed: March 2014 | Reading in Bed

  8. writereads
    April 1, 2014

    Damn right DADoES rocks! And I love the flow chart, though I notice the PKD book I wanted to recommend didn’t seem to be on there: I love Ubik.
    And I agree with SJ, Scanner Darkly is the best of the movies.

    Like

    • writereads
      April 1, 2014

      Oops, forgot to say it was Tania 🙂

      Like

    • sj
      April 1, 2014

      I left Ubik off the chart cos I think it’s a terrible place to start. I love it, I just think it’s something you have to prepare yourself for first. 🙂

      Like

      • ebookclassics
        April 2, 2014

        Okay, I need to make it a priority to read Ubik and watch Scanner Darkly this year.

        Like

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